Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination

by Robert Macfarlane | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 1862075611 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Megami on 7/11/2005
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Megami on Monday, July 11, 2005
Fortunately, this is not yet another egotistical man-against-the-mountain book in the style of Joe Simpson Rather, this book purports to be an exploration of the fascination with mountains that came to grip the Western mind-set. Therefore it is more of a cultural history of climbing than a pure 'tale of adventure'.

Macfarlane has obviously researched his subject thoroughly. Unfortuately, this shows due to the fact that there is so much in here that is not really required - more than once an addition read as though the author had come across yet another quote he found interesting and just `had to' shoe-horn it into the book. Therefore we have endless references to people like Keats, who himself was never really into climbing mountains, but happened to say something about them. ... There is a lot of interest in this book, but you have to read through repetitive sections to get to them. There is also a lot of reliance on quotes - again and again we get someone saying 'Itis impossible to describe....' then attempting to describe it. It gets a bit boring after awhile, leaving this reader champing at the bit to get to the next chapter.

The inclusion of personal anecdotes is also a bit dry. I don't have anything against books where a historical/scientific and/or cultural exploration is interspersed with personal narrative or anecdotes. But these anecdotes seem to jump all over the place: perhaps they would have been much more useful if the author had referred to one climbing trip throughout, using examples from this to underline the points he is making. And the section on Mallory doesn't fit: I realise that the author is using him as an example of the ideas he has been exploring throughout the book, but really it is just a potted history. He continues to comment on the fact that Mallory was drawn to Everest, even though he knew there was a good chance that he wouldn't come back, and despite the fact he had a wife he loved very much and wanted to spend time with. Yet we never quite get an explanation of why, which was ultimately meant to be the point, I thought.

Not sure what market this book is trying to reach - if someone picks it up to read about climbing adventures, I think they will be bored quite quickly. If they are looking for an in-depth cultural history of climbing, they might find this book a bit `bitty'. Which is a shame, as this is a book that obviously has had a lot of work put into it, and there are some very interesting ideas contained in it. If only you didn't have to wade through so much extraneous material to get there.

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