The Ascent of Rum Doodle
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The Ascent of Rum Doodle

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  619 ratings  ·  92 reviews
First published in 1956, The Ascent of Rum Doodle quickly became a mountaineering classic. As an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a peak in the Himalayas, many thought it was inspired by the 1953 conquest of Everest. But Bowman had drawn on the flavor and tone of earlier adventures, of Bill Tilman and his 1937 account of the Nandi Devi expedition. The book’s ce...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Random House UK (first published January 1st 1956)
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Jogle
For reasons associated with but not limited to having no friends, I arrived one night alone and at very short notice in Kathmandu. The prehistoric taxi from the airport was assembled from many previously fossilised taxis, and after only a few hundred exhilarating yards, violently disassembled on unsurprisingly crashing into what I assumed was the target motorcycle. The ensuing melee moved almost seamlessly into my trek on foot, carrying a rucksack (passably similar to an American ‘backpack’) con...more
Antonomasia
A classic British comic novel about a shambolic Himalayan mountaineering expedition. Perhaps a forgotten classic - it's been familiar to me for a long time and I didn't know it wasn't well-known until I read Bill Bryson's introduction. He compares it with Diary of a Nobody - the narrator is similarly incompetent, though perhaps marginally less pompous. (There's an awful lot happening, so less time to be so.) There's also a touch of Goonish / Pythonesque surrealism and a dash of Ealing charm. And...more
Eric
Jan 29, 2014 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of farcical humor
Shelves: humor, audiobooks
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as well.

The premise is straightforward. Binder -- who is, to give a modern equivalent, very similar to Michael Scott from The Office -- is leading an expedition to ascend to the top of the Rum Doodle mountain peak. His companions include a translator that appears to not know the native language, a doctor who remains sick with various maladies, a navig...more
Rhys
The second funniest work of fiction I have ever read... It's a good example of British surrealism. The British never really regarded surrealism as a serious artform and most examples of British surrealism are in fact strange comedies with no especial interest in the concerns of the original Surrealists (Freudian psychology, automatic writing, unpalatable honesty regarding sexual desires, etc).

This novel stands comparison with *Three Men in a Boat* or *Diary of a Nobody* but it's much more extrem...more
Mimi
Loaned to me by a friend who said, "this book is very funny." I couldn't agree with the assessment more. It was a good treadmill read, although I nearly fell off a couple of times.
Gary Hoffman
An overlooked classic. Read it in a single sitting. Extremely silly, in a good way, and often funny enough to bring tears.
S.P. Moss
BECAUSE IT'S (NOT QUITE) THERE
'The team spirit remains first-rate and the porters are splendid.'

A little gem of a book, this is a spoof on British mountaineering literature of the early to mid 20th century. It's purportedly written by the leader of the expedition, an endearingly clueless character who carries on regardless (and oblivious) to the obvious disdain in which he's viewed by his team. These include the usual suspects of scientist, photographer, route-finder, translator, doctor and Army...more
Angie
This is a farcical story of a group of "climbers" setting out to tackle the daunting (and imaginary) summit of Rum Doodle. It's told in first person by a decidedly non-omniscient narrator who observes the laziness and bickering of his climbing team with unfailingly naive goodwill. I enjoyed the dry, subtle humor--laugh-out-loud in many places. A bit slow at times, but all-in-all a funny read. I'd probably give it 3.5 stars if I had the option, but it deserves to be rounded up rather than down.
Laura
One of the best comic novels I have ever read. Extremely well observed and deserves to be thought of as one of the true classics of comic literature along with P.G.Wodehouse. I particularly loved the leader of the expedition who exemplifies the stereotype of the optimistic but not at all worldly British ex-public schoolboy.
Ape
Suitably silly book sending up the good old sort stereotypical English gentleman adventurer. This little band are off to climb Rum Doodle in Yogistani, convinced of their superiority in all things - thank goodness the porters were there to keep an eye on them! It's a funny read although I got a little weary of it towards the end, despite it not being that long. Not sure why, maybe I'm not enough of a mountaineer to enjoy, or maybe the repetition of the leader having to ask everyone about his fia...more
Joe
Dec 01, 2009 Joe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: nepal
You will find this book promnently on the front shelf of every bookstore in Thamel, the neighborhood of Kathmandu where all the mountaineers stay when in town, going to- or coming-back. Wonderful parody.
Jamie
Absolutely hilarious, giggled like a schoolgirl all the way through. I'm off to meditate on the responsibilities of leadership...
Chrystal
While reading this book, be prepared for the question to be asked of you repeatedly, "What is so funny?"
Chris Amies
The story of the attempt to conquer the world's highest mountain, the 40000-and-a-half-foot Rum Doodle. Featuring a navigator who keeps getting lost, a physician who is always sick, and a supporting (often literally) cast of porters who speak in belches. Then there is the food prepared by the dreaded Yogistani Cook, Pong -- who can even make a ghastly mess out of high-quality tinned provisions.

