Friday, November 04, 2005

Report from Banff (2)


Last night my book, Longs Peak, won the Mountain Exposition Award at the 12th Banff Mountain Book Festival—one of seven winners out of 153 books entered from eight countries. What's Mountain Exposition? Basically it means "other," which is the only place my book really belongs, with its mix of history, climbing stories, geology and nature. (Most of the past winners in this category have been guidebooks; I was told by one organizer that my book was considered for Mountain Literature until the final round of voting, but it's a good thing it was moved—I didn't stand a chance against the superb works there.) The other winners are:

Grand Prize: "Being Caribou," by Karsten Heuer
Mountain Literature: "On Thin Ice," by Mick Fowler
Adventure Travel: "Learning to Breathe," by Andy Cave
Mountain History: "The Villain," by Jim Perrin
Mountain Image: "Mountain Ranges of Colorado," by John Fielder
Canadian Rockies Award: "The 11,000'ers of the Canadian Rockies," by Bill Corbett

I must say it is pleasing to be recognized this way. Writing a book is a load of work for very little financial reward, and it is great to hear strangers say they like what you've done.

I did get a good insight into the power of celebrity in the book world, even in the tiny world of mountain literature. Arlene Blum, author of the landmark 1980 book "Annapurna: A Woman's Place," has just published a memoir, and she gave a talk after the awards last night. Then she and all the award winners signed books in the lobby. Blum had a line forty deep that kept refilling with eager buyers. Meanwhile, Andy Cave and I each signed three or four books and then gave up and headed to the pub. The scene did prompt a good story from Cave. Blum was selling her iconic expedition T-shirt, "A Woman's Place is on Top," and they were going like hotcakes. Before we left, Cave leaned over and told me about a climb he'd done where a Korean women's expedition was in the same area. All of the women proudly and innocently sported T-shirts that read: "A Woman's Place is on the Face."

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