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The Adirondacks’ wonderful North Country Public Radio aired an interview about the Omnium Gatherum this week. Brian Mann was good enough to meet me by the Raquette Lake General Store and talk over donuts and coffee, before kayaking off. It was wonderful to be back at Raquette Lake, which was my first introduction to the Adirondacks when I went to write about diving mules for The Spectator in 1998 or so.
The guiding theme of the Omnium Gatherum is that curiosity propels the most interesting lives. It’s why I quote William Blake on the first page: Energy is Eternal Delight.
So it was wonderful to read The Financial Times’ high living agony uncle, David Tang, last month:
I regard a privileged upbringing to be one that is filled with curiosity. This curiosity might be a genetic condition or one that somehow been cultivated in an individual. But it doesn’t matter how it has come about. All I know is that I am eternally grateful for my innate sense of curiosity for, without it, I might well have passed a meaningless or futile life, not knowing anything and not really enjoying the use of our imagination which is the linchpin of life itself. Privilege is curiosity.
Then standing in the Hudson News in Grand Central Station yesterday afternoon, I read an interview with the private equity titan, Henry Kravis, in Bloomberg Markets. He was asked what advice he’d like to have given his younger self.
If I can take one thing other than integrity and instill that in people, I’d want it to be curiosity. Because to me, people who are curious are going to be better investors and better stewards of others’ money. If there’s no curiosity, you’re basically doing something that’s already been done by someone else.
For the very kind mention. Everyone in New York, and beyond, should subscribe to The Manhattan Users Guide. Charlie Whistler finds himself in esteemed company today.
I shall be at the excellent Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid this Saturday afternoon from 3-5pm signing copies of Charlie Whistler. If you’re Adirondack-ing this summer, park the kayak and come along. Outside if fine, indoors if showers.
Meghan Cox Gurdon is very enthusiastic about the Omnium Gatherum in The Wall Street Journal today. A fine start to the Memorial Day Weekend for C. Whistler.
If you were to distill the several essences of Adirondack forests, invigorating lake waters, family traditions and a zest for life, and then capture them in the form of a book, you probably could not come closer than “Charlie Whistler’s Omnium Gatherum” (Harper, 258 pages, $29.99). With its rough green cover and mottled pages, this old-fashioned gallimaufry of letters, maps, newspaper clippings, postcards and vintage photographs purports to be drawn from the archives of the fictional Whistler family. In fact, it is the elegant contrivance of writer Philip Delves Broughton, an Englishman who makes his home in the United States and who, in these pages, reveals a deep love of this country and its adventuresome spirit.
The conceit of the book is that five generations of Charlie Whistlers, dating from the mid-19th century, have kept scrapbooks and that a sixth Charlie Whistler, a boy today, has borrowed from his forebears to compile his own “omnium gatherum.” One of the first tidbits that Charlie gives us is a diary entry from 1878, in which his work-obsessed great-great-great-grandfather blames Henry David Thoreau and “Walden” for having bullied him “into looking at my life afresh—and sown disorder.” Thus chastened and inspired, Charles Wilberforce Whistler would build the cabin in the woods on Raquette Lake that would “serve as a foundation for the Whistlers to meet the world on their terms and no others.”
In that same cabin, many decades later, our modern Charlie has pulled together this fascinating collection, in which we find a 1923 chronicle of a trip through the Khyber Pass in a jalopy, the travelers’ “stomachs churning and our brains clattering around in our skulls like dried peas in a can”; a list of the American presidents with the names and types of their pets; the poetry of Aeschylus and William Carlos Williams; accounts of shark attacks, deer hunts and bobsledding; and a lovely letter of consolation after the death of a beloved dog.
Vigorous, eclectic and beautifully designed, this book for young readers is also rather daring. These Adirondacks have no cell towers in them. There’s no family dysfunction, and the only nod to technology’s despotism is the urging of Charlie’s father that he “live a big life” and not one “shrunk to the size of a screen.” Hurrah for that!
Out today. Buy it for yourself, your friends, your children and your friends’ children. And tell the world you love it.