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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Messner's Feats and Feets

The lead story in the November issue of National Geographic is about the one and only Reinhold Messner. Although the article has some very interesting info about Messner's childhood, I found myself wondering, "Why now?" I suppose the general public hasn't read much about the latest Messner drama: the discovery of the body of his lost brother, Gunther, killed on Nanga Parbat in 1970. The most striking photo in the article is a double-truck spread of Messner's feet. He lost seven toes to frostbite after Nanga Parbat, and the feet are stunted and strange but not really shocking; I imagine them almost like hobbit feet without the hair. Click here to see a gallery of Messner photos by photographer Vincent J. Musi, including the fabled feet, as well as archival images.

Like most Americans, I've subscribed to National Geographic off and on for most of my life, and in my view it's gotten much better in recent years. The pictures remain excellent, and the magazine is making a real push to improve the quality of its feature writing (with varying success) and to liven up the overall content. I particularly like the front of the book in recent editions, especially a provocative monthly Q&A interview that typically runs six pages or so—highly unusual for an article in the front of a magazine. National Geographic also has been more successful than most at integrating the print mag with its online content—of course, National Geographic also has about 100 times more resources than most magazines do. Still, I think it's great that a hoary old institution like the Big Yellow Book is working hard to stay fresh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He always seems so melancholy and morose.
Here is a man who spent his life in pursuit of his passions, the things that really made him feel alive, and I've never seen him in a good mood.
I enjoy reading about him, but in a way, it's rather depressing.