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This Climbing Game –

An Anthology of Mountain

Humour

by Walt Unsworth


Viking, 1974, pp 220, drawings


„Years pass without any humorous climbing books coming on to the market and then
two appear within months of each other. Unsworth's collection contains many old
favourites such as In Hanging Garden Gully readily available in other anthologies —
but then you couldn't really leave such a memorable piece out just because it is
available elsewhere, could you. Personally, even though you have to share things
out, I could have done with more Tilman, Patey and Kevin Fitzgerald at the
expense of some which, to my taste, don't come into the category of humour at all."
G. W. T, „Alpine Journal” 1985, p. 277

“The idea of an anthology of climbing humour is a good one, supported by a tradition and wealth of witty words from climbing writers over the decades. Walt Unsworth has selected some good articles, many of which have only recently re-appeared in other anthologies, giving it a strong dose of a déja-vu.
Clearly one can argue over the choice of material and in looking at an anthology one searches for surprises, indications that the compiler has dug out lost gems from the past, forgotten masterpieces or better still wonderful words never seen before, maybe because they were from before our time or tucked away in some little-known journal. There were no surprises in this book, though blatantly obvious, reliably good, done-to-death pieces overwhelm the contents pages. (…)
Basically the list is either already on your shelf several times over or sadly, simply not funny. It does raise the question, "Has the compiler got a sense of humour?" It is not a big book, so it doesn't even score on quantity.
An opportunity lost.
Geoff Birtles, „High“ 1984, December, No. 25, p. 46


Not all climbers have a sense of humour of course -I know one or two quite eminent mountaineers who are good chaps but wouldn't recognise a joke if it got up and bit them - is the key comment made by Walt in his introduction. Eminence apart, I'm afraid Mr. Unsworth is one of those 'good chaps'.
There are many forms of humour from the whimsical to the sardonic and the unfortunate fact about This Climbing Game is that a large proportion of the material selected is not humorous. That is a great failing in a book which costs nearly ten pounds, and which many unwitting climbers could well find at the bottom of their Christmas stocking: perhaps a present from an equally unwitting, unwaltunsworthy friend or relative with the best of intentions. Destined to years of unthumbed isolation or the demoralising circuit of church bazaars the thousands of copies of this worthy tome will probably find their way into dustbins or under the Guy on a cold November night. While ploughing through page after page of sub-mediocrity I was kept awake by the occasional flash of wit. The majority of these were already well known, but still stood out like beacons in the night. (…)
More space is filled by Ivan Cumberpatch with his cartoons which are harmless enough, but are just twee enough to fit in with the generally low level of humour in this book. If mediocrity is your game then buy this book.
John Kirk, “Mountain” 1985, January/February, No. 101, p. 48-49

 

 
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