Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We Waste So Much Time with Blame

Going off of Claire’s post, what struck me most about this book was the need to place blame on someone. The blame game certainly has been here for other adventure narratives we have read, but in those it seemed more of authors (who were writing about their own experience on the mountain; they were actually there) not filtering their bias and the emotions from the adventure. Here, blaming someone seems like solely a push to make money, because within some odd, not especially beneficial aspect of human nature lies the urge to point fingers. It seems strange that Tabor, however, feels such a need to place blame when he wasn’t even involved and is writing completely retrospectively. When we blame other it is usually to take some of the guilt of fault off of ourselves, or to justify some act that we did or did not do. We saw this a fair amount in Touching the Void, and with good reason. Here it just makes the whole book seem like a hypothetical, we get a lot of… “we can assume he would most likely have done such and such due to such and such which most likely  occurred.” This seems all the more risky seeing as the characters involved are dead. While writing this post I also found myself repeatedly typing, “in this novel” and then backspacing. A story based off of the incident I do in fact think would make a great novel. But, as we talked about in class, by writing “The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering’s Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters” Tabor take on a much larger, in many ways impossible job that he cannot live up to.  It’s like writing “The Truth Behind Dinosaurs” only from a non-scientific perspective, without analyzing fossils.  All this being said, I am still glad we read this book because it gave me a new appreciation for the other Adventure Narratives we have read. When you go on a mountain expedition adventure, you do just that. I understand that you would always expect others to go to their full extent in terms of saving you, but if the rescue procedures were so secure then it would hardly be an adventure, at least in Sarah Jilling’s terms. Getting ethical, I think really this book gets to the point of what extent we can and should expect strangers to go for us, an important question, yet certainly one with no tangible answer.


  1. What I liked about Dunn is that he opens with a tirade that I took as, "I'm not putting up with this blame game bullshit, this expedition was a failure, but I'm not gonna dwell on pointing fingers at anybody." It's a cliche when analyzing an adventure to look for specific persons or reasons why it failed. Dunn just says that adventures bring out the best and worst in people (5). It's to be expected, then, that human error and human glory will arise. I found Dunn refreshing because he strives to tell it like it is. Unlike Tabor, Dunn doesn't even want to talk about blame even though he himself was a part of the expedition. Dunn doesn't hesitate to say he hated something or that he's anti-semitic. Tabor always was held back by that objectionable reprieve that prevent me from getting involved in the book. Also, Tabor's work occurred much longer after the incident. I appreciate Dunn's diary for being as close to when the feelings and experiences occurred as possible.

  2. I agree with Clark in that Dunn did everything that he could to make it his writings as close to the the actual experience that he himself went through. People have mentioned the bias in his writing, but I think that anything that anybody has ever written is biased, whether intentional or not. I really appreciated Dunn's frankness, which was almost curt, in his opening chapter to emphasize that he wrote it as he experienced it. I almost like his style of writing more because I fell that his personality and true feeling on the expedition were laid out plainly without anything held back.

  3. As both Clark and Matt have said, it was beneficial to read Dunn right after Tabor, as he gives great insight into the psychology of the adventure. I also just wanted to raise some questions about Tabor's "blame game." I actually felt that Tabor really only laid conclusive blame on a person or event when he had exhausted all possible options to lay out a balanced assessment--for example, he consistently gave both Joe and Howard's side of the story, almost to a fault, as many of us said in class. If anything, I feel that Howard may have been the only one guilty of Sarah's critique, trying to "take the fault off himself."

    I mentioned this is class, but I feel that even though some sections of the book were closer to fiction--hence the "novel" mistake--I think those were the most beneficial parts of the book to the reader. The facts of what happened give us far less to think about, while the well-researched hypothetical situations give the readers an idea of the emotions and relationships in the situation, those which either had not yet been uncovered, or were clouded in biases in Howard's or Joe's text.