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Re: [at-l] Companion vs Handbook...
- Subject: Re: [at-l] Companion vs Handbook...
- From: "Cora Drake" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2000 11:54:08 PST
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.
>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 !
>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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