Well, yes, it is a spoof, as though you hadn't guessed. For some reason given the British fondness for...more
Ian Russell
This is the second novel in a row I’ve spent too long reading. At a little over 130 pages, I think an experienced eye could manage this in one or two sessions, and would be better for it. I thought the story would make a good half-hour comedy drama for TV or radio; it’s the kind of situation humour that’s sketched out around a handful of running gags; the bad food, the unsuitability of each character for his assigned specialism, the question of fiancées, and the number 153.

That’s not to say I d...more
Nikki
It is difficult to sustain parody through the length of a novel, even a short (171 pages) one such as The Ascent of Rum Doodle. Yes W. E. Bowman's subtle humor seldom palls and indeed the book grows funnier the further one reads.
The Ascent of Rum Doodle purports to be a report of a British mountain-climbing expedition, and the tone is perfect. Although it was published not long after the conquest of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, it is said to have been inspired by an earlier...more
Arunn Narasimhan
A farce and a parody (of course, on mountain climbing) mixed disproportionately, resulting in being neither in the end, but providing few good laughs throughout. The books is a forgotten classic, the only one from the author it seems, with the surviving copy obtained from his wife by Bill Bryson for making a reprint. Certainly worth a read for that effort by Bill for whom the book was a childhood delight.
Hannah
I wish I could say I loved this book. It's silly in the very best sense, has superb characterisation and is just a lot of fun. But somehow it's lacking a bit of bite or substance that would make it a fabulous book, in my opinion.

Still very much a book I think more people should have read though.
Scott Bischke
My version of this book included a forward by author Bill Bryson who called it "One of the funniest books you will ever read." For me, not so true. While a did get a couple of good chuckles out of the book, I also found it a bit dry. The satire dealing with mountain climbing was a lot of fun (e.g., porters do 10 the work but aren't really considered part of the team). But there were too many tiring forays off into the group leader's search into his team's personal history--mostly about their fia...more
Peter
Über dieses Buch bin ich zufällig gestolpert aber sicher nicht gestürzt. Vorwort von Bill Bryson - 1956 erschienen, drei Jahre nach der Besteigung des Everests und in einer Zeit in der Berge belagert, erkämpft und besiegt werden mussten. Aus all diesen Dingen leitet sich der gar nicht "platte" Humor welcher diesem Buch manchesmal unterstellt wird, ab. Da gibt es noch eine zweite "Ebene" und die ist so wahr wie das Leben selbst. Gutmenschentum und Dummheit finden sich ebenso wie Gruppendynamik du...more
Jim Petersen
Hilarious. Something Bill Bryson or Dave Barry would write if they climbed Mount Everest.
Liz
A friend insisted that I read this funny book, a spoof of British adventure stories of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The characters – including Prone, the doctor, who spends much of his time in just that position, and Burley, the “strong man,” who never makes it out of base camp due to suffering from various “lassitudes” (including “sleeping bag lassitude”!) – are unforgettable. Of course, they climb the wrong mountain, and would all die if not for the native porters who haul them out of crevasse...more
Charles
Bill Bryson says of Rum Doodle that, "Perhaps no type of humor is more difficult to sustain over the length of a book than a parody..." I can't speak with any authority on this opinion and I've forgotten why I mention it. The author's words are brought to deadpan life in the audiobook recording voiced by Terry Whale. I know little of climbing beyond what I've read, but if this book is correct it requires a lot of champagne and a cast iron stomach. I therefore order all of you who would venture u...more
Carmen
3.5 stars.......this book is so entertaining, even more so after reading it a second time. Totally hilarious.
Glenn
On the cover is an excerpt from an introduction by Bill Bryson that says "One of the funniest books you will ever read". I disagree heavily with that statement. The book, a parody on mountain climbing written in 1956, had its witty moments, such as the guide person never being able to find his way properly, and a funny back and forth conversation over walkie talkies between the climbing members that was like "whisper down the lane", but for the most part I didn't find it all that funny. I'd rate...more
Steve M
Tongue-in-cheek high jinks of the Boys' Own kind. Marvelous titter-worthy stuff!
Toto
This book can't be rated, because you either enjoy parody or you don't. I don't, especially book length. To me, even the one page parodies in The New Yorker is plenty long. That said, I see the talent it takes to keep a parody of mountaineering going book length. In his Introduction, Bill Bryson calls this book the funniest he's read. Good on him, but what is funny is entirely a matter of taste.
Willie Whelan
For some people this book will be a comic masterpiece for others it will be a laughter free zone. To enjoy this book you would probably need to enjoy gentle whimsical silliness a la Michael Palin's 'Ripping Yarns' or PG Wodehouse's 'Jeeves & Wooster'. I thought it was a spot on parody of a time and place now gone forever. I really enjoyed it.
Deanne
Some moments in the story of this ascent of a fictional mountain by a group of incompetent adventurers made me chuckle. It's full of little touches of humour, and you can almost imagine the scenes described by the narrator the leader of this motley crew.
Loved the navigator, a man who couldn't find his way out of a carrier bag.
Autumn
Quick, easy and fun. A parody of a "team" of climbers who take on the peak of Rum Doodle.

Hilarious, and a very quick read...I got through this in a couple of hours. Also if you can read the intro by Bill Bryson it brings a bit of something extra to the story itself to read about the author, and the history of the novel.
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