Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Value of Reality TV

Today is the 109th anniversary of the birth of Beryl Markham. She was the first pilot to fly non-stop from England to North America, worked as a bush pilot in Africa, bred and trained thoroughbred racehorses, hunted with Kenyan tribesmen, and wrote a novel that made Ernest Hemmingway say he felt ashamed of himself as a writer.

By all accounts she would have competed just fine with modern reality TV folk. Gorgeous and manipulative, she persuaded a string of men to finance her aviation adventures, and may have had help from Antoine de Saint Exupéry, one of her many lovers, to write that well-received book. Hemmingway also called her a high-grade bitch. Hmm, I wonder if she ever met Jean Batten. Maybe I need to work it a little more to produce career progress.

Rather than encouraging her, most people in her society would have thought she was out of line for even trying these things. There's a movie and a handful of books about her, and a crater on Venus named for her. She died at the age of eighty-six, and not by getting lost at sea. I think most people would rather compare their accomplishments with those of reality television show competitors than with people like this, because it's intimidating to realize that we haven't achieved what she has in even one field.


Anonymous said...

Markham probably would not know what to think of reality TV, until she realized (rather quickly) it is not real at all.

Reality is heading out over the Atlantic with an engine manufactured in 1931, no winds aloft update, and enough fuel to make it, maybe...

A Squared said...

Generally, it is her husband, Raoul Shumacher, the bonafide writer (ghost whiter, actially) to whom she was married during the period that west with the night was written (by whomever) who is believed to have written her book for her.

I've read several biographies and west with the night and I don't recall any mention of saint Ex. I would have thought that I'd remember that.