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The Games Climbers Play

edited by Ken Wilson

London: Diadem Books Ltd., 1978; 688 pages

“Every sport and pastime evolves and changes and to some extent reflects the preoccupations and mores of the times. Certain factors remain constant and immutable but each generation or so has its own voice and character. Anyone who wants to know what contemporary climbers, that is the most active and involved exponents are like, will find this well-chosen anthology most interesting and revealing.
Ken Wilson set himself the task of encapsulating the attitudes and achievements of his times. Therefore, the anthology concentrates on writing published in the last 20 years. But very wisely he has included earlier passages and older authors such as David Cox, Kevin Fitzgerald, Frank Smythe, Menlove Edwards and Douglas Busk. These passages provide elements of continuity and contrast that are both necessary and complementary. And his final essay 'Beginnings' by Colin Kirkus is as fresh and relevant today as it was when it was written in 1941.”
Michael Ward, “Alpine Journal” 1980, p. 248-249

“It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of Ken Wilson's anthology; a book to remind climbers of all abilities of how narrow-minded and diverse and how funny and tragic the climbing experience can be. It is an antidote to an overdose of world-class epics hopelessly beyond your reach. Unsullied by ads, the creme de la creme of climbing writing acquires in this hardcover book the permanence of your own memories.
There are 125 contributions, not including Sheridan Anderson's cartoons, beginning with rock and alpine climbing articles, serious and comic with a general trend towards more philosophical pieces. Although Wilson's international orientation excluded some Pacific Northwest bushwhacking epics which I love, his coverage of the entire range of the climbing experience is remarkably complete. His selection will give years of reading and re-reading pleasure and might well provide a hundred points of departure for bolder and more imaginative writing in this country.”
David Bentley, „Climbing” 1979, September-October, No. 56, p. 34-35

“Its [The Game Climbers Play] cardinal defect is a sprawling incoherence. Wilson makes a stab at an editorial statement: he intends to concentrate on writing from the last twenty years, and to present, in friendly reaction against Michael Ward's The Mountaineer's Companion, a "more youthful, more anarchic" view of the climbing world.   Revealing that the "ideological base" for his own editorship of Mountain after 1968 derived from Lito Tejada-Flores' widely-praised essay analyzing climbing scenes, Wilson, in appropriating Tejada-Flores' title, indicates that he means to structure his own anthology around the "games" the American climber had identified. But such a structure ends up looking superficial: Wilson offers separate sections for rock-climbing articles and expedition accounts, yet each heading turns out to be a catch-all. (…)
Ken Wilson has unfortunately turned a fine idea into a disappointing book by consulting too uncritically his own palate.”
David Roberts, “American Alpine Journal” 1980, p. 673-674

“This is no ordinary mountaineering anthology. Never has quite such a diversity of hard-driving narrative and strident argument been packed between one pair of covers for its first hardback outing. Because the selection is largely post-1960, and because its backbone is formed by material Wilson published during his 10-year editorship of Mountain, most readers will know a lot of it already. It still seems a good investment (…)”
Tim Brown, “Crags” 1979, June-July, No. 19, p. 36

“Reading books about climbing, like climbing or eating christmas pudding is not yet obligatory. Nor should it be so, for this is a hefty anthology of articles, difficult of digestion. (…)
The articles have been culled from the extensive range available from Mountain Magazine, other commercial British Magazines, the British Club Journals, Ascent, Climbing, the Canadian Alpine Journal and elsewhere. These are the essential literary reflection of climbing in Britain, North America and the English speaking Antipodes. Mountaineering books usually have to serve a wider public and mould their message accordingly. In the journals it is all more immediate, more spontaneous, more controversial, less condescending. Of course many of these pieces stand on their own as gems of that literature, head and shoulders above the vast mass of more mundane material. (…)
 It is a huge range to cram between two covers and despite the excellence of individual contributions it is quite hard to hold together. (…)
Overall Ken has produced a complex and remarkable mirror of His age. Not all of us saw it the same, nor agreed with the emphasis, many of which receive mention in the book but crowd one-another out of a short review. In some ways its a very utilitarian terrain which Ken chooses to traverse. As Robbins said, "Harding is a Hombre. He keeps his integrity and gives the finger to the world." So too of Ken, for he points his directions with sincerity and power, even if many of us refuse to move on the rails.”
“Mountain” 1979, May-June, No. 67, p. 46



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