First published in 1956, The Ascent of Rum Doodle quickly became established as mountaineering classic. As an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a 40,000-and-a-half-foot peak, many thought it inspired by the 1953 conquest of Everest. But Bowman had drawn on the flavour and tone of earlier adventures, of Bill Tilman and his 1937 account of the Nandi Devi expedition. The book's central and unforgettable character, Binder, is one of the finest creations in comic literature.
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If only . . .
If only Bill Bryson had narrated the book instead of just writing the introduction, this book might have been a good fit for a family trip.
- Al Brooke
Hilarious. Definitely a find, not to be missed.
This book is a brilliant send up of mountaineering memoirs or, indeed, any pompous memoirs by adventurers to exotic places. The characters are hilariously eccentric, the story is replete with recurring jokes and silly (but worthwhile!) digressions, and the prose is exquisite. Even the place names are funny. You can tell it was a labor of love -- W.E. Bowman must have thrown everything he had into this book ad honed it to perfection.
It's an ensemble work, so having to pick a favorite character is like having to pick a favorite member of Monty Python. They're all quite droll, especially the leader of the group (nicknamed "Binder").
The narrator is superb -- he does a deadpan, stiff upper lip tone perfectly, injecting just the right tone of gravity to make the account absurdly funny. It's a great performance. I'd rather listen to him doing this book than attend most Broadway shows.
There are many laugh out loud moments, e.g. when "Jungle," the perpetually lost navigator, is unable to find his way through London to the group's initial meeting. The recurring jokes do verge on repetitive at times, but it's a sustained and suspenseful narrative, and it's not long. It's well worth the time invested.
- Isle of New York