Countdown to the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) on Oct. 17, 2012

I am counting down the days (and hours) until IFOA to be held October 17, 2012 @ 7:30.  Aside from the fact that it is exciting that little old Woodstock Public Library is hosting four outstanding international authors.  On a personal level,  I am anxiously awaiting one author in particular, Tanis Rideout, whose debut novel “Above All Things”, I have just completed and found to be a fantastic read!

Reviews describe the novel as “gorgeously written and beautifully paced” , “The Paris Wife” meets “Into Thin Air”.   Reviews aside, I was drawn to this particular book mostly because of its subject matter, George Mallory’s ill fated expedition to Mt.  Everest.  I have long been a “groupie” of mountaineering literature, giddily chasing after the latest title on mountain climbing expeditions, mostly up Mt.  Everest.  Accounts of most expeditions are filled with suspense and adventure, but Mallory’s third attempt of Everest in 1924  is jam packed full of mystery, tragedy and romance as well.

Did he or didn’t he manage to summit Everest (30 years prior to Hillary & Tenzing) before he succumbing to the elements?  What drove him from the arms of his devoted and loving wife, Ruth, to undertake such a risky venture?  Who was more compelling the Wife or the Mountain? Rideout ‘s novel is well researched but being a work of fiction can transcend historical facts into the realm of emotions and imagination.  She takes us back and forth between the starkness of Everest and the greenery of Cambridge  and into the minds and hearts of both the obsessive George and the devoted Ruth Mallory.   Rideout’s work is on a par with, and I believe digs deeper emotionally than Jeffrey Archer’s fictional account of Mallory’s expedition in his  thrilling  “Paths of Glory” (2009).   Give it a read and see if you agree?

cover art for WadeDavis book “Into the Silence”

Serendipitously, I had just read Wade Davis’ latest book, “Into the Silence : the Great War, Mallory, and the conquest of Everest”.  I thought it was another fantastic read, and was validated by the  recent announcement that it was shortlisted for the Governor Generals Award in Non Fiction.  “Into the Silence” was well researched by Davis, an acclaimed Canadian author, anthropologist and explorer in residence for the National Geographic Society.  He  embeds Mallory’s expedition into the context of war, imperialism, and the golden age of exploration.   Was post war exploration the result of survivor guilt?  What drove Mallory to undergo unbelievable obstacles and sacrifices in order to pursue a quest for a goal “because it was there”?

At the same time I happened to view an excellent National Geographic documentary  The Wildest Dream : Conquest of Everest (2010).  In this documentary, mountaineer Conrad Anker, who discovered the body of Mallory in 1999, attempts to replicate his route up the mountain using the equipment of his time in order to ascertain the possibility of his summiting.   It makes for fascinating viewing!  *Currently on order at WPL.

Eighty eight years ago George Mallory was last seen 800 ft. below the summit of Everest until he disappeared into fog and legend.  Explore his  fate in fiction, fact and film.  “Above all Things” meets “Into the Silence” towards “The Wildest Dream”!        Enjoy!!!

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