£7.99 – £9.99
In 1923, a reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to summit Mount Everest. “Because it’s there”.
Today the question “why do this?” is included in nearly every mountaineering story or interview. Meanwhile, interest in climbing is steadily on the rise, from commercial mountaineering and climbing walls in university gyms and corporate workplaces to the flood of spectacular climbing imagery in advertising, cinema, and social media. Climbing has become the ultimate theater for life on the edge, exposing the limits of human bodily performance and environmental limits. But what about the limits of desire, motivation and #goals? Is the hundred year old question that the reporter asked of Mallory still an expression of sincere curiosity about mountains and mountaineering or a symptom of an ever-deeper well of uncertainty about why anyone does anything at all?
Covering the degradation of Everest, the banning of climbing on Australia’s Uluru, UNESCO’s decision to name alpinism an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the sudden death of Ueli Steck, the commercial and critical success of Free Solo, and the seemingly limitless power of K2 over the imagination, Mountains and Desire chases after what remains of this pursuit – marred by its colonial history, coopted by nationalistic chauvinism, ableism, and the capitalist compulsion to unlimited growth – for both climbers and their fans.
Margret Grebowicz is the author of Whale Song, The National Park to Come, and Why Internet Porn Matters, and co-author of Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway. She has worked as a professional jazz vocalist in New York City and a philosophy professor at a number of universities.
“Mountain climbing used to be a heroic endeavor, and a largely solitary one. But things have changed in the current era of ubiquitous media. In this beautiful book, Margret Grebowicz examines the many meanings of mountaineering, then and now: what these meanings tell us about ourselves, and what they tell us about mountains as well.”
“This is a wonderful book. It’s rather amazing to read new and interesting thoughts about climbing, after all the years and books, but Grebowicz fills every page with them. She does this by taking a step back and seeing the whole history of the activity, as both a sport and a media spectacle. She also brings news about the special status of climbing in Poland, where “Himalayaism” is a celebrity activity and an engagement with “the last problems” in the immense mountain ranges of Asia. Her book is a philosophical speed-climb, a topo map of our new Terra Incognita. I finished it grateful for a new sense of clarity.”
“A treasure trove of insights exploring and critiquing the idea of climbing – upward pursuit -– in all its forms. Generous, fascinating, and written in sharp and lucid prose, Mountains and Desire illuminates an intoxicating and dangerous obsession through a startling range of material.”
“A fascinating attempt to answer the eternal question – why are you going up there? – for a new century. It will spur many to think more deeply.”
“Offers a timely appraisal of our relationship with high places.”