I Stand Up Next to a Mountain and I Chop It Down With the Edge of My Hand
Reviewed by Karina Chahal
May 11, 2008
Krakauer tells his true account of what happened during his riveting ascent and descent of Mount Everest. He even says that many events were hard to remember due to oxygen depletion and shock, and that it was excruciatingly painful to try to remember his companions and how they left. Into Thin Air is an epic journey that can only be described by the words of the people who lived it.
Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, is an epic journey that can only be described by the words of the people who lived it. Just from the first page, you already know the beginning and the end, but the middle is what you want to know. He even begins by telling you how many people die, and the note above the title gives away the fact that it was a disaster. Krakauer tells his true account of what happened during his riveting ascent and descent of Mount Everest. Many people who were part of the climb told bits and pieces of their stories, but no one has given such a thorough account until Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air.
Krakauer was a writer for Outside magazine and decided to climb Everest in order to write about his adventure in a magazine. Little did he know that a whole book was necessary to fully convey the tale. He even says that many events were hard to remember due to oxygen depletion and shock, and that it was excruciatingly painful to try to remember his companions and how they left. Krakauer obviously survives the trek however many do not, and he is not shy to say who could and couldn’t be saved. He feels that two of them could have been saved if others had not made a mistake and after that two other people who were also on the climb wrote books in rebuttal to Krakauer’s thoughts. The trials and tribulations written in Into Thin Air are intense and even emotional for the reader, so it is easy to sense the underlying grief in Krakauer’s voice. However, he is still eloquent and articulate in his many points. Krakauer does feel that some of the people who died could have been saved, but he can blame the pride that makes him hold his anger inside, but deep down he wants to curse them all. He illustrates human nature and instinct in its most primitive state because one realizes that these people are trying to stay alive in abnormally high altitudes. Into Thin Air is an inspiring journey of self-realization and selflessness.
One would be amongst the few if they did not like this book. Even the Wall Street Journal said it “Ranks among the great adventure books of all time”, that definitely counts for something. That’s just what it says on the cover. Turn the page and there are a full four more pages of great reviews. Then you get to the actual book. Every page is exhilarating and poignant in a metaphorical and literal means. Life is just like a mountain. You start out easy at the base, and sooner or later it gets a lot harder near the top. Suddenly you are at the summit and so proud of where you are. The next thing you know, you are over the hill and about to die. And many climbers did just that: die.
When I was reading this book, I really thought about what we have been talking about in class about memoirs. Krakauer starts out saying that he had forgotten a lot because he was in astonishment of what was going on, and the slightly large problem that he didn’t have very much oxygen in his brain. Yet, by the end, he is in a large rogue storm and remembers conversations quite distinctly. At the same time, I’m not going to judge him and say that he just made it up. I am just amazed and thankful that someone can tell us so much about their whirlwind adventure. In a way Krakauer reminds me of Mathabane. Mathabane is telling the story of a significant part of his life, as does Krakauer. Mathabane seems to tap into emotions faster and easier than Krakauer probably because Mathabane is writing about a time farther back, whereas Krakauer is dealing with a traumatic situation much more recent to the time he wrote Into Thin Air.
There after Into Thin Air became a nation bestseller and a film. Krakauer continues to write and another one of his books, Into the Wild, recently became a major film. The books are similar in theme yet Into the Wild is not a personal story. Into Think Air left a lasting impression on me and a lot of other people considering it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It speaks to people because it is a story of physical, emotional, psychological, and metaphorical climbing that relates to every person on many levels. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, to those who I feel would love it and to those who I feel wouldn’t understand it, because it is a book that everyone must face.