/ NEW REVIEW: Fiva - An Adventure That Went Wrong by Gordon Stainforth

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Gordon Stainforth review montage image, 5 kbAndy Kirkpatrik got a surprise when Gordon Stainforth's latest book arrived. Expecting a lavish picture book like Gordon's previous offerings, he was somewhat taken aback when it turned out to be full of words! He took on the task of reviewing it though.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=4576
Niall Grimes - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to UKC Gear: Nice review Andy.
Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

A couple of the Amazon reviews from non-climbers I think show this book is clearly accessible and potentially very exciting for them. I remember feeling similiarly unsure about Touching the Void's appeal to non-climbers but that 'crossed-over' remarkably well. I guess, as often with experts, we can easily underestimate the intelligence of the 'interested general public'. I'd continue to recommend that climbing book to non-climbers and would now add Fiva in pretty much the same vein. Climbing publishing is a small world and its nice to see books with a much wider potential impact.
andy kirkpatrick - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to Offwidth: I certenly hope it's gets a wider readership - but that could be said of all good climbing books. Put it this way, would you read a book about sailing, motorbiking or free diving? Most people stick to what they know and a book has to be remarkable to seep out of its niche, and usually only due to some other leverage (TV or Film). Think it would make a good short film though.
Offwidth - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

I read a lot and widely so yes, if recommended, or inspired by browsing, is the answer to your question (my most recent novel the baroque cycle of Neal Stephenson had about 2700 pages... a great book but stamina was a must). As climbing books go its the only one other than Touching the Void that went the way of youthful classic memories (ie read straight through at pace). I have more than a few friends who have published in climbing and have found some works mearly OK and the more usual very good ones a little hard going at times, so its not that I know Gordon that I'm saying I think this unusually does have cross-over potential. However, thats still just my experience and its obvious that some very successful books that I enjoyed and read equally fast were 'marmite' (most famously LOTR) but once you have cross-over that sub-niche is OK.
JJL - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

Dear UKC

I know Andy is dyslexic, but I'm guessing that the editorial team at UKC are not.

So, please, check your articles.
Niall Grimes - on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to JJL: I've just read the first 3 paragraphs and only seen one typo. What do you see?
In reply to JJL: did you enjoy the review though?
In reply to JJL: oh and why not check the UKC spelling of surnames in the original post before suggesting they proof-read!
In reply to andy kirkpatrick: Thanks for the review.
Postmanpat on 25 Apr 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

As I said on another thread, I think it's a great read. Andy Kirpatrick asks who the book was aimed at. Well, realistically the answer is probably not at top level mountaineers whose idea of a relaxing summer holiday is a couple of months hanging off a wall in Patagonia in a blizzard ! Which is why I suspect he didn't quite "get it".

For the rest of us ordinary mortals it works because it could be us; the location, the scale, the difficulties we can relate to. And, as Kirkpatrick says, the personalised style of the narrative accentuates this feeling. As a reasonably experienced climber, albeit at a modest level, I have to say I never felt my hand was being held. I felt the book captured the experience of climbing and of things going wrong,in this case very badly wrong. The story is good enough and the telling of it sharp enough that one keeps wanting to know what happens next.

I lent my copy to a couple of outdoorsy non climbers who loved it so my guess is it could well attract a wider audience.

Yes, it has a slightly old fashioned feel but that is part of its charm and its authenticity. Slightly oddball in a way but I think anybody who likes a good adventure story will enjoy it.

PS. If it becomes a a film is there any chance the Olsen twins could play the leads? I'm sure Hollywood would buy into that.
ERU - on 25 Apr 2012
Thanks for the review.

> ... knowing Gordon, I'd actually have to read it! (most reviews can just be cobbled together of Amazon).

Spelling mistake: of = off
andy kirkpatrick - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

I thought I was being super positive in the review, but what's good and what's better is all subjective (I actaully hate book reviews for that very reason). I guess it's not down to me to judge if it's a mainstream book, but when he sell's 20,000 copies I'll take it back (and I hope he does).

Sorry about the spelling - never have quite got the whole of and off thing.

Andy
Darren Jackson - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

When dealing with grammar/spelling/punctuation Nazis, I always like to calm them down a bit with a softly spoken "There, their, they're....".
Martin W on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to JJL:

A little bit harsh, perhaps? Rather than posting on the discussion thread, you could just e-mail the editorial team via the "Contact Us" link at the foot of the page. (I say that after having myself made the mistake of posting corrections on a discussion thread, and then having to explain that the reason the article appears correct is because the corrections I suggested have been made!)

Personally, in the context of this particular review, I think that Andy's occasional wonky spelling is part of the character of his writing. It reminds me of his account in Psychovertical of how he started writing - I know that he has to work very hard at it. That he also has the grace to apologise for his mistakes, rather than simply to dismiss as "pedants" people who offer corrections, makes him an even nicer person.

