Books by Tim Cahill

Released: Sept. 10, 2002

"What good fortune it is to be back in the saddle with Cahill, letting him take the heat while we look over his shoulder."
Three decades of getting himself into strange circumstances and harm's way haven't slowed down Cahill (Pass the Butterworms, 1997, etc.), as this new collection of adventure-travel pieces attests. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

"An amusing diversion, good for your next long flight."
Cahill (Pass the Butterworms, 1997, etc.), the founding editor of Outside magazine, has culled these diverse and diverting pieces from books by Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, J.P. Donleavy, Mark Salzman, David Sedaris, and other travel-writers and editors. Most are short—five or six pages—but there is one considerably longer one by Randy White. With most of the stories set in other countries, cross-cultural mishaps abound (e.g., getting one's hair cut in Turkey or having one's dental work done in Cameroon). Animals (a baboon in the bedroom in Zimbabwe, a ferret in the trousers in Scotland, and a wayward jumping frog on Amtrak) figure in several tales, and dealing with human vomit, urine, and feces provides the humor in three others. Clearly, not all are equally charming or will appeal to the same sense of humor. Cover-to-cover reading at one sitting is easily accomplished but not recommended lest the idiosyncratic humor of individual pieces be blurred. Quirky little paragraph-long pieces separate the titled anecdotes, even briefer items appear in boxed inserts within them, and (apparently) cartoons (not seen) will be added. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

Cahill (Pecked to Death by Ducks, 1993, etc.) delivers all the goods—vibrancy, wit, intelligence—anyone could hope for from adventure travel writing in this, his fourth, collection. There is not a turkey among these tales (which have appeared in magazines, mostly in Outside). A few of them are snappy little deskside essays—concerning malaria, how to keep Congolese bees from entering your nostrils, a testament to the family values of New Guinea's Dani people. But most concern Cahill's forte, ``remote travel oddly rendered.'' There he sits, curled in the bow of a boat drifting through the unspeakably rotten weather of a Montana spring: ``It was beautiful in a savage and entirely unsettling manner''; or he may detail how sea-kayakers climb the front of monster waves, punch through the crest, and ride a rainbow of spray back to the sea's surface; he concocts a thralling fantasy of landing a small airplane after the pilot's gone and died on you (``when Geraldo Rivera calls to ask you to be on his show, you get to turn him down flat''). And there is a long piece set in Honduras, on a prospecting mission for an eco-tour group, that's all rough edges, a dispatch direct from the field, appealingly jagged, utterly memorable. Cahill's writing gets better all the time, his storytelling style evolving into an art form, his cracking-wiseass humor bevelled by every manner of nuance; waggish he may be, but he's also got a lot of brains. And what more could one ask? He's willing to die for his art. In the end, many of these adventures come down to ``one of those intangible things I'll own forever because I've paid for it, paid for it in equally intangible dues.'' Cold comfort for Cahill, high entertainment for his readers. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

The master of adventure writing (Road Fever, 1991; A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg, 1989, etc.) continues his spree with another collection of high-wire essays culled from National Geographic, Rolling Stone, etc. ``I have been in the business of giving people back their dreams,'' declares Cahill, who means to say that he does what others only dare to dream about. This collection starts with a bang—actually, a hellish sequence of eruptions—as Cahill wanders through the apocalyptic, burning landscape of postwar Kuwait: ``The whole world smelled like a diesel engine....The ground was black, the sky was black, the drifting clouds were black.'' This ominous note recurs in other essays, some of which describe moments of real fear: stalking a grizzly in Yellowstone; facing down a silverback gorilla in Africa; undertaking a hazardous ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite (``I thought, not for the first time, Why am I doing this?''). But Cahill is a wag as well as a risk-taker, and the laughs are many, whether at defecating in a latrine over a bat-filled abyss or at watching his shoes melt during the first day of a trek across Death Valley. Beauty, too, makes the danger worthwhile. Spelunking in Lechuguilla Cave, Cahill finds ``crystals the size of small trees, forests of aragonite flowers, huge-domed pits, rooms as high as thirty-story buildings.'' Paradise itself sometimes comes his way, usually in the form of isolated islands: Tonga, where he spaces out on kava, or Peru's Taquile, where everyone gets married on May 3rd. Other pieces cover falconry, ice fishing, paragliding, bungee jumping, and similar Tarzanish topics. Some rocks block his path—a piece on Elisabeth Clare Prophet is dull, another on cattle mutilation is tasteless. But who ever scaled a mountain without a few setbacks? Not up to Road Fever's turbo-charged standards but, still, manna for Cahill fans, who should be legion by now. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 28, 1989

Impressive collection of 18 adventure essays, most of them pumping with vitality, by the author of Burled Dreams and Jaguars Ripped My Flesh. Why these exploits? "Risk is a part of therapy," Cahill explains. "You can put your life on the line in order to save your soul." Many of these tales describe extreme pressures on body or mind: In "In the Valley of the Shadow of Death," Cahill wanders the corpse-strewn ruins of Jonestown, while in "True Believers and the Guises of the Weasel," he spars with deprogrammer Ted Patrick and a crowd of Christian zealots. "Love and Death in Gorilla Country" brings him within ten feet of the great apes (they smell "skunky with a splash of vinegar"); "Shiva Winked" finds him white-water-rafting in the Himalayas; and in "Vertical Caving," he descends 40-story-high underground precipices. Less hazardously, he also eyes a total solar eclipse, sunbathes in the Austrian Alps, scouts for Bigfoot, ice-fishes, scuba dives, watches The Towering Inferno on the Marquesas Islands. Jokes and puns ("We have always depended on the kindness of rangers"; "The law of the jungle seems to be this: there is no law in the jungle") and schoolboy enthusiasm brighten the darker pieces, while deft characterizations and lovely landscapes add weight to the fluffier ones. Only an uneventful account of grown men playing "survival games" in New Hampshire fails to score. A self-deprecating Indiana Jones, telling tales by the campfire. Sure-fire entertainment. Read full book review >