Walt's Reviews > Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
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Mar 17, 09

Read in March, 2009

This is the second time I have read Joe Simpson's Touching the Void. In younger years, when I had more energy and less sense, I probably would have rated it four stars instead of three. Not now.

As to adventure, it pumps adrenalin through readers' veins as fast as the government these days pumps money through the failing finincial institutions, especially after a major catastrophe and the so-called ethical dilemma toward the middle of the book.

What becomes very obvious very soon is how young, immature, and foolish these two fellows--Joe and Simon--were. My second reading through was almost painful on top of the regular painfulness because of it. Of course, high adventurers like them wouldn't normally reclimb the same mountain and probably would advise against rereading Joe's narrative again. Onward and upward seemed to be their mantra--and almost their sole mantra. Climb every mountain.

Joe didn't seem grounded in society, in life, or in religion. He wasn't, it seemed, even grounded in the pursuit. Upon summiting, he took some photos, ate some chocolate, but felt the "usual anticlimax. What now? It was a vicious circle."

My feeling exactly.

While Joe cried in frustration, he rarely if ever cried about the loss of a parent, a companion, a child. When I think of tears, I think of deep emotions from the heart. When he cried, it seemed his came from somewhere else on the surface and not in the center. "Each thouoght of death, of mine or his, came quite unemotionally--matter-of-fact. I was too tired to care."

Me too.

It was all pride: "They'd never know we did it."

This self-centeredness I think is characterized in the narrative style, which was mostly descriptive and not emotive. I like a little more paint on the canvass, more nuance in the story-telling. If you are so much a risk taker on a mountain, I expect more risks, more inventiveness on the page. But there you go. I don't think the two climbers displayed much inventiveness in there endeavor. I think the book carried on with that theme.
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