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  • on 19.05.2012
  • at 06:09 PM
  • by admin

THE MAP OF MY DEAD PILOTS by Colleen Mondor 0


Tooth and Claw

I know that the first two letters of “memoir” spell “me,” but the kind of memoir I like best is one that goes beyond being simply a personal account but rather tells a larger story. The Map of My Dead Pilots by Colleen Mondor (Lyons Press, 2012) does exactly that. From 1993 to 1997 the author worked as the dispatch coordinator for an air transport company headquartered in Fairbanks, Alaska. This isn’t a neatly narrated, chronological account with a clean beginning and a clear end. Rather, in lyrical, impressionistic prose she relates the stories she tells of the pilots she knew—some still living and some now dead—to the myth and the reality of Alaska. It’s a story of danger, of loss, of courage of unsavory landing strips and forbidding mountains, of delivering mail and making mercy flights, of adrenaline and prayer, of unpredictably changeable winds and oncoming storms, of snow, of difficult decisions, of good fortune and bad luck, and, always, of the unbelievable cold. But it’s also about why we choose the lives we do, how we rewrite our pasts to make sense of ourselves to the person we’ve become, what we choose to remember and how and why we forget what we do: it’s about mythmaking, storytelling, and memory. Mondor says: “If I remember the stories, then I know the life I lived was true; I know it happened; I know that once upon a time this is was who we were and how we lived.”

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