Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reading the Rapids

If you can't go on an adventure, the next best thing might be reading about the adventure. So on rainy city days in Duluth I'm reading about rainy river days in Italy, thanks to Tim Parks' 2005 novel Rapids.

A group of English river kayakers heads for the Italian Alps for a week of whitewater training on the Aurino River, with an idealistic British instructor Clive and his Italian friend Michela. Themes of global warming and Third World debt run through the story (believe it or not).

What captured me wasn't the romance or the politics, but the whitewater and how Vince (one of the main characters) grows in response to the challenge of the river, the paddle, and the boat. Here's a quick excerpt from the page I'm on now:

"Then there was the downward rush of the stream. With extraordinary vividness, Vince was in it again. He was shooting down into the rapid. He felt the acceleration of the plunge. I want to do it again, he realised. If I could. That rapid, those impossible manoeuvres. The speed and wrenching when he dug in his paddle, the icy foam and the slam of the rock on his helmet and the wild slewing and turning to the limit of control and beyond. I want to do that again. I want to do that again!"

Here's a guy my age or a bit older being overcome by a new physical challenge...and thriving. I've had just enough whitewater experience myself to know a bit of the feeling, but I've never gotten much past the scared silly part.

I got the book through Interlibrary Loan since the Duluth Public Library doesn't have it. You can also get it supercheap used through Amazon.

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