Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Wide World
True Adventures For Men

Edited by Paul Safont

    Between the late 19th century to the 1960s, there existed a men's magazine filled with tales of adventure, hardship under extreme conditions, and disaster. This book has taken some of the most compelling narratives and produced a neat compendium of them, which looks somewhat like an annual for adults complete with illustrations. Read about people savaged by wild animals, how somebody fell into a volcano, amateur aviation, exploration and, perhaps most compelling, the tale of a solo ascent of Everest. Added to this are authentic adverts of the time showing long-vanished gadgets and quack cures.

    I'd imagined a paean to the glorious Boy's Own tradition and yes, this book is certainly that. It is also a celebration of masculinity, calling to mind the once-admired manly heroes who were explorers, big-game hunters, and men labouring in the outposts of the Empire, or doing foolish but brave stunts. Interspersed between the stories (all purportedly true) are the colorful covers of the magazine (mostly from the 1950s and 60s) as well as adverts and snippets of incredible information. What there isn't is any kind of introduction other than a facsimile of one from the periodical itself, so the publishers and history of the magazine remain unknown. It would also be interesting to know the dates of some of the articles, as not all give any indication of when they happened in the narrative. The stories are random, with many obviously being from early numbers, but a sequence would have been useful. However, what the book does most closely resemble is surely the magazine itself, which is perhaps more appealing.

I wanted to review the book because I do so enjoy tales of adventure, and I certainly got plenty of those. But for me the most important thing about this book is its wonderful evocation of a vanished world. This was a time when natives were savages, wildlife regarded as brute beasts only good for hunting, and there still remained a few unconquered peaks or uncharted wildernesses for exploring. A world of cowboys, early aviators, lumberjacks, hunters and people doing stunts like going over waterfalls in rubber balls. Politically incorrect? Yes, quite gloriously so, and possibly the most evocative peep into the psychology and ideals of the recent past outside of a time machine. A great stocking filler if you can bear to part with it- whether it is Christmas or not!




The Book

Macmillan UK
25 October 2004
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NOTE: Some gory parts

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005