In which we periodically examine how art imitates life and life imitates orienteering.

by Peter Amram

Literary Orienteering, or Lit-O, is not sterile cogitation by professors at Ivory Tower U. English departments but rather a search in books similar to that quest in the woods for little triangular box kites with a code and a recording device and a welcoming crooked orange-and-white smile, if indeed you do find the damn thing.

In Lit-O, the target is a passage which demonstrates not only that, at its best, art imitates life, but that at its best, life imitates orienteering.

Exempli gratia:

Among notes for his unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon (Scribners, 1941), F. Scott Fitzgerald recorded a conversation he once had with a successful motion-picture executive who said,

"Scottie, supposing there's got to be a road through a mountain - a railroad, and .... people come to you and you believe some of them and some of them you don't believe, but all in all, there seem to be a half a dozen possible roads though these mountains, each one of which, so far as you can determine, is as good as the other.

" ... there's a point where you don't exercise the faculty of judgement in the ordinary way but simply the faculty of arbitrary decision. You say, 'Well, I think we will put the road there,' and you trace it with your finger and ... you have no reason for putting the road there rather than in several other different courses ... and you've got to stick to that ... even though you're utterly assailed by doubts at times as to the wisdom of your decision, because all those other possible decisions keep echoing in your ear."

Reflecting upon this, Fitzgerald mused in his journal: "I was very much impressed by the shrewdness of what he said - something more than shrewdness - by the largeness of what he thought."

Largeness indeed, Scottie. It's route choice, is it not?

The existential O-decision: route choice.

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