Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Fine and Pleasant Misery - Patrick F. McManus

ExcerptMODERN TECHNOLOGY has taken most of the misery out of the outdoors. Camping is now aluminum-covered, propane-heated, foam-padded, air-conditioned, bug-proofed, flip-topped, disposable, and transistorized. Hardship on a modern camping trip is blowing a fuse on your electric underwear, or having the battery peter out on your Porta-Shaver. A major catastrophe is spending your last coin on a recorded Nature Talk and then discovering the camp Comfort & Sanitation Center (featuring forest green tile floors and hot showers) has pay toilets. There are many people around nowadays who seem to appreciate the fact that a family can go on an outing without being out. But I am not one of them. Personally, I miss the old-fashioned misery of old-fashioned camping. Young people just now starting out in camping probably have no idea that it wasn't but a couple of decades ago that people went camping expecting to be miserable. Half the fun of camping in those days was looking forward to getting back home. When you did get back home you prolonged the enjoyment of your trip by telling all your friends how miserable you had been. The more you talked about the miseries of life in the woods, the more you wanted to get back out there and start suffering again.  (Excerpt from book, image from

Review: Few books that I've ever read to impress others have delighted me as much as this.  As a child, I was dragged on more camping trips than I would have volunteered for.  I'm not a camper, my dad is ... and guess who chose family vacations?  In a desperate attempt to get me to tolerate our trips, my mom thrust this book into my hands during one car ride. 

I spent the whole trip reading.  And snorting.  And rereading.  I was in stitches.  McManus has such an affable form of story-telling that it's hard to put it down.  Coupled with a dry wit that's guaranteed to leave you gasping for air, and you've got an instant classic.  When we got home, I devoured McManus' other books, and enjoyed them just as well.  They were delightful.

After a fishing trip this summer, I passed a copy onto my son.  It didn't smell like Wasatch pine, mountains, or fishing trips ... it smelled like Barnes and Noble.  But he was fascinated.  He's broken, though, as he didn't particularly find this book funny.  Rather, he thought it was an interesting commentary on camping.  I had to read it again.  Perhaps the mountain air had made everything funnier than it really was.  I started it again at my kids' swimming lessons and snorted so loudly I'm surprised my kids didn't hear.  C1 is just broken, this is still one of the funniest books I've ever read.

Whether you're a camper, married to a camper, or have ever set up a tent in a back yard, you'll find something to appreciate in McManus' books.  Definitely worth a summer binge read.

Rating: Five stars

1 comment:

Kate Unger said...

Interesting. I'll have to check it out. I love camping. We still tent camp without electricity so it's fairly rustic. :)


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