Monday, July 28, 2014

Book review: The Great American Dirtbags

Almost two years ago, a late season hurricane and the resulting power outage finally gave me the opportunity to check out Colorado author Luke Mehall's Climbing out of Bed.  Mehall, who also publishes The Climbing Zine, recently sent me a copy of The Great American Dirtbags, his newest collection of short stories, poems, and general reflections on small town mountain life.

It actually would have made perfect morning tent reading for my summer Gunks trips, but now as I spend days on my deck waiting for my foot to heal, the book provided a much needed break from my computer screen.  And hey, if I can't climb, reading about it can be almost as good!

Actually, I have to say I enjoyed the greater focus on climbing this time around, written in a way that simultaneously captures the beauty of the outdoors, the bonds formed with friends, and the personal challenges faced.  This last aspect was especially well addressed, with Mehall never hesitating to call himself out for being terrified on a climb, getting in over his head, or being lost in the woods.  Rather than glorifying his accomplishments and glossing over his shortcomings, he paints both as necessary parts of our overall development as climbers, friends, partners, and decent human beings.  I find these stories especially relevant during a summer of getting back into leading, which has often meant being over my head, scared to the point of nausea, and even pumping out on my warmups, but always walking away more prepared for the next climb.  Mehall's writing is a great reminder that we've all been there, and that those experiences often make the best stories of our lives, and leave us better able to shape the lives of those who come after us.

For more on this and his other writing, check out The Climbing Zine and Luke's Bloggie Blog.

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