David Grann describes himself as the "least likely explorer in the history of man." No kidding.
Aside from being a little overweight, out of shape and with a degenerative eye condition that causes him to get lost on the subway -- he also prefers take-out, TiVo and air conditioning -- the New Yorker writer just doesn't have that mad-hatter ego. I meant to ask him whatever happened to good, old-fashioned narcissism in the personality brew that drove him to be, as another writer put it, "a fear-wracked reporter from the present age (confronting) crazed iron men of yore" when we talked last week about his new book, "The Lost City of Z."
This guy has overcome the Woody Allen side of his nature to trek into the most mysterious and creepy parts of the Amazon and practically lash himself to the boat mast of a crazy giant squid hunter, who could have been the role model for Robert Shaw in "Jaws."
But there he went into the jungle, chasing the myth and mystery of a real, iconic early 20th century explorer, Percy Fawcett. Here are some of the things you face in the most hidden parts of the Amazon: ticks that attach like leeches. Red hair chiggers that consume human tissue. Cyanide-squirting millipedes. Parasitic worms that cause blindness. Berne flies that bored through clothing and skin. Pium bugs that caused lesions. The kissing bug that bites you on the lip and 20 years later your brain or heart explodes. And mosquitoes who come with your choice of disease -- malaria, yellow fever or elephantiasis. And we won't talk about black vomit and the insect that seeks out every, I mean every human orifice and digs in.
That's before you get to any of the large predators.
But Mr. Grann made it from his Manhattan digs through that menagerie and out again with not a scratch, thanks to every modern drug known to man and a pleasant disposition. Not to mention a good story.