Spring Cleaning, Covid, and a Note from Jon KrakauerMay 16, 2020
On Facebook, I was recently asked to participate in a challenge to list seven of my favorite books.
I couldn't take part in the exercise without mentioning Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
"Into Thin Air" will be remembered as one of the great adventure books of our time. But "adventure" is an unfortunate word to describe the book. A lot of real human suffering is portrayed on the pages. Real lives were lost, and, I'm told that others' lives were changed forever. I'm pretty sure Jon was one of those climbers whose life was never the same.
The other reason "adventure" is a bad word to describe "Into Thin Air" is that the book is about way more than adventure. It's about hubris and other darker human themes.
And, man, is hubris not at work in our lives right now as we humans try to face the reality of this pandemic? Not pointing fingers...and not excluding myself. It's pretty obvious that humans have a difficult time facing reality when reality doesn't agree with what we want it to look like. I'm guilty as charged, too. But it's especially difficult to watch our leaders who seem worse at facing reality than us.
OK, I'll get off my soapbox.
I'm sharing a picture of my personal copy of Into Thin Air.
In 1996, I was an editor at Outside. I conceived the idea to send Krakauer to Everest, coached Jon through a couple of rewrites, and edited the long-form magazine article. Krakauer later expanded the article into the best-seller. I didn't work on the book. But I still cherish my copy. It was an important moment in my career as an editor and writer. Occasionally, I open it up and read Jon's note to me. Sharing it with you here too.
And here's a picture of me from around 1996. Taken near Galisteo, New Mexico.