Artemis Phillips, young veteran mountain-climber, joins an all-female expedition to scale a mountain in Nepal--in an earnest...



Artemis Phillips, young veteran mountain-climber, joins an all-female expedition to scale a mountain in Nepal--in an earnest soul-journey, with small bits of forward-movement buried under glaciers of flashback and meditation. Narrating in a chatty yet often ponderous style, Temis announces that she is on this trek to ""escape from desire."" While in a ""totally spaced-out state of amazement"" about the Other-ness of simple, laid-back Nepal, she broods guiltily on her relationships with husband Nicholas and brother Ryan--both of whom recently died in a mid-climb avalanche back home. Nicholas was passionate, innocent, shameless, arrogant; he ""was unusually sensitive to the potential for purity in life""; he ""lived always heartbreakingly near the edge of true enlightenment. . . what he needed more than anything was someone who could perceive his helplessness and administer pain like an antidote for his search for invulnerability."" Ryan, on the other hand, was more subdued, while remaining Temis' most intense, vaguely incestuous love: ""My love for him and for the mountains were just two halves of one great love, the palm and knuckles of all I longed to hold."" And the three of them together became a glorious trio and a noteworthy climbing team--till various opaque tensions (including Temis' adultery) led up to that avalanche, with Temis feeling murkily responsible. Along the way, then, Temis seeks epiphanies and expiations: holding a mute Nepalese child, she feels a renewal of the ability to love; she spends a soul-communion night with a herder in a hut; she winds up in a mountain-climb ordeal with one other woman; she strains for Buddhist inner-peace; she ponders the zen of mountain-climbing, her complex sexual identity à la ""Artemis,"" her unique psyche. (""So anyway, you've got to understand that things hit me like this, out of the blue, and things that the rest of the human race take for granted without having to experience them simply don't exist for me until I do."") But, notwithstanding all these mystical moments and intense ruminations, Artemis doesn't really seem to travel much emotional distance here--while the climb itself receives too little steady attention to hold the narrative together. And the flashback love-story is largely lifeless, with Artemis' men remaining faceless despite all the analytical verbiage. Enervating and pretentious soul-trekking, then, enlivened by a few bright ironies and scenic/climbing details--but without the focus or precision of Arthur's non-fiction debut, Island Sojourn (1980).

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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