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Set in Creevagh, Ireland, in the years right after World War II, Keady's book depicts a village that fears the wrath of a vengeful God, the spread of the yellow peril, Communism , and the talk of its own gossips . A product of Irish farm life himself, Keady writes about small town agrarian existence with respect and humor. His insight, declared early in the novel, that "a man's plans are subject to change when warranted by events," is borne out by the lives of his characters. Like Phelim and Philpot, the other inhabitants of Creevagh seldom get what they want, even though they struggle laboriously. Shy, soft-spoken Seamus Laffey wants to marry dreamy-eyed Eileen Maille, who wants to date the freckled townie who owns a fancy motorcar. City councilor Jack Higgins aspires to a more lucrative position, but his bank roller and most powerful political connection, Martin Mulligan, dies, leaving his future uncertain. And Phelim's Catherine McGrath does not want to give over her strapping young fellow to God. Overcome with passion, she asks why priests, who are "heirs to the flesh" as much as anyone, are forbidden to do "what nature was forever screaming out for." When Creevagh's most eligible bachelor, Timmy Mulligan, marries a widow, believing she is still a virgin , Maura Higgins, feminist, Communist sympathizer, and one of the novel's more self-aware characters, declares to giggling Eileen Maille, "We're laughing at stupidity and innocence and deceit and greed and hope and despair; all things that make life worthwhile." All things that make this novel a worthwhile read as weU. (KS) Info Thin Air by Jon Krakauer Villard, 1997, 294 pp., $24.95 This is an amazing account of the disastrous 1996 commercial expedition to the top of Everest by a mountaineer who was there. The clients of such expeditions pay tens of thousands of dollars to be guided to the summit. The trip takes a month or two because of the necessity of acclimatizing oneself to various elevations . Finally, after a sleepless (because of the altitude) night at Camp Four, the client makes the two-mile run to the summit—weather permitting —on the ropes and ladders that Sherpas have laid out for him some hours before. Krakauer was funded by Outside magazine to investigate the phenomenon of such commercial expeditions , and he got much more than he bargained for. He was alarmed by the competitiveness of the Western guides, and also of the Sherpas, for whom a successful ascent leads to lifetime employment. Krakauer himself had a small role in the disaster . He misidentified one of his fellows as being in a safe location and so fatally delayed a search—a mistake that haunted him for months afterward . As climbers say, getting to the top is easy, it's getting down that's the hard part. Everest, in particular, is not an especially "interesting" ascent; what it requires is not finesse , but almost superhuman endurance . Above 225,000 feet, even The Missouri Review · 223 with supplemental oxygen, climbers grow dizzy, headachy and confused. When Krakauer reached the summit he spent only a few minutes there and experienced no elation whatsoever ; he could think only of the fresh oxygen tank cached for him a few hundred yards down. The critical feature of the final climb is the turnaround time, the time at which it's necessary to go back, for reasons of safety, no matter how close one is to the summit. The guides on Krakauer's expedition were adamant about the turnaround time (1:30 p.m.) until the day of the final ascent, when they broke their own rule. Then a storm moved in, and several climbers died, both from Krakauer's group and from the dozen other groups who were on the mountain at the same time. Krakauer's account contains many astounding examples of foolhardiness and courage: the New York socialite who had the latest issues of fashion magazines brought to her by Sherpa runner; the Taiwanese group who ignored the death of one of their comrades; the man who was left for dead and who later walked into camp under his own power. AU...


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pp. 213-214
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