Amundsen or Mawson?

Hey, just a quick mid-week update, as I’ve been busy clearing my study so that housepainters can come by tomorrow and make it the same colour as the rest of the house. Whatever that is. Some sort of cream.

Anyway, on the weekend my wife (!) and I went to Hobart for a friend’s wedding, which was fun. (And occasionally a little weird, but still fun.) I only took the one book with me, Alan Bissett’s Death of a Ladies Man, which I sadly abandoned on Saturday morning. The writing style was very interesting, but the narrative itself wasn’t anything new and it wasn’t going anywhere. I’d like to read more of Bissett’s work, but that book ain’t for me.

Which brings up an interesting question, one inspired in part by the statues and markers around Hobart concerning Antarctic expeditions. When it comes to reading, are you Roald Amundsen, someone who’ll keep going despite disaster and privation and really bad writing to reach the end of a book once you start it, whether or not you’re enjoying it, just because you can’t give up? Or are you a Douglas Mawson who turns back once someone dies and the supplies run out and the clichés just get too much to endure?


I’m a Mawson, always have been. Life’s too short and there are too many good books out there to keep enduring with bad ones, or even lacklustre ones. If a book doesn’t hook me in the first chapter or two – hell, sometimes in the first half-dozen pages – I’ll chuck it aside and move onto the next one. And I know that that means I’ve missed out on many good books that take a while to build up steam, but such is life; there are other good books that can grip me by the nutsack in minutes, and enough of them that I’m not going to run out of reading material or inappropriate groin-based metaphors any time soon.

But that’s me. What about you? Do you stick with a book until the bloody end, and if so, why? Alternatively, if you’re ready to abandon the expedition once the porters are eaten by wolves and turgid first acts, do you ever regret that?

Come on, leave comments. Comment leavers get all the loving.

(PS: I’m fully aware that I may have it completely wrong on Mawson versus Amundsen. DETAILS!)

7 replies on “Amundsen or Mawson?”

Have you read the article on Wikipedia about Mawson??

Amundsen had a much clearer run. He wasn’t forced to eat his own dog team.

Yes, I’ve read it, and by ‘read it’ I mean ‘very quickly skimmed it over 30 seconds while writing this post.’

I’m an artist, goddamn it. You can’t expect me to do RESEARCH.

(And hey, I’ve given up on some books because they were just as bad as eating my dog team. JUST AS BAD.)

I’m Amundson. I think I’ve given up on one, maybe two, books in my entire life. I really commit to a book, no matter how much I hate it. That said, I find something good in most books I read.

I’m a little of both. I tried three times to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy before I finally was able to get past the first few chapters. After that I really loved it. I guess I’m Amundson if it is a classic and I feel like I have to read it (I’m currently in a holding pattern on Moby Dick). But if it is just a modern novel, I’m more likely to cut bait and head for something else.

I’m an Amundsen. I never quit on a (non-fiction) book. Hell, I’ve only ever walked out on one movie in my life.

But this meandering, indulgent snoozefest I’m wading through right now is testing my fucking patience.

This actually inspired me to go and read about all the key Antarctic explorers; Scott, Shackleton, Mawson and Amundsen.

Of the four, only Mawson *did not* die in either the arctic or antarctic…. and by all accounts he really should have.

Scott starved to death 11 miles from his food depot.

Shackleton survived multiple years stranded in the Antarctic, only to die -probably of alcoholism- on another, later voyage

Amundsen made it to th South pole and back and his aircraft vanished in the high Arctic while searching for an overdue airship.

Amazing tales, one and all… but not a happy outcome for any of them.

NB – Cherry Carrard’s “The Worst Journey in the World”, to do with Scott’s journey and death, apparently still makes the top 100 travel books of all time.
Now there’s a book probably worth reading.

I have only given up on two books: one because I found it kind of dull (it was Lord of the Rings book one, though I was making a second attempt with a support team who decided to get another job before we reached the goal – okay, that metaphor is overstretched), and one because I couldn’t stand the main characters any more (Dave Eggers’ They Shall Know Our Velocity).

I persevered with some difficult stuff during my Bunch of Authors project, and it paid off, as I really did enjoy each of those books.

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