Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Quotable Climber, edited by Jonathan Waterman

Get the essence of climbing a few sentences at a time in Jonathan Waterman's The Quotable Climber: Literary, Humorous, Inspirational, and Fearful Moments in Climbing. Waterman collected quotes he liked from the many climbing books he has read into a binder that he brings with him on many of his climbs and expeditions. He has distilled and organized his collection into the present volume, separating them into chapters by subject, with an introduction to each topic. He includes a range of quotes, not necessarily from climbers, that elucidates and extends the meaning of the chapter headings such as "camaraderie,"  "hubris," and "humility." While I found the quotes appropriate and thoughtful, I wish each of the chapters could have had scores more quotes, due to the great breadth of the literature (which he describes so well in his Introduction). His binder makes me wish I had bothered to make a similar collection, as I normally mark a page to share a well-written passage with my wife, rather than saving it for posterity. I love that mountaineering literature has so many contemplative moments and philosophical authors, in addition to the action and excitement of the climbs.

Waterman includes a chapter on "The Greatest Hill on Earth," a.k.a. Everest. The material is a bit adventitious, showing Waterman to be more amused by the Everest phenomenon than engrossed. More so than in other chapters, the editor picks humorous or ironic passages, such as Shipton's regret of not attempting Nanda Devi rather than Everest in 1936 or Junko Tabei's calling Everest "only a mountain." The chapter is entertaining, but I feel that Waterman ignores much of the richness of the literature on Everest that he describes at the beginning of the chapter. Where is Tom Hornbein, or Mallory, Noyce, or the many others who write so eloquently or poetically about the mountain and the experience of climbing it? Admittedly, he does include Mallory and Noyce in other chapters, and Everest-related quotes are scattered throughout the book, but I wish Waterman could have captured a bit of the idealized essence of the Everest climb and its literature in addition to the amusing juxtapositions from its history.

No comments:

Post a Comment