No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, January 31, 2005

#10: Last Breath: The Limits of Adventure -- Peter Stark

Splendidly gory book about the medical details of various deaths -- hypothermia, drowning, altitude sickness, jellyfish stings ...Picked this up in the remainder shop on Saturday and had finished it by Saturday night. Each chapter's a fictionalised account of a death, or near-death: Matt, who decides to walk the rest of the way after his car breaks down at night on a snowy mountain; Phil, stranded on a sailing voyage with only Steller's Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-2 for reading material, and no Vitamin C to hand; Mary, who fancies a swim even though there's no nets around the beach ... The author is an extreme-sports enthusiast, and his descriptions of the thrills of climbing, white-water kayaking, desert travel etc are extraordinarily vivid. There's also a spiritual element to the book: the mountaineer who succumbs to altitude sickness is sent on her way with a whispered reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the journalist stranded in the desert is haunted by his encounter with a Sufi master. A surprisingly gripping read, rich in medical and historical detail (what happens to your lungs if you ascend too fast from a dive: 'more and more air bubbles raced from his [ruptured] lungs to his heart until it beat only a bloody foam', ewww) and excellent research material for anyone writing about violent deaths. He copped out on the climbing story, though.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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