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The Mountain Spirit

by Michael Tobias and Harold Drasdo

Gollancz, 1980, pp 264

“The dust jacket states that the authors 'hope to reveal a unanimous passion stemming from the mountain: a passion which: ... continues to exert an unusual influence upon art, introspection and culture. To this end, they have assembled writings from mountain authors as diverse as T. S. Blakeney and Galen Rowell, Evelio Echevarria and John Gill. A considerable part of the book consists of articles on Eastern thought and mysticism, however, and even Samuel Beckett is included. This makes it very much a book for the soul searchers seeking the eternal 'Why do we do it', although whether the answer will be found here is doubtful.”
“Alpine Journal” 1980, p. 255 

“This is an unsatisfactory book. Its purpose is a syncretic views of men's intellectual, spiritual, and artistic relationship with the mountain as landscape or image (…)
In form, it is an anthology composed of treatises and extracts, mostly written or translated to order, on various aspects of what I suppose must broadly be termed the Mountain Experience. Some of these are quite outstanding in their vacuity; frequently the most eminent have least to say, and their inclusion bespeaks intellectual snobbery rather than a serious analytical or suggestive intent. (…)
Thankfully, there are exceptions. Galen Rowell's piece, "Storming a Myth", is as good as I would expect from him. It has the inestimable advantages of terseness and lucidity, of having been written by an author in control of his language as a medium of communication; and more than that it has something to say. It describes, defines, and evaluates a personal experience and response with simplicity and success. Its conclusion is the best piece of writing in the book. The lesson is obvious; the more closely a writer is involved, personally in his moments of action, the more clearly he perceives their truths, both in essence and context. When he moves beyond that, his realities fade. (…)
The book's apparent profundity masks a real emptiness of thought and purpose. Its twenty-seven essays can scarcely muster a thesis between them; scarcely a single idea is examined ".. . in (the) hard intellectual light"  of one of their titles.”
Jim Perrin, “Mountain” 1979, November-December, No. 70, p. 45-46

“The collected articles strike me as being a definite case of east is east and west is west- coast, for the bookshows; there is a distinctly American leaning towards Oriental and "heavy" philosophical musings. There is only the occasional light relief of someone writing about climbing. (…)
There are, of course, several good articles to be found; I particularly enjoyed Galen Rowell's account of an old fashioned epic and George Steiner's "Cairns". But more often than not I was puzzled, as much by the choice of articles as by the articles themselves. (…)
Sadly the book is neither particularly entertaining nor as scholarly as it pretends. It was a good idea to commission articles from world gurus. A lot of love, effort and time have obviously been put into the production of this book but the strain shows.”
Martin Boysen, „Crags” 1980, June-July, No. 25, p. 35


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