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Re: [at-l] Companion vs Handbook...

Nicely said.  Gotta admit that, tho I tried to make all my journal and 
register entries positive (anything can be couched in positive terms, I 
suppose), I got the biggest kick out of the fumin' and cussin' in the 
registers that said just what I felt -- or was glad I didn't -- at day's 

I similarly enjoyed the Rodale journals -- because they were hike after hike 
with the personality of a different "partner" oozing through the info. For 
me, hiking is a matter of crabbin' and whinin' up to glory, over and over 

I'm with you; I can stand a little nattering in my prose.

>From: rhymworm@mindspring.com
>To: at-l@backcountry.net
>Subject: Re: [at-l] Companion vs Handbook...
>Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 11:42:38 -0500
>I started working at ATC too late to do any work on the 2000 Companion, 
>which was already at the printer. Nor have I studied the history of the 
>disagreements, or the "paper trail." So I hope I'm not yet embroiled in the 
>mess, and can make a fair comment before I become "vested," so to speak.
>The fact is that the man in Hot Springs is right about one thing--a single 
>author DOES make for a better book than does a committee. As an editor at a 
>publishing house, before I came here, I always found that to be true. And 
>if he kept that in mind, and kept focused on what he does well (and made 
>sure it was properly distributed), his book would always outsell ALDHA's 
>because it is driven by his own obsessive interest. Good authors are always 
>obsessed with their subjects. As a hiker, I always liked the Handbook 
>better than the Companion because, oddly, the Handbook was more of a 
>"companion"--it was as if its author was hiking along with me, talking to 
>me, imparting his trail-earned wisdom and humor and prejudices and 
>preferences. It had a unified voice. It was fun and interesting. The only 
>Wingfoot I knew was the one who wrote the book, and he was worth knowing.
>The Companion always seemed a much blander compilation of information, 
>without much personality. The Handbook's author had something really 
>wonderful in that respect, and my own sense of the problem is that he has 
>lost sight of it--you can see from the long message re-posted here that he 
>doesn't recognize that it wasn't the Handbook's factual content that made 
>it a good book. Nor was it mechanical "features" (as someone else said, 
>Fodor's or Frommer's, take your pick, they have the same basic 
>information.) What's to distinguish the two? Authorial voice and purpose.
>I firmly believe that AT hikers LIKE the idea of having an "insider's 
>guide," published by one of their own, talking to them one-to-one, leading 
>by example. I believe they would nearly always choose such a book first, 
>given a choice. But for that to work, the author has to devote a lot of 
>time into cultivating that voice--one can't be both the official authority 
>and the iconoclastic critic at the same time.
>That's not to say that there shouldn't be someone banging on the door from 
>the outside. One of the dangers of putting all the guides and handbooks in 
>"official" hands is that there is pressure to make them conform to a party 
>line, so to speak. In my few months at ATC, I've found it to be one of the 
>LEAST bureaucratic and faceless organizations I've ever encountered. 
>There's a real respect for the individual's point of view, a real love for 
>the Trail. Many of the staff are also dues-paying members--they're not just 
>taking a paycheck, they believe in the Trail. Still, ATC has to answer to a 
>lot of masters--not only hikers and  maintainers, but also government land 
>managers, politicians, private landowners, businesses, etc. Obviously, it's 
>a balancing act, and ATC does it pretty well. But can you imagine an 
>official ATC book that takes to task, for instance, the Forest Service or 
>Park Service, and criticizes official policies from the outside? No. Those 
>are ATC's partners. All !
>  th!
>e lobbying is done quietly, so no one gets a red face in public, and bitter 
>controversy largely stays out of the organization's books and magazines. 
>That's probably as it should be. And that's why ALDHA, not ATC, is the 
>author of the Companion. If need be, they can say things ATC can't.
>The philosopher Socrates argued that it was important for the state to 
>tolerate a "gadfly," an outside agent that can sting it into action and 
>make sure it does the right thing. And in some ways the author of the 
>Handbook has performed that function. It's a worthwhile role. If he could 
>be like the Trail's Ralph Nader, keeping the establishment honest and 
>maintaining strict personal integrity, it would be a very good thing for 
>all concerned. Nader never let it become personal, even when corporate 
>America sought to personally discredit and embarrass him.
>Here, money is an issue. Feelings have been hurt. Egos bruised. Ill will is 
>assumed. Threats are made. As a result, the book suffers, the community 
>suffers. Ultimately the Trail suffers. It needn't be so. I hope it won't be 
>--Rhymin' Worm (GA>ME '97)
>Opinions are my own, not ATC's
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