Study Guide

David Grann in The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

By David Grann

David Grann

The Accidental Tourist

If Colonel Fawcett is Indiana Jones, then David Grann is Willie Scott from Temple of Doom, but with less screaming and fewer fabulous gowns. Also, he's not blonde. Also, he never married Steven Spielberg. As far as we know.

Okay, so what do these two have in common? Well, Grann and Willie both get unexpectedly pulled into a dangerous environment full of life-or-death situations—as well as the potential for magical discovery.

Anyway, you could compare and contrast Fawcett and David Grann, the leaders of the two main expeditionary forces in this book, for hours. Here is a brief list of what the two have in common: they have a family, they're male, and they're just a smidge obsessive. Grann describes himself as "a disinterested reporter or did not get involved personally in his stories" (Preface.3). But, "while most of my articles seem unrelated, they typically have one common thread: obsession" (3.5).

That's an understatement. Obsession is more than a thread; it's a whole freaking afghan that covers both Fawcett and Grann and threatens to smother both.

The list of differences is longer. Grann does the hard work for us by describing himself as someone with a bad sense of direction who likes elevators and air conditioning. He has technology and money to assist him on his quest, while Fawcett did not. But the biggest difference is the most important one: Grann knows when to quit.

We're not calling him a quitter: Grann is smart to get out of the Amazon before the jungle consumes him, leaving his wife and son without him. Sure, he never finds Z or Fawcett's whereabouts, but he reaches some stunning conclusions about the jungle (see our "What's Up with the Ending?" section) before hightailing it out of there.

Fawcett let his obsession consume him. Grann obsesses until he's full and satisfied, and then he steps away from the table. That gives him the ability to write this book about his own journey instead of disappearing and leaving behind someone else to write it for him.