Expedition was a success, although we are still awaiting positive identification of Amanita libertibetensis.
I set out for Leng shortly. I do not anticipate being able to file further dispatches until the conclusion of the expedition led by Prof. Winkler. Let us pray there are no encounters with Matango. (If it’s any consolation, I believe the atmosphere of Leng too rarified for the tropical species.)
For the second ascent we were well prepared.
We had body bags and a guide who cared.
We had miles of rope and a hundred traps,
And the lairs were marked upon all the maps.
We had food for months and assorted knives,
With the edges dulled to appease the wives.
We had liquor and flints and a banshee kite
Which we swore we would only send up at night.
We made certain that none of the cots was shared.
Oh yes, for the second ascent we were well prepared.
For the second ascent we acquired a priest,
Who would treasure most what we prized the least.
And the veteran climbers at last confessed
That the previous foray had never been blessed.
He brought missals and hymnals in every tongue
And under his chasuble carried a gun.
He was pious and chaste and knew many a song,
With a temper short as his stride was long.
If worst came to worse he could sanction the feast.
Hell yes, for the second ascent we required a priest.
For the second ascent we set out at dawn
With a bleary eye and a stifled yawn.
On tiptoe crept through the stony waste,
Then ran through hills where the map said, “Haste.”
The lucky late risers were left behind;
While those who woke early we’d never find.
Our horses refused to be caravanned,
Having learned it was safer not even to stand.
While the night was yet frozen upon the lawn,
Still asleep, for the second ascent we set out at dawn.
For the second ascent we forgot the first,
With its howling nights and its storms of thirst.
We put every memory out of mind,
From the littlest loss to the goriest find.
The mountain wind had erased the tracks
Of our previous climb: the discarded packs,
The upset cairns with their charcoal runes,
The racks of ribs and the crusted spoons.
We stopped our ears to the winds that cursed.
Out of mind, for the second ascent we forgot the first.
For the second ascent there could be no end
Till we reached the top, when we might descend
(Or not, depending on what we found,
And how we felt then about level ground).
The summit’s existence remained unproved
Some felt in their hearts it continually moved.
Though the aerial photos were shown to be fake
Our conviction was boundless, but make no mistake,
It remains a decision we cannot defend.
Still and all, for the second ascent there could be no end.
For the second ascent it continues still,
And it seems rather rash to have left no will,
With the mist having hidden the earth from sight
And the stars above thicker by day than night,
My altimeter burst and my compass dead
And the cold in my bones leaching into my head,
Every camp falling short of the sites we’d drawn,
Every marker misplaced and then totally gone.
Could it be that our critics meant us no ill?
So it seems, for the second ascent it continues still.
Just a line I’d like to overhear in an elevator one day.
This Stephen King article on the joys of audiobooks includes quite a few that sound worth seeking out.
I spent a large part of last year listening to lecture series put out by The Teaching Company, but lately I’ve switched to fiction.
Here are my favorites.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (read by Wolfram Kandinsky). I’m listening to this right now, and it’s probably the best audiobook I’ve heard yet–not just a reading but a performance. Kandinsky takes on a myriad of voices, with subtle and clear interpretations of lines that I know would give me a lot of pause if I were reading the text.
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (read by Richard Poe). I think this was the first audiobook I tried. Poe’s voice grated on me at first, but I came to appreciate it, especially with some of the personality transference stuff that happens late in the book.
Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (read by Martha Plimpton). Note perfect reading of a compelling mystery that is only a little bit of a let-down (not her fault).
Dark Matter by Philip Kerr (read by John Lee). A stirring tale of the elder Isaac Newton when he was in charge of tracking down and prosecuting forgers, with a spirited reading in many accents. Sprawling tapestry, total ear-candy.
Why Not Me? – The Franken Presidency (read by the author, Al Franken). Hilarious parallel history narrated by its author. At one point Franken gives way to his official biographer and it loses some steam, only to narrowly recover again in the epilog.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (read by Rosalyn Landor). Slow, stately, depressing and disturbing. At some point I realized I probably should have been reading the print edition because it would all have been over sooner…but I stuck it out.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman). Gaiman is a fine reader, and this one frightened the kids to the point that they didn’t want the tape in their room. The next night, they asked to hear more of it, though.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (read by John Cleese). Cleese at his best.
Saturday by Ian McEwan (read by Steven Crossley). This is a slow one, but I find myself thinking about it months later. The standard metaphor of a human life divided into of seasons (spring turning into summer, into fall, into winter) is supplanted here by one with more shades, more variations, seven instead of four: The days of the week. The main character here lives out a Saturday that is also Great Britain’s Saturday…the sixth stage out of seven…the penultimate day of a week that is also a life. It’s a thriller, but a quiet one, and unforgettable. I think the slow reading helped it sink in more gradually than if I’d torn through it on the page. Maybe you’ve got to be about my age to really find this as haunting as I did. Maybe.
In some cases, books I might have liked otherwise seemed imperfectly matched to the reader, and I gave up. That was the case with King’s revised version of The Gunslinger, read by George Guidall (when the ideal reader would have been Johnny Cash), and more recently with John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, where I have fallen back on the print version and am going to have to spend some time trying to flush the reader’s voice from my memory. I enjoyed King’s own reading of his original Gunslinger novel.
Flurb #3 is out. Rudy keeps extracting things I didn’t know I had to give, old promises I forgot I might have made. Might have.
Anders, DiFilippo, Gunn, Herbert, Laidlaw, Metzger, Quaglia, Rucker, Saknussemm, Shirley, Sirius, Tonnies, and Watson!
This looks as if it sounds awesome.