The Walking Drum is a fast-paced, fun novel. The witty banter, swashbuckling scenes, and rapid progression from frying pan to fire to the next worse predicament were enjoyable, if not a bit over-the-top.
What I enjoyed most of this book were the lessons about self-education, purpose, and history.
The protagonist feels an insatiable hunger for knowledge. He seeks to expand this knowledge through books, interactions with others, and experience. Like true scholars, he frequently laments how little he knows, while those around him wonder at his immense repertoire of wisdom and ability. As the saying goes: The more you know, the more you realize you know nothing. Still… the knowledge he has frequently gains him the upper hand in conversation and perilous situations.
Too often education is talked of as a service or good to be provided to the masses. It is a misconception that we can give another person knowledge. All true learning happens when the student applies himself and makes the sacrifice to learn. This happens best when the student has a driving purpose.
L’Amour indicates (through more than one villain) that the desire for knowledge without the willingness make the requisite effort to learn demonstrates poor character. Conversely, those in the story who understand their purpose willingly pursue the means, no matter the cost.
The final point I wish to address in this review is the attitude toward history. L’Amour says it best in the Author’s Note at the end of the book:
Unhappily, history as presented in our schools virtually ignores two thirds of the world, confining itself to limited areas around the Mediterranean, to western Europe, and North America. Of China, India, and the Moslem world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.
He typed those words in the 1980’s, and they may be truer today than when he wrote them.
I went on to type a soap-box abusing rant about American ethnocentrism that was better off deleted.
The important thing is that we expand our minds and our understanding of other cultures and their contributions to science, religion, philosophy, etc. I don’t claim that this book is fully correct or wholly important to this discussion, but it effectively invites the reader to consider the valuable lessons and contributions made throughout history that have been censored (whether intentionally or not)from our curricula.
Still kinda soap-boxy… sorry.
I recommend this book. I read it for a book club, and the opportunity to discuss it with others excites me.