Book Reviews


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  Tuesday, February 03, 2004

  Chomolungma, the Nepalese Mother Goddess of the World

I listened to the 8-disc unabridged reading of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air last week -- believe me, it will take your breath away.  Presented by a reader who can do dead-ringer Kiwi, Aussi, and dude accents, this narrative of life and death on the upper reaches of Mt. Everest really came alive.  I thought it would just be a story about mountain climbing on Everest (see here for interactive photos at a nice PBS site on that theme), but in fact the book is an extended inquiry into the foibles of human judgment in extreme situations -- life or death decisions that you or I might face only once or twice in a lifetime, if that.  The book is riveting; it's a story you'll never forget, ever.

Ordinarily, the loss of several members of a climbing expedition would be a merely human tragedy.  But with Krakauer along, a veteran adventure writer as well as an experienced climber, the tragedy acquired a literary dimension.  Only by special dispensation does God place a gifted writer at the scene of such a sublime and troubling event.  Don't spurn the offering; read it, or better yet, hear it.

Why blog this here?  First, because it's my weblog and I want to.  Second, I am struck by the deep irony that only because of this tragedy and Krakauer's resulting bestseller did he have the authorial capital with his publisher to tackle Under the Banner of Heaven, his recent survey of Mormon polygamy as practiced by fundamentalists in the 20th century and mainstream Mormons in the 19th century.  No, I'm not suggesting divine intent, but it's an odd and unlikely literary conjunction. 10:44:09 PM      

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Last update: 3/3/2004; 12:10:12 AM.