Mountains haven't always been viewed as magnificent tests of bravery or even as scenic vacation spots-only in the last few centuries have Westerners found them worthy of attention. As British writer Macfarlane (the London Review of Books; the Times Literary Supplement) points out, "until well into the 1700s, travelers who had to cross the Alpine passes often chose to be blindfolded," sparing themselves the terrors of the view. His point throughout this strangely compelling volume is that our attitudes toward mountains are very much a cultural product, a rich mix of theological, geological, artistic and social forces. With the development of geological science in the early 1800s, mountains, once viewed as "giant souvenirs of humanity's sinfulness," came to be seen as part of the earth's historical record. Recognized as "the great stone book" of history, mountains opened a window into "deep time," a glimpse of eternity. The thrill of vertigo, the infatuation with the unknown, the Social Darwinist challenge of the survival of the fittest, the march of British imperialism, even advances in cartography-all shaped the social imagination of mountains. As Western adventurers were increasingly lured from the Swiss Alps to the Himalayas, Macfarlane closes his study with the ill-fated Mallory expeditions to Everest, so mythic they almost defy analysis. The book itself is rather like some idiosyncratic, hand-drawn map of terra incognita. But for romantic, mountain-struck readers, Macfarlane's rich thoughts may make snow clouds clear, revealing new peaks and new wonders. B&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Wonderfully illuminating. . . . An exhilarating blend of scholarship and adventure, displaying dazzling erudition, acute powers of analysis, a finely honed sense of cultural history and a passionate sense of the author's engagement with his subject." --Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating stuff. . . a clever premise. . . . Goes back three centuries, showing how a few brainy opinion makers created the outdoor image.” —The New York Times Book Review
"A convincing book of historical evidence alongside his own oxygen-deprived experiences in an attempt to answer the age old question, 'Why climb the mountain?' "--San Francisco Chronicle
“Early mountaineers were lost for words to describe the splendor of the mountains, but Robert Macfarlane is not; in particular, he has a gift for arresting similes.” –The Times Literary Supplement
“Of all the books published to mark the 50th anniversary of climbing Mount Everest Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind
stands out as by far one of the most intelligent and interesting. . . in a style that shows he can be as poetic as he is plucky.”–The Economist
“At once a fascinating work of history and a beautifully written mediation on how memory, imagination, and the landscape of mountains are joined together in our minds and under our feet.” –Forbes
“A compelling meditation. . . Macfarlane is. . . the perfect mountain guide through blue crevasse fields, ice walls, prayer flags, Sherpas and Shangri Las. He’s been up there, and come back down through the foothills to offer us his thoughtful and gracious elegy, telling us eloquently the secret of it all, which is that no one can ever truly conquer a mountain.”–Benedict Allen, author of The Faber Book of Exploration
“Macfarlane, a mountain lover and climber, has a visceral appreciation of mountains. . . . He is an engaging writer, his commentary, always crisp and relevant, leavened by personal experience beautifully related.”–The Observer
“Macfarlane writes with tremendous maturity, elegance and control. . . . A powerful debut, a remarkable blend of passion and scholarship.” –Evening Standard
“Part history, part personal observation, this is a fascinating study of our (sometimes fatal) obsession with height. A brilliant book, beautifully written.” –Fergus Fleming, author of Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole
“A new kind of exploration writing, perhaps even the birth of a new genre, which doesn’t just defy classification–it demands a whole new category of its own.”–The Telegraph
“There are many books on climbing and climbers, and this is one of the best and most unusual I have read.”–The Times
“An imaginative, original essay in cultural history–a book that evokes as well as investigates the fear and wonder of high places.” –William Fiennes, author of The Snow Geese
“A crisp historical study of the sensations and emotions people have brought to (and taken from) mountains. . . . Macfarlane intelligently probes the push/pull of the peaks. . . . Sharp and enticing.” –Kirkus Reviews