Wine critic Robert Parker had a special sink built in his home. It was two or three times deeper than an ordinary sink so he could uncork a bottle that he personally purchased, slosh a sip to sense the flavors and hints of oak or whatever quality the barrel imparted before spitting it out and taking notes.
Parker is said to have taste buds that were well above their average capabilities. Parker himself said his strong memory of wines allowed him to compare glasses to one another so he could give each one on his scale, which was a score out of 100. Of course, the critique of what he scored as excellent wines was simply what Parker preferred.
For reading and reviewing climbing books, I don’t need any special apparatus. In fact, I read in multiple different settings. Buses, trains, at desks, libraries, living room couches, cafés, and hotel or guest beds. But there was a time when I read but never took notes or considered the book with the scrutiny Parker applied to rank wine. A good seat, and ideally with a cup of coffee (or, even better, an afternoon beer,) was really all that was needed. But reading for pleasure and with a critical point of view is a little different.
There are about 20-30 books that I need to re-read in order to properly consider elevating them to be candidates for climbing classics. So I am going back to reading, swilling, and comparing them more deliberately. I pulled the hard copies of the books on my Short-Long List and put them on my desk so I can start whittling through them.
I am quite excited about re-reading them this year. These are mostly books I enjoyed, but what will we think of them in terms of being a classic of climbing literature?
I will still review a new book or two as they are released, or at least I am open to that depending on the demands on me by work and family. I may post them elsewhere first and here later, so watch my social media.
An author with a new book deal arranged invited me to review their manuscript before submitting the whole first draft to the editor. I am behind my self-made schedule, but I think I can do a chapter a day and get my comments back to the author in a week or so.
The Banff Mountain Literature Competition is allowing me to participate as a pre-reader once again. I took a two year break over 2021 and 2022. It was rough times for “both” of us; the Banff Centre even shut down and laid off the majority of its staff during part of that. The pandemic disruptions with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate I run and the changes to Wunderkind’s and Schnickelfritz’s schooling shut down many things for me too, and pre-reading was one of mine. I was worried that by turning down the invitation that I would have difficulty getting back in, but it seems I did okay by them.
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