Tuesday, February 12, 2013

ooops...Into Thin Air

Okay well, I clearly screwed up... I read Into Thin Air instead of Blum's Annapurna.  I guess I'll just have to read as much of Annapurna as I can between classes tomorrow.
For now, I'll blog on Into Thin Air and try not to give any major events away.  As I read Into Thin Air I had to remind myself that the Jon Krakauer narrating the text was the same adventurer who climbed Devil's Thumb. Krakauer seems to have gone through a transformation (perhaps the inevitable result of maturation) since he climbed Devil's Thumb.  In general, he seems less excited by the prospects of climbing Everest; he describes being filled with a feeling of dread or anxiety several times before the climb even begins.  Whereas in Devil's Thumb he is hopeful and confident before the climb, believing that it would somehow give meaning to his life, in Into Thin Air he romanticizes climbing less and is more realistic about the risks and the recklessness of leaving loved ones and happiness behind. He    admits that "Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics, and others with a shaky hold on reality" (92) and he often writes about the wives, husbands, children, and happiness people left behind.  It gives the reader the sense that Krakauer regrets the expedition largely because of the things and people that the climbers left behind.  Therefore, whereas, at the time Krakauer hiked Devil's Thumb, he focused on the things he stood to gain from climbing (even in his retrospective account of the climb), after climbing Everest he focused on the things people had to lose.  This shift in perspective probably occurred retrospectively due to the disastrous results of the climb and due to Krakauer's more stable lifestyle prior to the climb.  In 1996, when he climbed Everest, Krakauer was in a completely different phase of his life, which he describes as follows: "I was married to a woman I loved fiercely - and who loved me back.  Having stumbled upon a tolerable career, for the first time in my life I was actually living above the poverty line.  My hunger to climb had been blunted, in short, by a bunch of small satisfactions that added up to something like happiness" (28).  Even before he climbed Everest then, Krakauer seemed to have realized that huge adventures were not a means of finding lasting happiness for him.  The quick adrenaline rushes did not result in a stable state of satisfaction.  When he climbed Devil's Thumb he believed that the climb would be the answer to all of his problems.  Now he admits that he still feels the need to climb, but he is much more realistic about the importance of fulfillment found off the mountain and the risk of losing the things left behind.

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