Dan Futrell is an affable, loud, heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy. Impulsive. Persistent. In college he was the Gonzaga bulldog mascot at basketball games, dancing and making costumed mischief during time-outs. After graduating in 2005, he served two tours in Iraq. He completed Army Ranger School but decided to move on to civilian life. Now 33, he manages people and spreadsheets for an Internet company in Boston, where he lives.
To say that he misses the physical challenge of soldiering is an understatement, but that’s his preface when you ask him what kicked off his interest in the crash. Since leaving the Army, he’s made a habit of regularly scheduling sufferfests—he once took aim at all seven peaks in New England named after presidents and bagged them in one day. A little more than a year ago, he stumbled across a Wikipedia list of unrecovered flight recorders. Next to Eastern Air Lines Flight 980, the article listed “inaccessible terrain” as the reason the flight recorders had never been found.
“Challenge accepted,” he wrote on his blog.
“Close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription,” Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wrotein July 2014, arguing that his native U.K. might thus save a lot of taxpayers’ money.
Given that the amount of new digital content produced in 2011 amounts to several million times the combined contents of every book ever written, it is easy to see why technology-fascinated experts and non-specialists alike have propagated the idea that libraries will soon fall prey to Google, Amazon, and other technological giants. However, public libraries around the globe are increasingly disproving hardcore pessimists like Worstall and others who find libraries irrelevant in the modern age. Simply put, these pessimists make a fundamental mistake: They look at libraries as reactionary spaces filled with nothing but shelves.
Sven owns thirty thousand cookbooks. Why does Sven own thirty thousand cookbooks? He could not tell you.
He will tell you that he likes to cook, that he can taste a recipe by reading it, that he likes going to flea markets, that he started buying cookbooks when he was twenty-two, but nothing he tells you will really explain how he came to own thirty thousand of them. He is a collector, and that’s all you can say. If you are also a collector, this impulse needs no further explanation. If you are not a collector, you sit with Sven for three hours trying to tease out the secret of this impulse in vain. I am not a collector.
If I’m generous toward my child-self, I like to think I was lying in order to figure all this out. To become a writer. It’s striking, for instance, that my more elaborate tale of Maine failed, while my simpler, one-sentence lie about the slapstick accident succeeded. Perhaps it was an early lesson in how less can sometimes be more?