Not as gripping as Into Thin Air, but fans of daring outdoor exploits (especially those with long memories) will find this a...

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TRUE SUMMIT

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THE LEGENDARY ASCENT OF ANNAPURNA

A former true believer discovers that Maurice Herzog’s best-selling Annapurna (a stirring, romantic account of the first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak in the Himalayas) left out some of the adventure’s nastier details and some of the team’s more rancorous moments.

Roberts, a mountaineer and author of outdoor adventure books (Escape Routes, 1997, etc.), once ranked Annapurna as the best account ever written of a mountaineering expedition. Now he sees Herzog’s version as a “gilded myth” at odds with the facts. He examines the original account by Louis Lachenal, who accompanied Herzog to the summit in 1950 and whose posthumous 1956 memoirs had been carefully edited by Herzog and his brother. He also reviews a recently published biography of Gaston Rebuffat, another member of the expedition, whose letters home to his wife and whose marginal notes on Herzog’s account were especially revealing. Comparing Lachenal’s edited and unedited texts, Roberts quotes numerous changes to show how they had been shaped to make them jibe with Herzog’s version of events. In Herzog’s telling, the team was held together by a strong bond of loyalty to their leader (Herzog) and by the glory of their mission. From the outset, however, there was bitterness over the requirements that all swear an oath of obedience to Herzog and that no one but Herzog would be permitted to write or speak publicly about the expedition. In Lachenal’s text, references to all of the negative aspects of the expedition (quarrels, low morale, despair, and ugly details about diarrhea, nausea, and frostbite) were expunged. Roberts’s conclusion that Herzog’s version represents only a part of the truth seems indisputable, but not particularly surprising. More important are the rounded portraits of the individual team members that emerge from this investigation.

Not as gripping as Into Thin Air, but fans of daring outdoor exploits (especially those with long memories) will find this a satisfying armchair adventure.

Pub Date: June 3, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86757-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich...

PERSIMMON WIND

A MARTIAL ARTIST'S JOURNEY IN JAPAN

A reflective and entertaining journey through Japan, as the author seeks to reconnect with his martial arts sensei.

Lowry is a student of koryu (not to be confused with kendo), a style of Japanese classical swordsmanship. Koryu is a medieval art, like Noh and the tea ceremony, a style of combat born on the battlefield–but more importantly, it’s a way to address the world (though an esoteric one: Lowry may well be the only American practicing the art in the United States). Indeed, present-day practitioners refrain from exercising its fatal possibilities. Lowry’s sensei left the U.S. to return to Japan, urging Lowry to follow. Though his life headed in a different direction, he never forgot his training–when the time was ripe, he journeyed to Japan to join his sensei. The narrative revolves around this pivotal decision, and it provides a warm center from which the author expounds on such topics as the glories of a Japanese bath; the evolution of the Samurai caste; the peculiarities of Japanese landscape architecture; the elements of proper sandal-tying; the custom of the premarital shenanigans called yobai; and the teachings of mikkyo Buddhism. He also includes the vital story of the sword–what it reveals about Japanese life and technology, social structure and aesthetic values, etiquette, apprenticeship and the process of education. Lowry’s seriousness lends an earnest cast to the proceedings, but he’s not without a sense of humor–commenting upon his accomplished slurping of noodles, a friend’s wife notes, “He really sucks!”

A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich tradition.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-890536-10-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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