(I, on the other hand, should probably find a way to express the above without referring to Andy in the third person while he's in the virtual "room". Sorry...)
Offwidth - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen! In critique terms any neagtivity on the review was A1 at the worst !;-). I see nothing wrong with your review from your perpective: we are all individuals and all have different opinions.

The spelling/grammar nazi is a moron: I'd rather have a thoughtful discussion enhancing review from a dyslexic climbing writer than an anodyne description that eats, shoots and leaves.
Simon Caldwell - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Offwidth:
I've ceased caring about speling/gramar except where it's so bad it's unintelligible. But feel I should point out that the complainant was directing his criticism at the editors, not the author - I doubt there are too many dyslexic editors around :-)
Offwidth - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Toreador:

Why? was it so bad it needed it?

I've know several dyslexic editors so be careful with your stereotypes. In fact for one of those I know, it gave him his main incentive to become one...a big boost in interest in how to root out errors leads that way.

Anyway I'm doing it myself now: let's focus on the book and the review please.
In reply to Toreador: In an error per word count - Andy scored better with fewer errors in his review than the UKC editors opening salvo at the top.

Why should the complainant expect an improvement on a very good review based on this evidence?
Simon Caldwell - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Offwidth:

Can't comment on the book as I haven't bought it yet :-)

One of the roles of an editor is to correct speling mistales, so at the very least they need access to a spell-checker. Whereas a writer 'just' needs to write well enough to achieve whatever their purpose is (entertainment, story telling, reviewing, etc), which is what AK does so well.

At least that's how it always used to be in the olde dayes :-)
In reply to Toreador:
> I've ceased caring about speling/gramar except where it's so bad it's unintelligible. But feel I should point out that the complainant was directing his criticism at the editors, not the author - I doubt there are too many dyslexic editors around :-)

I wouldn't dare make such an assumption, especially when the editor in this case was myself.

I have been through it again and removed most of the errors I think.

Alan
Simon Caldwell - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I stand corrected :-)

PS There's a very good spelling/grammar checker addin for Chrome called After the Deadline, I use it all the time
Offwidth - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Toreador:

"One of the roles of an editor is to correct speling mistales, so at the very least they need access to a spell-checker. Whereas a writer 'just' needs to write well enough to achieve whatever their purpose is (entertainment, story telling, reviewing, etc), which is what AK does so well."

Cheers... I might steal that for something satirical one day.


Jim Walton on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Offwidth: To get back to the point...

I disagree with Mr K on a couple of points;

"Gordon's writing can sometimes seem a little clumsy".

To those who like the basic/simplistic styles of Jeffrey Archer, to those who like to scan read books in two days, to those who just want to read the gory bits, to those who just want to read about the climbing, to those who just want to look at the pictures, to those who just don't care; then perhaps this book may intimidate you into thinking it's clumsy.

BUT NO, DAM IT! Let me stand up and be counted. This book hasn't been written, it's been crafted. Each passage, each sentence even has been written with a meaning. There's no filler in this book. This book has feeling. The tempo moves the reader along as the climber moves. Steady as the climbing gets reserved yet suddenly explosive as the climbers adrenalin rises.

You know that something bad is going to happen, you don't know when and you don't know how. But when it does happen the author has brought you along. the tempo and style change as panic kicks in, the writing goes all over the place. This isn't by accident, you're in the mind of the leader and things are not clinical when the s#it hits the fan.

"Gordon chose to write his story 40 years after the event in the first-person which I felt detracted from the story a little at first, giving it less of a contemporary feel".
I feel that this would be the ONLY way to write this book. It would be wrong to put a modern twist on the story and I as the reader would be a little confused by it. It is a story of a moment and as such should be written in that moment.

"without the extra burden of a review"
Mr K, I don't think you were able to give this book the time it deserved. Please go back and read it, savor it. Bring out the whisky and take many evenings to re-discover what I think will become known one of the best pieces of climbing literature written for many years.

John Gresty - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Jim Walton:
Yes, a good read, everybody should go out and buy it. Especially as its only available in softback form and hence an immediate affordable buy. Too many climbing books these days initially only appear in hardback and then people, me included these days, often wait for the softback version, or attempt to borrow from a library, friends, etc
John


andy kirkpatrick - on 26 Apr 2012
In reply to Jim Walton:

This is why I hate reviews - ones that I end up writing - and one's I end up reading. It's what lies between the words that makes a book, and what that is, is really down to the reader (the author just has to meet them half way). Perhaps I don't know enough about writing to understand greatness, but several times I just thought I'd have circled a paragraph or two and asked a little more, but this is probably more down to style (which again is subjective). I did make a short list of the writing I found 'clumsy' or 'hand holding' but left it out of the review, as it seemed petty set against what else I had to say.

