Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tracking Robyn Davidson

I just finished reading Tracks by Robyn Davidson. It's one of my favorite kinds of books, because it has two of my favorite keywords: survival and solitary. Although aspects of her story are scary and intimidating, I do feel this idea of relief in terms of being away from society. I felt more sympathy for her when she was bombarded with obnoxious camera-wielding tourists than when she talked about having to wipe her butt without toilet paper.

I do like toilet papers and toilets. I won't try to fool anyone there. But I hate other aspects of "civil society". I hate wearing uncomfortable clothes because they might make me look more slim. I hate having to fake being impressed as someone shows me their new diamond bracelet. I hate, as Davidson describes.....parties where one discusses wittily work and career, or gatherings of interesting people who are all suspicious, wary and terrified of not being 'interesting' after all.

If it's a choice between being at a cocktail party with people discussing fashion and the latest celebrity diets, or being naked in a desert farting loudly and freely....I think I'll take the latter.

I know. I know. I'm not dumb. I'd soon get hot and I'd probably get lonely. I'd soon be wishing for a cocktail party--if only to swipe a sweet maraschino cherry from the bar.

Before reading the book, I had the idea that if I could someday manage to do something wild and adventurous, I'd be more okay with myself. I'd be happier. I'd have more confidence in myself. I would no longer have this low self-esteem. But Davidson made me question all that. Would I end up feeling worse? Would the culture shock of being back in my original world be too much for me? Now I can tolerate society. I can even sometimes enjoy it. But what if I came home from the wilderness? Would I quickly adjust and be the old me again? Or would I long too much to go back--away from diamond rings and artificial flavoring?

I don't know.

One thing I didn't like about Davidson's book was that she didn't tell me enough about the person she was before she went on the adventure. I felt left out in the cold in that regards. I feel a little guilty saying that because she talks so much about the invasion of privacy. Yet, she did write a book about her experience. So, she's not exactly private.

I want to know more about her so I'm going to do some quick googling.

Hello, Lord Wiki!

He says Davidson was born on September 6, 1950. A Virgo.

One of my favorite Livejournal friends had an awesome link in her blog. I read it this morning, followed the link, and I'm forever changed.

It has all kinds of fun facts about your birthday.

Let's look at Davidson.

She was born on a Wednesday. Her numerology number is 3.

Three is all about being social.

Yet, Davidson seemed to be running from all that.

Her Chinese astrology animal is the tiger.

Her Native American Zodiac sign is the Bear.

When she was born, the population of Australia was about 8 million.

The website provides information only about Australia and the USA. I find that interesting. Maybe the guy who does the website is like me--an American obsessed with Australia. Or maybe he's an Australian obsessed with American. OR maybe the website is psychic and tells you the population of whatever country you live in. But since I'm so obsessed with Australia, the website is extra nice to me and gives me information on two countries! To quote Junie B. Jones: Wowie, wow, wow!

Oh well...crap. I thought this was going to be a rather short entry. But looking at Lord Wiki, it seems doubtful.

Davidson spent time with a group called The Push. The Push has it's whole own Lord Wiki entry and looks absolutely fascinating.

The Push was a left-wing intellectual subculture in Sydney from the 1940's until about the 1970's. I'm looking at the names of the people involved to see which ones I recognize.

1. Germaine Greet
2. Clive James
3. Robert Hughes

Funny. I don't remember Robert Hughes mentioning it in his memoirs. Maybe my eyes were glazing over at that point.

Davidson isn't mentioned in the list. I'm guessing this might mean her involvement wasn't too intense.

The Australian government website has a page about The Push. They say that this group was Anti-authoritarian, anti-elitist, anti-careerist and anti-censorship. They remind me a lot of the Unschoolers we meet at The Rethinking Education Conference.

Back to Davidson. She was born in Queensland and lost her mother when she was eleven. She attended boarding school. Then she moved to Sydney where she joined The Push thing.

After her Outback adventures, she had a three year romance with Salman Rushdie.

A guy named Mick Hanly had written a song about her. The lyrics are beautiful. I like these lines the best: When the emptiness like a potion tends to fray your reason strand by strand
And there's no more need for the mask your wear......

A prominent character in Tracks is the American photographer Rick Smolan. I looked him up and it turns out he's the creator of the Day in the Life book series. I have the Australia one! I got it for a very good price at Half Price Books. He's now married and has two children. He's the CEO of a company called Against All Odds Production. I can't find a website for the company. I find that a bit unusual.

The ABC website has an excerpt from Davidson's recent writing. It fits in incredibly well with the other book I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel.

She says:

Agriculture set us on a path to the urban then the industrial revolutions, and finally to the wild consumerism of late capitalism. Like previous chapters of the agricultural story, the present one is achieving material wealth, longer life, greater choice - all the benefits that people like me enjoy. But they are available to the few at the expense of the many.

Very well said. I just wish that it was fiction.

She gives some hope though. I love this line as well:

While there can be no literal return to previous modes of living, there might be ways into previous kinds of thinking. Pilgrimages, let's say, to newly imagined territories where, instead of dismissing the traditional as useless to modernity, we might integrate the best of each.



  1. Hi, I found your blog via the nablo blogroll - i clicked on it because I am an American who wishes she was Australian too!

    Currently, I am going to university in Melbourne. Love it. Hope to stay always! It's good to know there are others out there like me! ;-)

  2. Deirdre,

    You're so lucky! You're actually living in Australia!! How do you like going to University there? How did you become interested in Australia!

    I'm trying not to be too jealous of you.

  3. Hey, she has the same birthdate as me!!!! :-D Except I was born in 1970.

    This was interesting, thankyou gorgeous :-)

  4. Tracey,

    That's a good person to share a birthday with!!

  5. Thanks for the kind words :)

    I love that site too, it's so much fun to play around with.

  6. Rebecca,

    I love it! I'm glad I found it via your blog!!