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Blogging Into Thin Air

Following up on my previous blog entry...

The typical non-fiction adventure book is written either:

  1. A participant who is not an author, or
  2. An author who was not a participant
In the first case, we overlook the writing lapses and read because of the author's personal experience. In the second case, we overlook the absence of first-person narrative and read because of the author's writing and researching skills. Ideally, though, adventure books are written by great authors who participate in the events they chronicle. This is rare enough, but rarer still is when a great author participates in adventure drama of the highest sort and lives to write about it. This is exactly what led to Jon Krakauer's masterpiece Into Thin Air. From a review of the book by the late nature photographer Galen Rowell:
Jon Krakauer... was a client on a 1996 expedition [to Mount Everest] that made headlines around the world as members paying $65,000 each perished with their guides. An extremely accomplished climber. Mr. Krakauer joined the expedition as a journalist. His epic of tragic lust, Into Thin Air ranks among the great adventure books of all time...

Since the tragedy was reported in real time by satellite phone, the book resembles "All the President's Men" more than a mystery novel. Its remarkable narrative power and lurking problems are both due to journalism by a key participant...

Krakauer... deserves to emerge as a hero instead of a character compromised by guilt over what he might have done differently. He truly seized the moment and used a unique combination of skills to survive climbing Everest in appalling conditions and to write a book of rare eloquence and power that could remain relevant for centuries.

What does all this have to do with blogging?

Blogging is inherently attractive to many (though not all) journalists. It offers the ability to tell the rest of the story -- the nine-tenths of the material that didn't make it into the published work. As blogging grows, it's reasonable to expect that more and more journalists will take it up, including some of the world's best. At some point, chance will result in the intersection of a great journalist, a dramatic event, and mobile blogging. When that happens, blogging's prominence in popular culture will skyrocket.

Imagine that Krakauer had and used blogging tools on his expedition to Everest. It's a reasonable assumption if blogging had come into existence five or six years ahead of schedule. Would Krakauer have continued to write and upload blog entries during the midst of the crisis? My hunch is yes. Authors want to be read, and everyone would have been reading what he was writing. To be sure, "intothinair.blogspot.com" would have been a very different work than either Krakauer's Outside article or his book, which involved increasing amounts of introspection. A blog of the events would have been raw and immediate, without the reflective qualties of his printed works. But it would have had its own unique power.

This is going to happen soon -- within five years at the most.

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