All books are crafted, and only a novice would consider their book to be perfect. As I said, this was a very positive review, but Fiva is not Conquistadors of the Useless, Summits and Secrets or On the Heights. It's a simple story - nothing more - but that's where it's strength lies, and if it's to be become the classic people then just let it stand on its on two feet.
JJL - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to Martin W:

Fair comment - I apologise.

Have seen Andy several times, I think his strength is bringing his own first hand experiences to life, either for a live audience or on the page. I'm not sure that doing a critique of someone else's work is best use of his talents I suppose.

Anyway, shouldn't he be in Patagonia getting strung out on that wall...

J
Marc C - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to UKC Gear: For some reason, Andy K's review reminds me of an experience I had many years ago - as a young postgrad student, I'd applied for an academic job, was unsuccessful, then afterwards discovered a rather half-hearted reference from my tutor had been the deciding factor. When I asked my tutor, he apologised profusely and said something like "under the pressure of time and being busy I wote a reference that in hindsight may have appeared carping and crtical. I can assure you it won't happen again". I accepted his apology (whilst mentally imagining an ice axe plunging into his skull - thus ensuring he would evidence a talent for prophecy if not for writing glowing references). I sense Andy K's review wasn't intended to be critical, carping or less than fair - however, as someone who has read Gordon's book (in one enthralled late-night sitting - or, more accurately, bedding), the review struck me as a little niggardly and lacking in understanding of Gordon's style and intent. To (even casually) dismiss Gordon as a creator of coffee-table books with pictures does a grave injustice to Gordon's passionately intense devotion to the truth of an experience or sensation - be it a landscape, a memory, or an intellectual concept - and to lovingly transmute that truth into an image or prose. For me, Gordon's book perfectly (uncannily) captures the mountaineering near-death epics of our youth (be they miniature or massive - Cerro Torre or some slimy Welsh gully). Fortunately most of us 'lived to tell the tale' - and happily, for mountaineering literature (as well as for his own personal catharsis and tribute to his youthful character), Gordon has lived to write his engrossing tale.
andy kirkpatrick - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to Marc C:

To me a non critical review is simply just advertorial - and magazines and websites (including UKC) are full of content that masquerades as opinion. If Amiss and Rushdie can have holes picked in their work then why should Gordon be any different (fairly or unfairly - that's for anyone who reads the book to judge)?

As for being flippant about Gordon's previous work, I've known Gordon for a long time and being a climber I guessed he'd know that it was meant to be funny.

I guess this has turned into a review of a review, which is great if it creates more interest in Fiva - especially as so many people have been very positive about the book (I thought I was as well). I'd love to get a reply here from Gordon, because although I think it's not the done thing, I recon writers should fight tooth a nail for their books, and shoot down the critics so they next time they might choose their words more carefully : )
In reply to Marc C:
> a grave injustice to Gordon's passionately intense devotion to the truth of an experience or sensation - be it a landscape, a memory, or an intellectual concept

No one is perfect all the time though. Just the other night here we were discussing something, and Gordon had his facts wrong.

But this is about style surely? Reasonable minds may differ.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:
> (In reply to Marc C)
>
>
> I guess this has turned into a review of a review, which is great if it creates more interest in Fiva - especially as so many people have been very positive about the book (I thought I was as well). I'd love to get a reply here from Gordon, because although I think it's not the done thing, I recon writers should fight tooth a nail for their books, and shoot down the critics so they next time they might choose their words more carefully : )

Well, you're right, Andy, I don't think it's the done thing for an author to get into a public debate with a reviewer - I'd much rather just let people say freely what they think, and I'm certainly not in the business of shooting down critics. I'm hoping now that this can move on from being 'a review of a review', and that I get more reactions from people who've actually read the book ... rather than the review :)

Many thanks to those who have come out with such strong words of support of Fiva; and now I'm looking forward to others reading it and making their comments in due course (perhaps in another thread?)




Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Marc C)
> [...]
>
> No one is perfect all the time though. Just the other night here we were discussing something, and Gordon had his facts wrong.

Yes, that was embarrassing (I of course meant the UN position since 1967, btw ...)
Marc C - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to TobyA and Andy K: Sorry, I wasn't seeking to remove the reviewer's right to be critical! Just that, having read the book AND knowing Gordon, I sense how painstakingly he has recreated his adventure (selecting the exact language etc), so the comment about 'clumsy' prose seem wide of the mark to me. I unnderstand Andy was being flippant about Gordon's coffee-table book reputation (I'm no stranger to flippancy!), but the prolegomena about being busy and having another book to review etc created an image of a rather preoccupied 'oh what is it now?' reviewer - wearing an 'I'd Rather Be Big Walling' T-shirt - rather than someone giving the book the careful attention it merited. Apologies if my image is a travesty ;-)
Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

BTW, in terms of 'fighting tooth and nail' (in a positive sense) for my book, I've been (as typically since the book came out) on the phone this morning to my distributor, my agent, about a dozen shops, two contacts in Norway, and BBC Radio Derby. I've now heard that (for those in the Derby area) an interview I did with Andy Potter will be transmitted at:

c. 2.15 pm Monday, BBC Radio Derby
captain paranoia - on 27 Apr 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

9.95? Shurely shome mistake. 4.99, surely..?

