Books: I Married Adventure

My introduction to the ubiquitous nature of the vintage book I Married Adventure was through the blog Decorno — going all the way back to Aught ‘7 — in a post called “Things That Are Wrong. Now, Always and Forever”. Coming in at #13 on the list of Things That Are Wrong? I Married Adventure. The comments in response to the post found most readers agreeing; they were all so totally over this book being everywhere.

Not being highly attuned to the whims of decorating at the time, at least as documented by blogs, I had somehow missed the news that I Married Adventure, first published in 1940, was all over the world of interiors in the new millenium. Apparently decorators loved snatching up the book with its snazzy zebra-patterned cover and placing it in what are called “tablescapes”. (By the way, I also never realized regular people used this word — I thought only HGTV hosts did — until I was reading various blogs about this particular book and encountered the word “tablescape” over and over again. Oh, the things I wish I didn’t know.)

I was startled to find that, indeed, this book was everywhere, ‘scaping it up on tables all across America as youthful DIY decorators emulated their handsomely-paid idols (e.g. Miles Redd), placing the book gently — like so — on a table with a lucite box atop it as though they aspired to live in a museum gift shop. I felt a little affronted, as ridiculous as this sounds, as I thought no one else in the world cared that this book existed at all. I thought I Married Adventure was my book.

Image: Lonny

I acquired I Married Adventure when I was 14 — which is many moons ago at this point, so to my mind this fact alone legitimizes the book’s place in my life.  I spotted it at a yard sale, where I was stumbling around with my mother, as I had reached the age of consent — allowed to get out of the car at yard sales as opposed to waiting while my mom made the quick trip around the perimeter of someone else’s junk, not wanting the rest of us to pile out of the car unless it was Spectacular Junk and this was going to take a while.

I read the book right away. And, further, I actually remember the story, which is really saying something as the finer details of my youth become blurrier with each passing day. I was impressed with Osa Johnson, the subject of the book, who met her husband when he was an itinerant photographer and after marrying him, accompanied him on safari, documenting the lesser-known parts of the world for all the White Folk back home. It is a great story with great photographs, a glimpse into another time when the world was just opening up to anyone with a taste for adventure — even if these people just so happened to be nobodies from the Midwest (no wonder I loved the book).

To add to my fondness for I Married Adventure, my own particular copy has been to a sort of interiors version of hell and survived, as we had a house fire a few years after I brought it home. It is now a bit wobbly, the binding coming apart, soot- and water-stained from all the excitement. It is no prize in the decorative sense — not even coming close to rating tablescape status. I can’t say I’m sorry, and I can’t give the book up, even if the zebra-patterned cover should become as much of a cliche as that ikat pillow I’m clutching with all my might.

Critical Mass

I Married Adventure is available through dozens of online booksellers – copies plentiful enough for anyone who’s really interested. And if you get the chance, read the book for Osa Johnson’s sake — her story needs to be rescued from overzealous decorators and cranky bloggers the world over, and that alone should merit a place on your bookshelf .

More Information:

  • A good (if older) post on the book at the great blog  Style Court
  • The Osa & Martin Johnson Safari Museum (of course!)
  • Travel writer David Lansing’s series for National Geographic on the Johnsons.


From David Lansing's blog: Osa watches NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia sign a giant mock-up of I Married Adventure in 1940 (NYT Pictures).

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