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Feeding the Rat. Profile of a Climber

by Al Alvarez

Bloomsbury, 1988,

This book is a biography of Mo Anthoine. Accounts of Mo's early alpine climbs and later expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram are interspersed with chapters describing the building of his home from a ruin in Nant Peris and the establishment of his successful business, Snowdon Mouldings, in Llanberis. (...)
I found that the most memorable chapters were the two where the author describes his own climbs with Mo, on the Comici Route on the Cima Grande in the Dolomites and on the Old Man of Hoy. (...)
The book is short, with only 129 pages of text, and the few black-and-white photographs are well below the standard found in most modern books on mountaineering. The writing is in a simple style which is delightful to read; this is well illustrated by the evocative description of Llanberis on the first three pages.”
Rupert Hoare, „The Alpine Journal” 1989/90, Vol 94, p. 282-283

“Mo Anthoine is probably one of the most well-known British climbers to the climbing fraternity and yet a complete unknown to the general public, and this is just how he likes it. He doesn't lecture, he doesn't write books or articles and when he does appear on films he is dressed as a Jesuit priest in The Mission or as a double for Sylvester Stallone in Rambo III, or he is behind the cameras in the many TV climbing spectaculars. In others words he is as near to an amateur climber as you are likely to get and still spend as much time climbing on just about every mountain range as he does.
Feeding the Rat by Al Alvarez is the story of his life written by one of his many friends. The rat that Mo has been feeding for the past twenty-odd years is the passion to climb mountains, rock, ice, jungle waterfalls or anything provided it is with good companions and is what he refers to as an adventure. His expeditions, although I suspect he would rather call them trips, are either under-organised, due largely to poverty, or over-organised when the media step in. (...)
As might be expected from a master writer the book is a good read even though it doesn't seem to last very long; perhaps that is its quality. It's a sideways view of climbing over the past twenty years from one man who has made mountains his life rather than his livelihood and is now feeding his rat on Everest. I hope it comes back bloated.”
Ian McNaught-Davis, “Mountain”, 1988, July/August, No. 122,  p. 42

“Having got over the theoretical shock of having been seriously overcharged the book is well worth reading. Anthoine is one of those people who have a huge reputation inside the climbing world and none at all outside, and like Don Whillans before him, is immensely popular because of it. Alvarez packs in the anecdotes and these are great fun, and convince the reader that one of the most satisfactory things they could do would be to meet Mo and buy him eight pints. Alvarez is best when describing his own exploits in the company of Mo and reverts to a sort of journalese when reporting his more major achievements but he crops the information nicely, emphasising those aspects which encapsulate Mo's character. The episode on the Ogre is a good example. The portrayal is affectionate and gently biased and the publicity he gains is not done so hypocritically. It could be argued that Anthoine criticises others for chasing the limelight in a book which gives him the limelight for a change but I didn't get that impression.”
Ed Douglas, “On The Edge” 1988, August/September, No. 7, p. 35


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