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This review is from: Shipton and Tilman (Hardcover)
Had you called them heroes, they would have turned an amused look on you and walked the other way. Yet these two men have been taken as the models and exemplars of all that is best in mountain exploration for the last fifty years. This weighty and definitive book examines their joint activity through the 1930s. The first few chapters set the scene - Shipton the colonial boy who became a young prodigy of an alpinist; Tilman the war hero who was on the Western Front before his eighteenth birthday - and they re-assess previous accounts, adding in much new material that is very revealing about what the men became. Some may find the first third of the book slow going, but the author knows what he's doing, is carefully laying the foundations for the main narrative once it starts to flow and reveal what the men were and what they achieved both together and separately, smashing all the 1930s altitude records in the Himalayas and establishing a style of adventurous and ethical journeying that is now admired worldwide.
What the book is "about" is the friendship between Shipton and Tilman, if you could ever call it such. There's one poignant moment when Shipton, out in wildest Garhwal, laments not having a companion with whom he can celebrate the fact of having become an uncle. It's subtly slipped in to the narrative and it tells you exactly on what level their relationship worked. But that relationship still enabled them to undertake together some of the most extraordinary journeys in the annals of mountaineering history. It's quite a literary work, as you'd expect of this author, and it carries his usual complement of footnotes on most pages. I love these, think them very informative, and often wryly humorous. Others may find them distracting. One thing that I have to say is that his understanding of the psychology of climbing is exceptionally acute. He also tells a good story, and you have to be on the look out continually for his tongue-in-cheek humour. It comes in little flashes (this on the Bullock Workmans, for example: "Fanny in particular has become iconic in women's studies over recent years"), or in longer and more elaborate gags - the yeti story in the epilogue for example is hilarious.
What's for sure is that within the notoriously po-faced literature of mountaineering, the sly comedy that runs through this book is a rare and precious commodity! As is its implicit critique of those heroes and false gods the general public demands. A wonderful, absorbing book from someone who knows what he's talking about, and worth buying just for the previously unpublished material it includes by Shipton alone. I don't think it's an accident this book being published in the diamond jubilee year of the "conquest" of Everest. It brings the reader right back to where the real values of mountaineering are to be found.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Apr 2013 08:45:45 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 10 Apr 2014 06:03:24 BDT]
Posted on 9 May 2013 23:32:30 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 10 May 2013 10:23:11 BDT]
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 10:49:23 GMT
I think you are right when you suggest Llywarch is indeed the author giving his own book 5 stars. It's sad that people have such inflated egos.
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2014 17:44:00 BDT
Yes. It has Jim Perrin's style. Pathetic
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