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Reviews 101 polarity of point and circumference; the chosen hero, and the elite group with which he directly interacts,” Heinlein devotees were variously enthusi­ astic and outraged with the first edition of this study, and the new edition is equally controversial, as Slusser presents Heinlein as a Romantic conserva­ tive who “taps at many points what seem to be the roots of national myth.” In the process, “opposing ideas are not debated on so much as the same view (in various disguises) is restated and redefined. Dialogue, like adven­ ture before it, has become an empty form as well.” At times Slusser rides his thesis too hard and indulges in jargon such as the “telescoping of center and circumference . .. in the world of this consummate Narcissus.” Frank D. Campbell, Jr.’s account of MacDonald’s picaresque detective novels about Travis McGee is at the other extreme from Slusser. If Slusser is sometimes too abstract and theoretical, Campbell, a retired Air Force officer and newspaper reporter, gives us nothing but plot synopses of sixteen novels. His critical commentary, usually limited to a one-sentence conclu­ sion, is on the level of “The sperm count is high in this one” and is virtually useless for serious students of popular culture. ROBERT E. MORSBERGER California State Polytechnic University, Pomona In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods. By Galen Rowell. (San Fran­ cisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977. 326 pages, $18.50.) We have been waiting for this book for a long time. It cuts through the traditional, expected romanticism of accounts of expedition moun­ taineering and speaks of mountains, remoteness, difficulty and danger in a thoroughly clear-headed, modern way. Galen Rowell seems to have made a new step up in mountain writing, perhaps comparable to Reinhold Messner’s establishment of the “seventh grade” of climbing difficulty. First, Rowell shows the American K2 expedition of 1975 to be full of ego-strife, pettiness, and bad communication. Perhaps there was a failure of leadership, but the members (shown clearly here by excerpts from their diaries) did not display an all-consuming feeling of community and selfsacrifice . Despite traveling in some of the most awesome, remote, and beautiful wilderness on earth, the group was apparently closed in on itself a good deal of the time. Rowell shows us this, and more, and doesn’t spare himself. With the exception of the team’s doctor, and some people from other expeditions, there is little old-style heroism here, certainly nothing of the stiff upper lip school we used to read of in the old British Himalayan books. The book is also honest about the impact of expeditions from high- 102 Western American Literature technology countries upon comparatively primitive mountain regions. Speak­ ing of one Karakoram village, Rowell writes, Askole was changing rapidly from a cashless, self-sufficient society which had no throw-away items into a competitive scramble for visitors’ goods and dollars. The government believed that increasing the amount of money flowing into the villages could only help. Officials must have wondered why, since the reopening of the Karakoram, they have had to subsidize Askole with wheat in the winter. Subsidies had not normally been required to keep the people alive before, when everyone was considered very poor because they had no money. Such economic effect is only part of the story. “The land itself was suffering. At each place where our six hundred porters had stopped for the night and gathered firewood, the hillsides looked as if a swarm of giant locusts had passed through.” Interwoven with the 1975 narrative is a history of the previous attempts, on K2, with emphasis on the psychological and teamwork aspects, items for which Rowell has developed a keen eye. There is also a good account of “extreme climbing” in general, and particularly Reinhold Messner, who comes close to being the hero of this book, simply by the con­ trast between his and Peter Habeler’s lightly-equipped, two-man, oxygen-less ascent of Hidden Peak (26,470'), and the bogged-down scene on K2. The chapter on extreme climbing also contains some profound remarks on why people climb. These pages are the real core of the book...


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pp. 101-102
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