The man-eating proclivities of Komodo dragons. The complicated art of being a cowgirl. A picaresque ramble with a merry band of tree-cleaners. The big-wave crusaders of the world's best surfers. For the past twenty years, Outside magazine has set the standard for original and engaging reports on travel, adventure, sports, and the environment.
Along the way, many of America's best journalists and storytellers--including such writers as Jon Krakauer, Tim Cahill, E. Annie Proulx, Edward Abbey, Thomas McGuane, David Quammen, and Jane Smiley--have made the magazine a venue for some of their most compelling work. The Best of Outside represents the finest the award-winning magazine has to offer: thirty stories that range from high action to high comedy. Whether it's Jonathan Raban sailing the open sea, Susan Orlean celebrating Spain's first female bullfighter, or Jim Harrison taking the wheel on a cross-country road trip, each piece can be characterized in a word: unforgettable. Commemorating Outside magazine's twentieth anniversary, The Best of Outside is one of the most entertaining and provocative anthologies of the decade.
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September 01, 1998
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Excerpt from The Best of Outside by Outside Magazine Editors
Introduction The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. --Oscar Wilde "Nobody who loves to hunt feels absolutely hunky-dory when the quarry goes down," wrote Thomas McGuane in his now classic "The Heart of the Game," published in Outside's inaugural issue twenty years ago and reprinted here. " The remorse spins out almost before anything and the balancing act ends on one declination or another. I decided that unless I become a vegetarian, I'll get my meat by hunting for it. . . . I've seen slaughterhouses, and anyway, as Sitting Bull said, when the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice, for we are hunters and we want our freedom." Freedom was whatOutside'seditors sought as well, as that first issue made abundantly clear. In this particular landscape, freedom meant an editorial ability to range near and far: Alongside McGuane's elegant, richly personal consideration of hunting were an article on the shock-troop ethos of Greenpeace; an examination of the egg; a melancholy report from paradise lost on the island of Kauai; reviews of the Minox 35EL camera, the Hi-Roller cowboy hat from Texas Hatters, and The Hallucinogenic and Poisonous Mushroom Guide; and a decidedly short story (188 words) by Richard Brautigan about a bicyclist and two dogs on a roof. Obviously no one was looking to get typecast atOutside; not only would the magazine entertain a full array of subjects, but it would also air a wide spectrum of opinion as well--the better to keep the reader guessing and preserve, as editor-at-large David Quammen would put it years later, "the cacophonous disunity of souls." The one fixed requirement was that the writer, every writer, be skillful enough to pull it all off. That the magazine was trying to stake out some wide-open territory in which to conduct its business, that it had journalistic and literary ambitions, was largely a response to the banality of much that was available to people who loved the outdoors and loved to read, circa 1977. Among magazines there were the traditional hunting and fishing and camping monthlies, some respectable if earnest back-to-the-land journals, and lest we forget, the long-standing "men's adventure" periodicals, which were still happily serving their readers a never-ending bounty of flesh-eating headhunters, exploding volcanoes, and blood-crazed wild beasts. There seemed to be no magazines about the outdoors that would have published the more lyric offerings of a contemporary Twain or Melville or Dinesen or Conrad, wilderness folks all. In fact, there was no publication that saw itself as a general-interest magazine about the outdoors and placed a premium on reporting and thinking and storytelling. ToOutside's editors and writers, there was no more perfect arena in which to probe the complexities of the human condition than the natural world, the world as it really is out there. And there was no better method of exploration than the long and demanding process of reporting and then writing--truly writing--about it. "I write because I hold the conviction, smarmy as it might seem, that we must give back to that from which we take," Bob Shacochis, the National Book Award winner andOutsidecontributing editor, has said. "Take a penny, leave a penny. What I've most taken from in my life is the banquet table of literature. What most fulfills my sense of worth are my own attempts to contribute to the timeless feast, to keep the food replenished and fresh . . . 'There are no old myths,' the writer Jim Harrison once said, 'only new people.'" The great Oakland Raider George Blanda once observed, "You stay in this game twenty-two years and things are gonna happen." Happily for us, they seem to have been happening right from the beginning. Through the years, the magazine has continued t