When it comes to adventure writing the sharpest literary minds draw on the subject matter they know best. Author Angie Abdou brings to her latest book themes from an ancient English text first made popular in the middle ages.
“I was a medievalist in a past life, which is a weird thing to be,” Angie said at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. “But before I took up fiction writing I taught medieval studies.”
You may remember from courses in English lit the classic travel stories known collectively as the Canterbury Tales. Written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century it’s a dark ages joy trip that follows the path of Christian pilgrims on their way from London to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.
“And I think for people who haven’t read Chaucer they think it’s a classic text and that it must be serious and religious,” Angie said. “But Chaucer is a raunchy, bawdy, wild, wild text. And I always like the idea of how it might manifest, or turn into a contemporary novel, because he’s writing social satire of the whole breath of medieval society. And he uses the devise of a pilgrimage to bring together diverse groups that wouldn’t otherwise spend time together. So he has the fighters and prayers and workers and women and men and upper and lower, people who would normally never interact, but they’re together for the space of this pilgrimage. And so he’s able to satire the whole group. And so I thought where I live, what’s a pilgrimage? And it’s the back country ski-touring trek.”
Set in the fictional town of Coalton, somewhere in the Canadian Rockies Abdou tells in her book the many stories of mountain people. Drawn to a remote ski lodge by the last big snow dump of the year, these stereotypical nature lovers gather to offer up a bit of social satire on those who lead an active lifestyle.
“So you have the redneck snowmobiles and the pothead ski-bums and the snowshoeing hippies and they’re all…this developer guy who wants to cess out the territory and all the different groups from my town are headed back to the backcountry,” Angie said. “So I get to get them together and I put them in the same hut in the back country and see what happens!”
The tales are every bit as raunchy, bawdy and wild as anything Chaucer ever wrote. And in the classic style of the medieval poet Angie Abdou shares a comical story our own lives in adventure she calls The Canterbury Trail.
Music this week by Jake Shimabukuro
The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support of our sponsor Patagonia. Discover their conservation and new media initiatives on their blog the Cleanestline.com. And special thanks to the Walton Works whose support underwrote travel expenses to Banff so I could bring back this and other great stories. Visit the Walton Works.com
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