I put this on my travel shelf, but it's actually a well-written story of adventure, self-discovery, and grace. Slakey was a dare-devil kid - one of hi...moreI put this on my travel shelf, but it's actually a well-written story of adventure, self-discovery, and grace. Slakey was a dare-devil kid - one of his earlier stunts was jumping out from a four-story building into a shallow pool, again and again, only to learn that a 6-year-old had seen him and tried it.
As an adult, he was still a driven, competitive thrill-seeker. This is the story of his journey from being a self-centered alpha to someone who truly understands how connected we all are - connected to the watching 6-year-olds, to the guys who didn't make it to the top of the mountain but are willing to loan their ice axe to someone else, and to the rest of the world.
Few people can reach that kind of grace via extreme mountain-climbing and surfing around the world. Even fewer can then write about it in such a way that it becomes visible for others. Unsurprisingly, Slakely is a professor at Georgetown. The guy's smart.
I had to finish this book fast, because my brother's visiting, and I knew soon after I started reading it that I wanted him to take it with him. Now I know I want him to send it on to my son when he's done.
Great book, and recommended for just about anyone.
In the first paragraph of this fabulous book, Taras Grescoe writes, about the Shanghai Auto Show, biggest in the world: "Throughout the cavernous show...moreIn the first paragraph of this fabulous book, Taras Grescoe writes, about the Shanghai Auto Show, biggest in the world: "Throughout the cavernous showrooms, lithe motor-showgirls in shimmering nylon evening gowns and leatherette miniskirts drape themselves over aerodynamic fenders, like molten watches drizzled over branches in a Dali landscape. On rotating platforms, surrealistic concept cars languidly pirouette…"
Wow. Beyond absolutely jaw-dropping writing, so good you want to linger over it, Grescoe can pack in more information in a paragraph than you can get in an entire newspaper article. Try this one:
Only twenty-five years ago, automobile traffic in Shanghai was limited to chauffeur-driven Hongqi limousines for Communist Party officials. Such was China's isolation that, during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards floated a proposal to make red stoplights signify "Go." Today, there are two million cars on the streets of Shanghai. to ease congestion, a high price has been set on car registration, and bicycles have been banned from main streets. Backups in China can make even Los Angeles traffic look positively bucolic: in 2010, drivers northwest of Beijing were stuck for ten days in a jam that stretched 60 miles across two provinces. To increase mobility, China has built a 33,000-mile system of expressways in the last twenty years. Already larger than the network that connects the European Union, it will be more extensive than the United States' freeway system, by 2035. By then, carbon dioxide emissions from China's transport sector will easily be the highest in the world.
Later, in a chapter on my heart's hometown, Portland, Oregon, Grescoe gives a great description, then, ominously, writes, "Yet something is missing from downtown Portland."
Oh! My hackles slightly up, I read on…
It was only as I crossed Burnside Avenue toward Union Station and heard a train whistle ricocheting between the steel bridges spanning the Willamette River, that I realized what Portland was lacking. I'd been strolling downtown for over two hours and had yet to encounter that bane of the North American metropolis: the neighborhood-killing, blight-inducing, multilaned freeway.
All in all, this is an entertaining, fact-filled travelogue. Admittedly, I share Grescoe's absolute disdain for automobiles, highways, and suburbs. I'm pretty sure, though, that I would have loved it even if I thought cars were great.
Thanks to Goodreads Firstreads program for this first-rate book. Everyone should read it. (And get rid of their cars and start commuting by bike, train, bus, or ferry.)(less)