Mountains Of The Mind: A History Of A Fascination (英語) ペーパーバック – 2017/11/9
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WINNER OF THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD Once we thought monsters lived there. In the Enlightenment we scaled them to commune with the sublime. Soon, we were racing to conquer their summits in the name of national pride. In this ground-breaking, classic work, Robert Macfarlane takes us up into the mountains: to experience their shattering beauty, the fear and risk of adventure, and to explore the strange impulses that have for centuries lead us to the world's highest places.
Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award and the Sundial Scottish Arts Council Non-fiction Award. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times.
[FULL TITLE] Mountains of the Mind: How Desolate and Forbidding Heights Were Transformed into Experiences of Indomitable Spirit
One of many books published to mark the 50th anniversary of climbing Mt Everest. And among those, described as "standing out as by far the most intelligent and interesting".
A view with which I most respectfully beg to disagree. HINT: try to read the full book title without having to catch your breath (rather like climbing the great mountain, perhaps?).
Mountain climbing is indeed, beyond doubt, among the most interesting of subjects, and THIS mountain a class of its own (and not just by its height)--its long often tragic history coloured by the the attempts to conquer it. It is also, for those men who actually tried, a profoundly moving goal and experience, true.
But among the worst things that one can do about as sufficiently-rich a subject as this, is to attempt to inject EVEN MORE mystique, to desperately make the experience EVEN MORE profound, to out-of-one's-league attempt to be POETIC. And when one is NOT blessed with eloquence, the attempt does not just fall flat; it is disastrous--even if one is a scholar . . . it disrupts the otherwise-engaging narrative.
And this is why MacFarlane fails--he is attempting to write about a UNIQUE mountain which is not describable by scaling OTHER mountains. He could very well have heeded his own "the mountains one gazes at, reads about, dreams of and desires are not the mountains one climbs".
Evidently, Robert MacFarlane is no Peter Matthiessen ("The Snow Leopard"). Nor has he the experiences of Joe Simpson ("Touching the Void").
"Perceptions of mountains have changed over the past three centuries . . . we owe these changes in cultural attitude to the
protagonists of the sublime--Burke, Addison, Rosseau--to the leading Romantic poets and artists such as Turner . . . cultural
implications of palaeontology, geology, Darwinian evolutionary theory, and the discovery of the earth's tectonic plates". Huh?
"Unfortunately, MacFarlane doesn't make major points or build an argument around these themes,
leaving unanswered the great question of mountaineering (and of this book): why?"
This is plain nonsense. Again and again the author tells us - or hints strongly - that what draws people to the mountains is the unknown and the extra-ordinary and the sublime. People are drawn to mountains who long to get away from the 'why and wherefore' of everyday banality. This is a yearning that has never tugged on this reviewer, clearly.
Mountain adventure books, are, for the most part, adrenaline hits (after which you throw away the needle).
This book is unique as far as I am concerned, and its pleasures can be drawn out deeply and pondered on at leisure in repeated readings.
Yes, it is an uneven experience, and, as such, is consistent with the subject matter of the book. There is serendipity and pot-boiling and fascinating discovery, meandering and an occasional breathtaking views.
You get a rich cross-section of MacFarlane's writing styles, from historical to biographical, but the mixed diet and pace I found a reason for satisfaction from an author obviously hopelessly in love with (as well as fascinated and horrified by) mountains and mountain culture. An author as articulate and entertaining you don't find every day.
Having dragged myself up peaks for most of my four decades on this planet, I often found myself smiling at how RM richly articulated the mystique and cultural imperative of mountain-going which I was somehow unconscious of until now.
A lovely book for luxuriating in the lore and the lure of mountains.