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Native Stones: A Book about Climbing
autobiographical account of British rockclimbing
||Native Stones: A Book about Climbing
|| (4.50 of 5)
|Here’s a rarity – a book about climbing without a trace of snow or ice. It’s about rock climbing, not mountaineering. But as another reviewer said (Jonathan Raban in The Guardian): “The subtitle ‘A book about climbing’ is economical with the truth – it is a book about politics, literature, theology, nature, technology, ambition, fear: about being a parent, child and colleague: about clinging to the rock face of life itself.”
David Craig is a Scottish poet and historian who gave up climbing for some years, then came back to it when his sons Neil and Pete were old enough join him on the cliffs – one of the themes of the book is the progress of generations of climbers, the development of ‘modern’ styles and gear and dress – and how he as an older climber comes to terms with his own inevitable boundaries: “… when I failed to climb the tilted shield on Carnage Left Hand at Malham and had to ask Neil to lower me off, I was at ease in the acknowledgement of my own limitation.”
The title Native Stones refers to a remark by sculptor Henry Moore, and Craig has an artist’s as well as a climber’s eye. He enjoys rock for itself, its textures and shapes, and (this is set mainly in Britain) often wet and slippery. Like any honest climber he looks at fear and the effects it has on himself and his climbing partners. All of this Craig puts in context, many layered like an onion, of the history, the climate, the environment, and the psychological: why do we do this strange thing? What compulsion takes us out of our comfort zones on to the airy rocks? And it’s beautifully and simply written.
I found my copy of Native Stones in a second-hand book shop in Canberra, It’s published by Pimlico (1996) and cost me $11.50. Highly recommended.
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