American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Springs of Adventure

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1959

The Springs of Adventure, by Wilfrid Noyce. Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1958. 255 pages; 21 ills. Price $4.00.

We have all had to cope with that eternal question of the non-climber— "Why do you do it?” Hereafter, I shall merely refer any questioner to The Springs of Adventure.

This is a really impressive book. For some 250 pages Wilfrid Noyce— of Everest, Machupuchare, etc.—considers and analyzes the various motivations of adventure. He classifies them under such chapter heads as, "The Hair Shirt,” "The Anatomy of Pleasure,” "Escape Simple,” "Fame and Money,” etc. To illustrate each category, he has chosen short and long quotations from the writings of all types of "adventurer,” not only mountaineers, but sailors, aviators and balloonists, and explorers of wild and unknown regions all over the globe, up to—or, rather, down to—skin-divers at the sea bottom, and spelunkers in their caves. His "far from complete” bibliography includes some 135 volumes. The quotations are supplemented by sketches of their authors and their activities.

Just these personal glimpses alone would be well worth the price of admission. They introduce us to so many fine people. Some of them are old acquaintances, whom it is good to know more intimately through their own words. Some are newcomers, and it is a great pleasure and privilege to meet them.

As to Mr. Noyce’s theories, they are always interesting, and bear evidence of much study and original thought. It would be easy to find points here or there to which to take exception. But any comment would be only one reader’s judgment, for in this sort of matter I imagine no two people would agree completely. All such classifications and evaluations are inevitably artificial and arbitrary, and likely to be personal in their emphases. But the author disarms our criticism at the beginning: "At one time I thought I could treat the whole subject from all its angles. Now I know that the best I can do is to . . . establish a certain contact with the theme.”

Mr. Noyce has attempted a tremendous and worthwhile job. He has collected and organized a wealth of material, and has turned out a thought- provoking book. It is as rich and appetizing in its quotations as a fruitcake stuffed with plums, and the cake itself provides an abundance of solid nourishment.

Elizabeth Knowlton

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