Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kim MacQuarrie's "Life and Death in the Andes"

Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and is perhaps the only American to have been chased up a tree by a female grizzly bear, to have lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, and to have won four national Emmys for his documentary films. He is the author of The Last Days of the Incas, a non-fiction work that is currently being made by FX into a 13-part dramatic series and, most recently, of Life and Death in the Andes.

MacQuarrie applied the “Page 99 Test” to Life and Death in the Andes and reported the following:
Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries, is about a 4,300-mile journey I took the length of the Andes, while looking into the stories of such diverse characters as Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thor “Kon Tiki” Heyerdahl, and Charles Darwin, among others. For example, in the small Andean village of La Higuera, in Bolivia, I met a woman who was a 19-year-old schoolteacher when she met and gave Che Guevara his final meal, on the last day of his life. The impact of that experience changed her own life forever. Similarly, in the old Bolivian mining town of San Vicente, I met a man whose father was a young boy when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode into town and then had their final shootout. To land of page 99 of the book is to land towards the end of a chapter where I traveled out to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, in order to look into when Charles Darwin actually came up with the theory of evolution. Was it in Patagonia? In the Gal├ípagos? Or later? On this particular page I reproduce a letter from Darwin to a friend in 1878, towards the end of his life. Darwin is responding to a recent attack by a clergyman on his theory of evolution:
“[The reverend’s attack],” Darwin wrote, “will be powerless to retard by a day the belief in evolution as were the virulent attacks made by divines fifty years ago against Geology, & still older ones of the Catholic church against Galileo, for the public is wise enough always to follow scientific men when they agree on any subject; & now there is almost complete unanimity amongst biologist and evolution”
Darwin is an example of all of the characters I investigated during my voyage, whether men or women, for each was emblematic of the book’s theme, which is encapsulated by a quote in the frontispiece by T.E. Lawrence:
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
Writers, too, are dreamers. If you were not, then you would never write a book.
Visit Kim MacQuarrie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue