Friday, August 12, 2011

Joe Simpson's "Touching the Void" (Cadillac)

One of the themes I most love in adventure, exploration, and survival lit is the incredible will to live and endure in surreal circumstances.  'Touching the Void' is just a fantastic example of this theme at its purest. 

Attempting the first climb of the West Face of Peru's Siula Grande, Simpson and his companion Simon Yates 'run into difficulty' that results in some difficult, heroic and morally charged decisions.

Added to the mix is 'repeatedly overcoming incredibly long odds,' it seems. The luck and amazing chance (I can't call it 'fortune') that takes place is simply stunning.  Clearly Simpson lives to tell his tale, but the path in getting there is remarkable.

I first saw the documentary adaptation of Simpsons' account at a friend's (David Ward) place, a few months ahead of our own climb in the Peruvian Andes (and my first time up a hill larger than Vancouver's Grouse).  I've since seen it more times than I can count.  

As for the text, it was a fixture at the used bookstore across from my office for years, but I put off the purchase thinking 'hell, I know the story already, so how engaging can the book format really be?'  This is a fair and fine argument.  It's true, knowing how it all plays out ahead of time takes the bite out of this read.  Still, for an enthusiastic audience member like myself, the direct account filled in some blanks and expanded on some short scenes in the film in a way that made it read like a well crafted commentary on disk 2.  A fine addition, and I'm glad I risked the 3 or so dollars. 

Here's the trailer for the classic documentary adaptation:

As the trailer gives up much already, let me just say two things:
1) If you watch the film, you'll never listen to Boney M the same way again.
2) You can view the whole documentary, cut up in to 10 or 11 chunks, free of charge at YouTube here.

I recommend a full-screen, HD experience, myself... but this will do in a pinch.

(Just getting caught up - I've got a few more booked knocked off the stack, but not enough time - it seems - to update here as often as I'd like.  More to come soon...starting with 'The Wreck of the Medusa')

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