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Sherman Exposed: Slightly Censored Climbing Stories


by John Sherman


Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 1999; 238 pages

“John Sherman, known as Vermin since school, possessing a hangover since 1976, writer of one of the finest guidebooks around (to Hueco Tanks), inventor of the V grading system for boulder problems and long time columnist for various climbing publications has a new book. Sherman Exposed is a collection of short writings, mostly about how crap other climbers are. A book intended to help us all define why, where and how we should climb. (…)
Much of the book has been published before, but like me you probably won't have read that much of his work, it is mostly published in the States. Unfortunately that does mean many of the characters so heavily ridiculed won't be familiar — but don't let that stop you, substitute a few names here and there and carry on reading. Which is itself a good thing, you never know if the piece is one great big fabrication, or all gnawing at the bone truth, despite what his introductions say.
Anyhow, if you like to read rather than actually go climbing, then I don't recommend this book, it's all a bit close to home, but if you are too busy climbing to read, or, indeed, get drunk every night, then try a few chapters.”
Jon Barton, “High” 2000, March, No. 208, p. 57

 

“Here we have John Sherman's collected articles—30 of them, almost all written during the 1990s and most having first appeared in Climbing magazine. The book is organized into four parts: the first is a mock self-interview titled "A Brief History of Vermin". The second part is called "Verm's World", collected articles from the column of the same name that ran in Climbing from 1995-'99. These are not organized chronologically but in general categories of "history, ethics, approaches to the sport, and general satire." Part three is organized by Place ("life has been one extended road trip for me"). And part four is "Characters".  Sherman has added brief introductions and afterwords to most of the pieces, commenting on their origins, timeliness and the editorial battles fought on their behalf, all of which make for interesting reading and give readers a behind-the-scenes view of how articles find their way into print, as well as how climbing media shapes the experience of their readers.
(…)
The portraits of places and people are the strongest pieces in the book. I took equal satisfaction in reading about places I know well, like Deadman's on the east side of the Sierra where I've bouldered dozens of times, or the gripping, committing, disintegrating, muddy towers of southern Utah's sandstone, where I've never climbed at all. In the case of Deadman's, I recognized the place perfectly, but felt I was seeing it anew through the eyes of someone who pays closer attention than I often do. In the case of the Fisher Towers, I was reading about a kind of climbing utterly foreign to me and utterly terrifying, and I had no doubt it was being accurately portrayed.”
David Stevenson, „American Alpine Journal” 2000, p. 414-416


“Are you in need of a royal dose of masculine backwash? Then try this sampler of John Sherman's finest, culled from his "Verm's World" column and features in Climbing, and previously unpublished pieces. (…)
My only regret is that the book is highly unsuited for bedtime reading, as I learned by flipping to "Boulevard of the Behemoths," a piece about trophy hunting for carpets left behind at bouldering areas. "Spilling a 10-dollar pitcher," writes Sherman, "doesn't compare to the disappointment that comes from stalking a 20-square-footer, clutching it by the short curlies, jerking like a titan, and only coming up with a handful of rug ramen." I laughed so hard I almost wet the sheets.”
Lindsay Herlinger, “Climbing” 1999, December 15, No. 190, p. 74


“It must be said that the Vermin's most successful articles are those that appear for the first time with the release of this book. Whether this is a comment upon Climbing's  editorial process, or upon Sherman's growth as a writer, is unclear. But it does seem that, when not faced with helpful criticism, Sherman's work has great intensity. You may, or may not, get offended; either way, you're left flat on your back by the power of this talented writer to describe the climbing experience and the role climbing plays in the world at large.”
James Moss, “Rock & Ice” 1999, December, No. 97, p. 121

 

 

 

 
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