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The Ascent Of Rum Doodle (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 1 Apr 2010
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Audio CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
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"I just love this book. Everything about it is nearly perfect... hugely enjoyable and brilliantly sustained." (From the introduction by Bill Bryson)
"An amazing book about mountain climbing from 1956. Laugh-out-loud literature" (Tim Key Guardian)
"This wonderfully funny parody of adventure stories was first written in the 1950s but is just as fresh today with a truly brilliant comic narrator whose commentary on the expedition members is unintentionally hilarious. Buy it" (Sunday Mirror)
"Wonderful. Rum Doodle does for mountaineering what Three Men in a Boat did for Thames-going or Catch-22 did for the Second World War. It is simply an account of the leader of an expedition up Rum Doodle, a 40,000 and a half foot peak in the Himalayas, in the same way that Scoop is simply a tale about newsgathering in Africa. The tone is nearer to Pooter than anyone else I can think of, but the flavour is all W.E. Bowman's own" (Sunday Times)
"This gentle, deadly parody of the tight-arsed old school of British exploration narratives is seemingly a cult book among mountaineers, but it has been virtually unknown to the reading public since its first publication in 1956" (Guardian)
About the Author
W. E. Bowman was a civil engineer who spent his free time hill-walking, painting and writing (unpublished) books on the Theory of Relativity. He was married with two children and died in 1985.
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These ‘professionals’ have the most ironic surnames like Burley, who was was anything but as he was out of sorts after failing to acclimatise to any step of their journey, the team’s medical assistance was provided by a Dr Prone who contracted everything from mumps to malaria, while Constant unintentionally offended the local porters at every available opportunity with his professed linguistic skill, and their navigator, Jungle, aptly couldn’t find the wood for the trees.
The ‘Rum Doodle’ campaign reaches farcical proportions as their specially selected liabilities hamper progress at every possible turn. The team leader, Binder (his radio code name), is a naïve shepherd with a flock that regularly outwits him. He is blissfully unaware of the reverse psychology they apply in order to avoid sharing a tent with his inexhaustible counsel.
The greatest threat to their party wasn’t in fact Binder, the altitude, or mutiny every time Constant opened his mouth, but Pong, a cook with the most frightful culinary ability to ‘demoralise’ all grown men. Strategies were developed to minimise exposure of his contribution to their endeavour but his presence was ludicrously unshakeable.
And with the exception of Binder’s incessant obsession for dredging up every team member’s fiancée status (regardless of how curious their replies are) this story is completely dominated by men. I can honestly say I hadn’t noticed the omission of female characters until the end as I was busy being carried away by their absurd behaviour and the futility of meticulous planning!
There were memorable gems of recklessness and ridicule throughout, but my absolute favourites were when the team had diagnosed the doctor as having hopes of a recovery on the basis that he hadn’t expired yet, and the moment Binder’s tears secured his face to the ice during a momentary lapse of emotional composure. Plus this one, where the leader is once again trying to raise morale …
"Poor Prone seemed quite low, and to cheer him up I encouraged him to talk about his home. Had he a fiancée? I asked. He said, no, his wife was the unsympathetic kind and his children considered one mother quite enough."
Binder’s valiant efforts to provide his calamitous conquerors with the necessary encouragement turned into an ascent of endurance rather than an expedition. I mean, exactly how many people can you lose in a crevasse before something twigs?! Loved it!
Somehow I managed to read this book for the first time in the shadow of Mt Blanc (although "to climb Mont Blanc by the Grépon route is one thing; to climb Rum Doodle is, as Totter once said, quite another") in December at an absurd conference where I was one of the only women. I sat by a fireplace laughing uncontrollably while various members of Italian police and United Nations sorts looked at me like I was mad. I'd offer them a line or two of the hilarity of the book, but they didn't seem to get it.
I absolutely hate climbing mountains, but ingest classic (and modern) mountaineering books with an obsession that I don't really understand. If you spoke with me, you'd become convinced I was a seasoned climber. I talk the talk, but it is all from books. I feel like W E Bowman, then, was my kind of writer. He never went up a mountain either, but you can't tell that by the contents of the book. He sounds like he knows what he is talking about...so much so that most people in his day thought W E Bowman was a pseudonym for some big time mountaineer. No...he was just a guy. A HILARIOUS guy.
I finished the book on my way from Mt Blanc to New Zealand, and passed it on to a friend down there under the assumption that every New Zealander has mountaineering in their blood, having been fed a steady stream of it since early childhood, reenforced by using countless $5 notes with Ed Hillary on them. I wasn't wrong. He had never been up a mountain either, but loved it too.
What am I saying? Read this. It is wonderful.
They are an odd and pretty inept bunch. the guide who cannot find his way anywhere, the interpreter who seems to spend all his time offending the locals by his mispronunciation, the doctor who succumbs to every illness real and imaginary and a totally useless leader who spends all his time sorting out issues and not being much of a leader as they all take advantage of his as a soft touch.
It is written as a kind of 'Jeeves and Wooster' humour and in the same langiage/tone. Wittiy and totally unbelievabel charcters and story but still very funny.
We bought it as we were going to Rum doodle therestaurant in Kathmandu named after the book.
One of those rare gems you come across from time to time than gives a few hours of pleasure
It parodies the old " superior European" attitude.
When the expedition finds it has thousands of porters it' s an echo of the post 2nd World War Italian expedition which had 600. Porters carrying " climbers" has verification in photos.
Expedition members staying in base camp while others work reminds one of a climber of the 60 s and 70s who did this. When going to help climbers who had been stranded without food , they found their rescuer 'Villain' had eaten the food he' d brought for them.
As a fan of this era of mountaineering books, I found that the book, like all good comedy, is based on exaggerated fact.
A funny book.
It's not particularly subtle, but then, personally, I like to know where I stand with a story - I can't stand unexpected twists and turns or contrived plots.
The characters are hapless - some deliberately so - and misunderstandings abound. The attempt to escape from chef Pong's cooking is a great running gag.
It's funny and I've never read a book like it. And at the very end, it is touchingly sentimental and uplifting.
Not quite a 5 star for me as some of the jokes are a little heavy-handed and obvious, but that's perhaps being harsh.