10 Ways to Become the Ideal Passive Adventurer: on Mac Orlan’s Handbook
“Adventure is in the mind of the one who pursues it.”
A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer makes a case for two kinds of adventurers, active and passive–and makes the surprising case that it’s better to be passive, vicariously adventuring in one’s imagination and through stories of adventure. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of way that it can be achieved:
- A conscientious study of the humanities (texts to restore in the future).
- Discretion in lying.
- A cult of sensibility.
- A complete absence of what is commonly called “moral sense.”
- A respect for traditions and discipline.
- A hatred of violent games, of sports in general—at least in practice. When it comes to theory, the passive adventurer must be a well-informed sportsman.
- Literary eroticism (in practice: normal relations with women).
- Able to write “whore” in twenty languages.
- Knows how to play a few sailor songs on the accordion.
And most importantly:
- Has a gullible friend who can be made into an active adventurer.
The childhood of the passive adventurer must also be opposite that of the active adventurer. In a time where “adventure has vanished from our living conditions,” passive adventuring–losing oneself in a book or a flight of fancy–still offers a welcome escape. We might call is nobly critiquing genre categories, as in a way it was, but the book is also simply critiquing the way the English seem so afraid of anything resembling a woman, even putting in a monkey (in Robinson Crusoe) where a woman would have been had the same story been French.
“Indeed, if there’s a major flaw to adventure fiction he finds that it’s that ‘bawdiness and perversity’ have largely been banished from them.”
The written adventure story should merely be a starting point. The real adventure unfolds in the mind, rather than simply following the page. The more left to the mind, the better.
The active adventurer does serve one major purpose. He serves as a counterpoint. He creates the content itself from stupidly living out the adventures themselves.
It’s a Möbius strip: the passive adventurer creates the adventure novels that are then read by future passive adventurers, who then evolve to become the next generation of passive adventurers, and in turn, those who don’t evolve to become passive adventurers instead pick up their weapons and trophies on their way to becoming the next active adventurer—those are the people who serve as subjects for their passive counterparts. As Orlan writes,
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