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162 Western American Literature the harsh desert country, the man going to an outpost of civilization in­ frequently to trade gold for supplies. By slow degrees he wins the girl’s loyalty and confidence, and they develop, as the years pass, a pure platonic love. She grows to young womanhood and he grows old. In his delineation of the developing relationship between the man and the girl, the author seems inspired. One has the feeling that the simple events set against the austerity of the desert carry meaning as old as mankind; indeed, one is reminded of Greek drama. Enter the guys in the black hats, who are interested in nothing but sex and gold. At about this point the author seems to have lost his inspiration and found it necessary to rely on reason and command of fictional technique. The reader begins to gain back the disbelief he had suspended. The plot is thickened with a rich gold claim that doesn’t exist, a plan to sell guns to the Apaches, a poisoned water hole, and the old man’s sacrifice of his life to save the life and honor of the girl. It can hardly be true that the taste of melodrama arises simply from the lack of realism, for the latter events are no more unlikely than the earlier ones. It seems probable rather that the author did not take the time to fully understand his own meaning and find events to embody it in. He was writing about loneliness, about pure, simple companionship, about savagery, animal and human, primitive and otherwise. By the end of the novel he seems to be merely writing another fast-action adventure story. It should be noted, however, that if the first half of this book was not an accident, Ware can be expected to produce some exceedingly fine fiction. B e n ja m in C apps, Grand Prairie, Texas The Armchair Mountaineer. Edited by George Alan Smith and Carol D. Smith, (New York: Pitman Publishing Co., 1968. 359 pages, photographs, drawings, biblio., $15.00.) This book belongs in Bacon’s category of books to be tasted. Consisting of excerpts from various works on mountain climbing, arranged by the editors, its shift of tone and topic from excerpt to excerpt (some two lines, some fifteen pages) prevents reading at one sitting. Among the authors excerpted are such famous climbers as Gaston Rebuffat, Tenzing Norkay, Edward Whymper, Emile Javelle, and William O. Douglas. The editors’ kindness in providing a bibliography makes it possible for one to read at length the excerpts of a book which has interested him. However, the editors’ mode of arrangement is less successful. The various headings include “Why . . . Why Not"; “Mountain History”; “Mountain Men —and a Few Women, Too”; "Skiing”; “How to Climb”; and others. The Reviews 163 Smiths’ integrity is praiseworthy: the chapter on skiing emphasizes ski touring rather than the more popular—and less related to mountaineering—downhill variety. Yet the stated organization, as anything more than mere labels, seems vague. One would expect “Why . . . Why Not?” to be the chapter emphasizing the impulse the drives men to face death on high rock. But we find, in the chapter entitled “Morals and Manners”, and in “How to Climb”, and in others, excerpts that stress the motive for climbing. Chapter Eleven, “Peaks and Valleys”, contains some of the best excerpts in the book: Wilfrid Noyce on climbing Everest, Brooks Atkinson on the solitude of the White Mountains of New Hampshire; and again, some of these as easily tell why men climb, or would fit the chapter “Mountains and the Quest of Man”. Thus the principle of editing does not prove consistently useful if one assumes the reader to be interested in the announced subject categories. Of the chapter entitled “How to Climb”, the less said the better. It gives little actual ‘how to' in­ formation, though that may be just as well, since climbing is not a simple, or a simplifiable subject. Occasionally, the excerpts are moving. Perhaps a sentence, as Sir Martin Conway’s, “If a man thinks little of Niagara, it measures him, but not Niagara.” Or the yearning of Gaston Rebuffat, a yearning...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 162-163
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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