Jamling Norgay is the son of Tenzing Norgay, who was, with Edmond Hillary, the first person to climb Mt. Everest. Like many famous men, his children found him awesome and distant, both literally and emotionally, and a hard act to live up to. Jamling Norgay was determined to climb Everest as well, a desire that only increased after his father's death; at that point, Jamling Norgay was as eager to commune with his father by walking in his footsteps as he was to match his exploit.

The book is an account of how he climbed Mt. Everest with the IMAX movie expedition, at the same time that a number of people were killed-- a time also chronicled by at least three other books that I know of. The IMAX expedition was not directly involved in the disaster, but gave up its own vital supplies and time in an effort to help out. (This was recounted in the other books as well.)

This is, unfortunately, an "as told to" account, a genre which has not once to my recollection produced a well-written book. The first page is particularly awful. However, there is enough interest in the subject matter to overcome the prose. Jamling Norgay is a Sherpa, and has strong ties to Tibet, India, and Nepal. The hired Sherpas have taken a disproportionate share of casualties on Everest trips and the non-Sherpa climbers get most of the glory; also, the Sherpas tend to climb because it pays better than the other jobs that are available, which is not to say that in any way it pays well enough considering the danger involved.

Norgay is a Sherpa by birth and culture, but climbs as a member of a team, not as hired help; this gives him even more cultural conflicts that he already got handed to him by his mixed heritage, his cross-continental upbringing, and his father's position. Norgay is forced to think a lot more than most Everest climbers about East vs. West, cultural conflicts and imperialism, religion and spirituality, the legacy of colonialism, and so forth, and that makes the book interesting enough to overcome Broughton Coburn's ham-handed approach to the English language.

If you read this book, it will tell you more about Sherpas in five pages than you will understand from reading any five other Everest accounts in entirety. And just that says a lot about the relationship of the Sherpas and most non-Sherpa climbers. (Jamling Norgay makes a good case that Edmond Hillary was an exception.)

I have not yet read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but I was not much impressed with City of Falling Angels, which is a perfect contrast to Touching my Father's Soul in that the prose is lovely and it's about a fascinating place and culture, but by focusing exclusively on the fabulously wealthy upper crust of society, it left out most of what I was interested in.

Berendt goes to Venice after the grand opera house, the Fenice, burns down, and decides to write a book about Venetians, rather than the more common accounts focusing on visitors to the city. He has some brilliant and funny scenes depicting eccentrics, like a rat poison magnate and a man who insists that contracts be signed with the print of the right big toe, but virtually everyone he focuses on is some sort of excruciatingly wealthy socialite. Halfway through the book, I was overcome with the impulse to join the Communist Party.

I had wanted to read about day to day life in Venice, but I had been thinking more of the day to day lives of fruit sellers and fake handbag sellers and gondoliers and artisans and restaurant owners, not gazillionaire expats and doges. There was also not much description of scenery or food or the smell of the water, nor, unless I missed it (I admit that I started skimming heavily) did Berendt once eat a cup or cone of gelato. Not bad, exactly, but not at all what I was looking for.
Jamling Norgay is the son of Tenzing Norgay, who was, with Edmond Hillary, the first person to climb Mt. Everest. Like many famous men, his children found him awesome and distant, both literally and emotionally, and a hard act to live up to. Jamling Norgay was determined to climb Everest as well, a desire that only increased after his father's death; at that point, Jamling Norgay was as eager to commune with his father by walking in his footsteps as he was to match his exploit.

The book is an account of how he climbed Mt. Everest with the IMAX movie expedition, at the same time that a number of people were killed-- a time also chronicled by at least three other books that I know of. The IMAX expedition was not directly involved in the disaster, but gave up its own vital supplies and time in an effort to help out. (This was recounted in the other books as well.)

This is, unfortunately, an "as told to" account, a genre which has not once to my recollection produced a well-written book. The first page is particularly awful. However, there is enough interest in the subject matter to overcome the prose. Jamling Norgay is a Sherpa, and has strong ties to Tibet, India, and Nepal. The hired Sherpas have taken a disproportionate share of casualties on Everest trips and the non-Sherpa climbers get most of the glory; also, the Sherpas tend to climb because it pays better than the other jobs that are available, which is not to say that in any way it pays well enough considering the danger involved.

Norgay is a Sherpa by birth and culture, but climbs as a member of a team, not as hired help; this gives him even more cultural conflicts that he already got handed to him by his mixed heritage, his cross-continental upbringing, and his father's position. Norgay is forced to think a lot more than most Everest climbers about East vs. West, cultural conflicts and imperialism, religion and spirituality, the legacy of colonialism, and so forth, and that makes the book interesting enough to overcome Broughton Coburn's ham-handed approach to the English language.

If you read this book, it will tell you more about Sherpas in five pages than you will understand from reading any five other Everest accounts in entirety. And just that says a lot about the relationship of the Sherpas and most non-Sherpa climbers. (Jamling Norgay makes a good case that Edmond Hillary was an exception.)

I have not yet read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but I was not much impressed with City of Falling Angels, which is a perfect contrast to Touching my Father's Soul in that the prose is lovely and it's about a fascinating place and culture, but by focusing exclusively on the fabulously wealthy upper crust of society, it left out most of what I was interested in.

Berendt goes to Venice after the grand opera house, the Fenice, burns down, and decides to write a book about Venetians, rather than the more common accounts focusing on visitors to the city. He has some brilliant and funny scenes depicting eccentrics, like a rat poison magnate and a man who insists that contracts be signed with the print of the right big toe, but virtually everyone he focuses on is some sort of excruciatingly wealthy socialite. Halfway through the book, I was overcome with the impulse to join the Communist Party.

I had wanted to read about day to day life in Venice, but I had been thinking more of the day to day lives of fruit sellers and fake handbag sellers and gondoliers and artisans and restaurant owners, not gazillionaire expats and doges. There was also not much description of scenery or food or the smell of the water, nor, unless I missed it (I admit that I started skimming heavily) did Berendt once eat a cup or cone of gelato. Not bad, exactly, but not at all what I was looking for.
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