I'll get my coat. And go and look for a copy...
Nicholas Livesey on 09 May 2012
In reply to UKC Gear: I got my copy of Fiva a couple of days ago and couldn't put it down, although at times I wanted to as the way the drama unfolds minute by minute had me feeling totally involved as if I was on the route with them.

It's beautifully written and though a blow by blow account it doesn't become remotely tedious as many mountaineering tales can. Once I've got my breath back I'm gong to read it again!


If you haven't got it, then get it.I seriously think Gordon's got a future classic on his hands. Touching the Void was brilliant but Fiva's even better!
Red Rover - on 19 May 2012
In reply to UKC Gear: I read it in one push and thought it was great. It was refreshing that it wasn't full of soul searching and questions of meaning etc, just two 19 year olds having an epic. That gully sounded like absolute death on a stick!
Timmd on 20 May 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

I like the giant boots in the pictures, my dad's pair used to lurk in the climbing cupboard and they weighed a ton.

I'm looking forward to buying and reading this book.
David Hooper - on 20 May 2012
In reply to Timmd: yes when I was young,I used to visit a mountaineering shop in london and fondle the sheepskin lining of a pair of Galibier Makalus. Oh how I wanted those boots ;o)
Darren Jackson - on 20 May 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

I hate this book with a passion. Detest it; I've been hearing Norwegian fairies ever since I finished reading it.

... Poor auld owlman hearing voices ... Insistent imps inciting insanity ... Head off quick and meet the head quack ... Ha, ha, ha! ... Ha, ha, ha!

If it's not the imps, then it's the sodding echoes ... echoes ... echoes.

I'm obviously suffering from Fiva fever. I just hope to hell that Gordon doesn't release an audiobook version of it.
mattrm - on 05 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

Bought a copy over the weekend in the Lakes. Loved the book, devoured it in one evening. Great book, puts all my epics to shame. Well worth buying. Bought a signed copy by accident, but glad I've got it, it's going to get pride of place on my bookshelf.
Offwidth - on 05 Jun 2012
In reply to mattrm:

I'd still like some views from a non-climber: anyone lent it to someone in that category?
pneame on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:
Just started reading this - the level of detail and quality of writing are giving vivid flashbacks to when I started climbing (the same year as the Stainforth's epic) and my only trip to Norway (Jotunheimen and Romsdal, 3 years later) - I've always wanted to go back but suspect that, as usual, you can't really do that. You only go to the place it has become.
Gordon Stainforth - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to pneame:

Looking forward to hearing your comments when you've finished it.

Re. going back. What a true comment! We went back three years ago, 40 years later. The mountains were, of course, just the same, but Andalsnes seemed rather a shadow of its former self - the wonderful old station cafe, where we limped in after our epic, is no more, and a lot of other houses round the town square docks seem to have been demolished - unless my memory was playing tricks. The port is scarcely used. And because it's out of fashion with the climbing fraternity it all feels a bit empty. The local people, though, are as great as ever, and I can strongly recommend the 'Trollstigen Resort' as a place to stay.
pneame on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
I remember that station cafe very well. It's where we went for treats - and to enviously eye the locals food. Sad that it's no more.
I particularly remember a family getting up to leave, leaving something tasty on the table. One of our group jumps up and scuttles back to our table with a gleam in his eyes.
The child, whose food it was, came back, looks at the table. Looks at Andy. Bursts into tears.
Andy, mortified, tries to give the food back.
Child runs off. Andy shrugs. Scoffs food.
We stayed in the woods, right at the point that the path from Adelsbreen came out (probably quite close to the Trollstiggen resort). It was very quiet even then (1972). The only other climbers we saw in 3 weeks were the irrepressible Ed Ward-Drummond on top of the Romsdalshorn and a group of climbers that I saw coming up the N ridge of Store Trolltind when I was standing on top.
Gordon Stainforth - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to pneame:

Yes, that's exactly where the Trollstigen Resort is now.
mattrm - on 11 Jun 2012
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to mattrm)
>
> I'd still like some views from a non-climber: anyone lent it to someone in that category?

I asked my wife if she'd be interested, but she hates climbing, so no luck there.

Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Jun 2012
In reply to mattrm:

I have been stunned by the number of non-climbers, old and young, who really like it and have no problem with the climbing language at all (what little there is). Some indication of this can be seen in some of the Amazon reviews: http://amzn.to/KuN6iv

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