Runaway blurbs ahead!

Perusing the covers of respected magazine rivals Outside and National Geographic Adventure is an adventure in itself these days. Like certain sections of some newspapers, they live and die on the newsstand by the gripping accounts of people who gnaw off their own thumb, raft the Amazon with a milk carton or boulder around Baghdad National Bank. And while the stories may indeed rock, their content-hyping blurbs, like their target audience, know no bounds. An exaggeration?

Exhibit A: The superlative

By far the first weapon of choice, it branches off from Best and Worst into: Highest. Wildest. Longest. Biggest. Sunniest. Sexiest. Deepest. Freakiest. Tallest. Boldest. Coldest. Wildest. Two recent standouts in this category include Adventure’s Wildest Wildlife and Outside’s North Dakota! Cruising America’s Flattest, Sexiest State.

Exhibit B:

The superlative/list combo

Usually followed by Best or Worst, but variations abound: 101 (Things You Want). 40 (Best College Towns: The Coolest Places to Work, Play, Study, Party, Live). 25 (Best Climbers, Paddlers, Surfers, Cyclists, Explorers, Skiers and Adventure All-Stars). 22 (Ways to Rough It in Paradise). 10 (Perfect Road Trips; Best Adventure Lodges).


Exhibit C: Peril and chaos

Editors salivating for a perfect storm exclaim, “What do you mean, they’re all fine!?” While on an expedition, it’s preferable to get: Trapped. Lost. Attacked. Buried. Impaled.

Exhibit D: Freaks of nature

A cover lacking in peril and chaos falls back on natural intrigue or, on good months, natural intrigue laced with peril: The 2,200-Acre Fungus. Attack of the Tiny Squids! The Incredible Sinking Island. The Biggest Mystery Crater.

Exhibit E: Names

Name-dropping in cover blurbs is very, very good, and the higher the ranking the better: Krakauer. Cahill. Frazier. Junger.

-- Pamm Higgins