With His Tale of Shipwreck, David Grann Is Steady as He Goes

With His Tale of Shipwreck, David Grann Is Steady as He Goes

Naï Zakharia The author’s latest book, “The Wager,” investigates the mysteries surrounding an 18th-century maritime disaster off Cape Horn. Credit…Naï Zakharia When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission. THE WAGER: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder , by David Grann There were multiple moments while reading David Grann’s new book, “The Wager,” about an 18th-century shipwreck, when it occurred to me that the kind of nonfiction narratives The New Yorker writer has become known for share something essential with a sturdy ship. A vessel freighted with historical controversy, tangled facts and monomaniacal characters needs to be structurally sound, containing and conveying its messy cargo. It should be resilient yet nimble enough to withstand the unpredictable waters of readers’ attentions and expectations. Only an impeccable design will keep everything moving. Whether Grann is writing about the search for a giant squid or the presidential campaign of John McCain , you get the sense that he doesn’t dare to set sail with a narrative until he feels like he has gotten the fundamental structure right. When he worked on “ Killers of the Flower Moon ” (2017), his superb book about a spate of murders of Osage people in the 1920s, he struggled with the welter of research he had accumulated until he read William Faulkner’s “Absalom, Absalom!” for the first time. The three narrators of Faulkner’s novel helped Grann realize there could be three points of view in his own book […]

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