Grylls’ adventures as varied (and rough) as his writing

Advertisement

Advertise with us

Bear Grylls was the creator and star protagonist of the hit Discovery Channel television series Man vs. Wild, which ran for seven seasons. He currently stars on National Geographic’s Emmy-nominated series Running Wild with Bear Grylls, in which he guides celebrity guests on survivalist expeditions.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Bear Grylls was the creator and star protagonist of the hit Discovery Channel television series Man vs. Wild, which ran for seven seasons. He currently stars on National Geographic’s Emmy-nominated series Running Wild with Bear Grylls, in which he guides celebrity guests on survivalist expeditions.

His guests have included Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Channing Tatum, Kate Winslet, Jake Gyllenhaal, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Roger Federer, Shaquille O’Neal and Spice Girl Mel B. And his adventure with each is recounted among the pieces collected in this volume.

This is mostly a collection of short-snapper accounts (most are three to five pages in length, and there are 85 of them, all told) of past outdoor adventures, both with and without a celebrity in tow, in remote spots around the globe.

Luis Enrique Ascui / The Associated Press files In this 2010 photo, Bear Grylls is seen at Mount Borradaile in Australia’s north-western Arnhemland during filming of the series Man vs. Wild.

The featured locales are always dirty or dangerous, or both — the mangrove swamps of Sumatra, Siberia, the red rock canyon lands of Utah, Icelandic glaciers, the mountains of North Wales, the Swiss Alps, Alaska, jungles in China, outback India.

Grylls’ adventures are cool; his writing about them, sometimes not so much.

There are too many pieces that are more akin to a roughly edited journal entry than top-drawer travel writing.

Never Give Up

Oddly enough, many of the best pieces aren’t about his adventures in the wild, but rather about the precarious business of making the programs and still turning a buck.

His on-again, off-again negotiations with the Discovery Channel and NBC could serve as spritely written business-school case studies about how to produce, market and profit from a documentary television series.

Grylls had no formal business training or post-secondary education — his background is military, he was a member of Britain’s elite special service forces — so he had to learn the hard way how to deal with media executives and Hollywood moguls.

The writing rarely ascends to any literary level or sensibility.

Grylls is not much given to observations about the nations, regions or peoples he meets. Nor do you get much in the way of his absorbing a sense of place, or an appreciation of the flora, fauna or landscapes of the sites where he performs his feats of derring-do.

There are a couple of moving pieces near book’s end about the Scouting movement and Grylls’ election — and then extension — as the United Kingdom’s Chief Scout, and then latterly his appointment as chief ambassador for World Scouting. They outshine his accounts of celebrity adventure tripping.

Overall, the quality of the pieces varies wildly. A few are excellent, the majority merely passable, and a slew are badly in need of a firm editorial hand.

What works as a television episode doesn’t necessarily translate into the written word. A written narrative, without TV’s visuals, requires more depth, texture and context than is on offer here.

Grylls’ experiences are unique, sometimes wondrous. But too often he doesn’t do them justice in the telling.

Douglas J. Johnston is a Winnipeg lawyer and writer.

Report Error Submit a Tip

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Books

LOAD MORE BOOKS