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At the Rising of the Moon

by Dermot Somers

Bâton Wicks, London, and The Collins Press, Cork; 1994; softcover; 208 pages;

“Dermot Somers did not start climbing until the age of 27. Eight years later, between 1982 and 1983, he climbed the six great north faces of the Alps, the first Irishman to do so. His first story was published in 1983 in The Irish Climber, followed  in 1990 by a collection of stories Mountains and Other Ghosts. (…) His second collection of the fictions, At the Rising of the Moon, won the Boardman – Tasker Award in Britain and the Environment and Culture Prize at the first Banff Mountain Book Festival. (…)
At the Boardman – Tasker Award ceremony, Somers said, My stories may be about climbing, but they are really about relationships. In fact, they are more focused than that. They are about integrity. Again and again they raise the question, Was it worth it? Of course, asking the question is the easy bit. The true wit and intelligence of these stories is that somewhere between legend and reality, past and present, prostitute and priest, climber and narrator, they know what makes life worth living.”
Terry Gifford, “Climbing” 1995, No. 150, p. 166-168

At the Rising of the Moon is Dermot’s second collection of short stories. The sum of its parts, while sometimes uneven, is masterful. The 10 tales – not all of them about mountaineering – range from heartbreak to horror and even to slapstick farce. It is an eclectic journey that storms straight to the heart of human nature and, rather incidentally, to the belly of ascent. Rarely has climbing been used so well for such purpose. (…)
For the tribe devoted to mountain literature, Rising of the Moon is more than just a superior read; it’s also a deceptively important book. Somers not only sets a new standard of literary excellence, he also poses more dangerous stakes for mountain literature. With his deft pen, Somers puts mountain readers – and mountain writers – on notice. The human spirit, he fiercely implies in “Blind Date” – his tale of two fiftyish gents and their prostitutes – is neither cheap nor simple. Take the soul for granted, Somers warns, but do so at your own risk.”
Jeff Long, „Rock & Ice” 1995, March/April, No. 66, p. 123

“Somers has a considerable range. “Kumari’s House” is a story as dark as an Alpine hut. “John Paul II” is hilarious. “Stone Boat” constructs a myth. “The Singer” is a song the singer could have sung. Given this range and Somers’ approach to writing, it is not surprising, or even disappointing, that some of the stories are quite a bit better than others. It’s like climbing. If a particular route does not offer all one had hoped, the next one probably will. And like climbing, although I do not know exactly what to expect, I look forward to more encounters with Somers’ work.”
Joe Fitschen, “American Alpine Journal” 1995, p. 339-340

“Outside the Irish hills we climb the North Face of the Dru and we go on a trek to Nepal. These scenes, relying on lived experience, relating to what we know, settle us easily in. But essentially Somers is writing about people and their interactions, ideas and passions, rather than about climbing. His characterisations aren’t outstandingly subtle or profound, the actors often seem the simple expressions of their roles. Yet the insight they finally arrive at can be persuasive and illuminating.”
Harold Drasdo, “High” 1994, December, No. 145, p. 85


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