The Ma­gi­cian’s Glass

Gripped - - REVIEWS - The Ma­gi­cian’s Glass,

Ed Dou­glas Ver­te­brate Pub­lish­ing

To read a col­lec­tion of bi­o­graph­i­cal es­says writ­ten over the past decade, is to take a ref lec­tive step back from the quo­tid­ian and ask some ques­tions about climb­ing. Is it an art form? What hap­pens when the muse no longer replies to your en­treaties? Can it en­snare its most de­voted prac­ti­tion­ers in a web of lies? Are moun­tains and crags the mirrors of our­selves we think them to be?

The por­traits Ed Dou­glas paints in­clude some of the great­est sport climbers and alpin­ists of the past gen­er­a­tion – Kurt Al­bert, Pa­trick Edlinger, To­maz Hu­mar, and Uli Steck. None of these tow­er­ing f ig­ures died rest­fully in their sleep lis­ten­ing to a bed­time playlist. Each re­cal­i­brated the norms as­so­ci­ated with their cho­sen dis­ci­pline. If writ­ing can, in some magic way, ren­der the com­plex­i­ties and con­tra­dic­tions of a per­son some­what truth­fully, Dou­glas sets the stan­dard. Each piece in this col­lec­tion bears the im­print of an au­thor bring­ing his tal­ents to bear on the world of climbers worth writ­ing about.

When is it best to turn one’s back on climb­ing en­tirely? Have com­mer­cial forces dug their ten­ta­cles too deep into the soul of the sport? Is the Hi­malayan trekking and moun­taineer­ing in­dus­try a mas­sive ex­ploita­tion racket per­pe­trated by a deeply f lawed and cor­rupt gov­ern­ment in Nepal? Did Ce­sare Maestri ef­fec­tively erase his part­ner’s (Toni Eg­ger’s) right­ful nar­ra­tive on Cerro Torre, the sin­gle most spec­tac­u­lar moun­tain on the planet? Dou­glas strives to give thought­ful an­swers. At the same time, he gives as­pir­ing climb­ing writ­ers a sense of how good they should be.

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