Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meeting May 1st!

The Fairfax Library Book Discussion Group will meet this Thursday, May 1st at 7 p.m. in the meeting room of the Fairfax Library to discuss our May book: Shooting the Boh by Tracy Johnston - a book about a woman “of a certain age” taking a risky rafting trip down a section of river in Borneo that even the natives feared.

This story of a journalist joining an expedition down the Boh River starts out as standard adventure travel fare, but the difference rapidly becomes apparent: this journalist is over 40, her luggage is lost on the flight over and cannot be recovered in time, and the expedition has been planned by a company that takes irresponsibility to a new level. Only when they are already on the river do the participants realize how difficult and dangerous their time together will be.”

Below are the discussion questions for the book. Printed copies of the questions, author background and reviews of the book as well as refreshments will be available at the discussion group Thursday evening.

Next month, at our June 5th meeting, we’ll discuss Cadillac Desert: the American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. Winner of the National Book Critics Award, this timely history of the struggle to discover and control water in the American West is a tale of rivers diverted and damned, political corruption and intrigue, billion-dollar battles over water rights, and economic and ecological disaster

Since summer is almost upon us, you might like to start planning for our summer reading. Coming up we have the following titles to look forward to reading:

Thursday, July 3rd - Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Thursday, August 7th - The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Thursday, September 4th - Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

I look forward to seeing you at the Fairfax Library.

Beth Bailey-Gates
Friends of the Fairfax Library

Shooting the Boh by Tracy Johnston

1. After reading Shooting the Boh, would you ever take an adventure trip with Sobek Travel? Here is a link to their website: http://www.mtsobek.com/ Would you take a trip with the author, Tracy Johnston?

2. On page 10, the author writes, “One of the reasons I had come to Indonesia was to get a story. In that regard, personal suffering could only help.” Did the participants on the trip suffer excessively? Did any of the participants suffer more than others? How did their suffering compare to the group in our previous book, River of Doubt?

3. Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest “because it was there.” Tracy Johnston writes, “I have always been excited by uncertaintly, hated the notion that something predictable lay ahead.” Are these valid reasons for seeking adventure and risking your life and the lives of others?

4. The river guides failed to pack a radio, failed to anticipate the terrible foot rot and brought some food, “deng deng”, that the travelers loathed. Was the travel company, Sobek, irresponsible in leading the trip given that the previous attempt by expert rafters was abandoned as too dangerous and that they could not find any native Dabaks to guide them down the river for the same reason?

5. Do you get a sense of who the other passengers on the trip are through Johnston’s descriptions?

6. Johnston seems a bit obsessed about the looks of the other passengers and how her looks rate in comparison. Is this a result of her coming to terms with her age and new limitations? Was the trip a test for the author to prove something?

7. In a Caltech paper entitled, “Organizational Economics: A Behavioral Approach”, the paper’s author compares the adventure detailed in Shooting the Boh to an organizational meltdown where the weakest link in the group determines the overall strength of the group. He also points out that an inevitable weakness with a temporary organization such as the rafting group is the lack of knowledge of what the motivations or goals of the other travelers are. Are these valid descriptions? Could these weaknesses be overcome in another group? What did the members of Tracy Johnston’s group, including the author herself, each add to the experience?

8. Rivers are often used in literature as metaphors for life. Given Johnston’s descriptions of her voyage down the Boh River, how do you think she has approached her old age?

9. Sobek’s founder, Richard Bangs, heard about the Boh River when talking to someone who was trying to build up the local economy through tourism. Would this be considered ecologically sound today?

10. Adventurers like to test their mettle by risking their lives to see how far they can go. Is it possible to truly learn your limits and see inside yourself without climbing a high peak or otherwise physically and mentally exerting yourself? Have you experienced any physical or mental challenges that proved you could cope better than you might have expected?

11. The author is very descriptive of the rain forest in Borneo. Which (if any) of the dangers described (snakes, lizards, bees, mosquitoes, micro-organisms, the rain forest itself) would have kept you from taking this trip?

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