The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen


source: purchased
title: The Snow Leopard
author: Peter Matthiessen
published: 1978
genre: memoir/non-fiction/classic
pages: 336
first line: In late September of 1973, I set out with GS on a journey to the Crystal Mountain, walking west under Annapurna and north along the Kali Gandaki River, then west and north again, around the Dhaulagiri peaks and across the Kanjiroba, two hundred and fifty miles or more to the Land of Dolpo, on the Tibetan Plateau.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

blurb:
When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a “true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.”


my thoughts:
I co-read The Snow Leopard with Velvet over the past few weeks. This is Peter Matthiessen’s memoir documenting a trip he took through Tibet in the 1970’s with a zoologist named George Schaller.
Matthiessen’s writing is very descriptive and several beautiful passages stood out at me and as I read I was easily whisked away.

“Where the valley narrows to a canyon, there is a tea house and some huts, and here a pack train of shaggy Mongol ponies descends from the mountain in a melody of bells ad splashes across the swift green water at the ford. From the tea house, a trail climbs steeply toward the southwest sky.” -p. 18, The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen



I feel like sometimes a good book just finds it way to you and the timing is great. I found this to be a relaxing and interesting read during such stressful times now with the pandemic and quarantine.

I think Matthiessen was brave to go off and travel mainly on foot like that through all kinds of trails and terrains, climbing steep hillsides and seeing so many distant places and people. That takes guts. He pretty much did all of this with just the clothes on his back. It’s amazing to think of doing something like that. While he is out on his trek he finds zen moments of introspect and clarity. I try to meditate daily myself and although for the most part I liked when he spoke of Yogis and meditation, I did find some of what he referenced about enlightenment to be odd and just plain gross at times. I wasn’t expecting to read some of the things he was saying would constitute enlightenment but I’ll leave it at that.

The trip is full of inspiration but also of moments of sadness as Matthiessen misses his family and thinks about his late ex-wife. There is also the aspect of danger just on the periphery daily. These people are in remote locations with no nearby doctors, they are climbing steep hillsides and mountains, they need to make sure they have enough food and supplies as well. On top of that the elevation gives headaches and the snow blinds their eyes as they travel. This is a mentally and physically exhausting venture. Not to mention that being for months on end with the same people on such a difficult journey without creature comforts can drive you batty as well.
And I wondered how Matthiessen could up and leave his young son behind. I believe his son was 8 years old at the time of the trip. He promised him he would be home for Thanksgiving and he broke that promise.

Overall this is a beautifully written memoir about a man who goes on a trek to find himself and get a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. I kept wondering, where is the snow leopard? Will they find it? Is it watching them? There’s a little twist at the end. Highly recommended.




I’ll close with some of my favorite passages:

“I have the universe to myself. The universe has me all to itself.”- p. 278, The Snow Leopard


“The secret of the mountains is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no “meaning,” they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life and the mountains ring, and when I hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart…” p. 208, The Snow Leopard

“This stillness to which all returns, this is reality, and soul and sanity have no more meaning here than a gust of snow; such transience and insignificance are exalting, terrifying, all at once, like the sudden discovery, in meditation, of one’s own transparence.” p.169, The Snow Leopard

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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Some of the links in the post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. The book photo in this post is mine and not to be removed from here.

Stanley Park by Sapphira Olson

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source: review copy
title: Stanley Park
author: Sapphira Olson  (Twitter)
published: December 23, 2019
genre: poetry

blurb:
Stanley Park is a collection of 35 poems from parables author Sapphira Olson charting the story of two lovers through history as they are separated and then reunited all within the island of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Olson weaves a beautiful and poignant narrative through a progression of emotional poetry taking the listener on a journey of hope driven by love.

Incorporating poems inspired by Squamish Nation history and legends, the collection explores themes of immortality, love, loss, the nature of consciousness, and culture.

Stanley Park itself is a beautiful 405-hectare public park that borders the downtown of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada and is mostly surrounded by waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. The park has a long history and was one of the first areas to be explored in the city.

“What shall it profit you if you turn the whole world into a gasometer and lose your own souls?” (Thomas H. Mawson about Stanley Park in his 1912 address to the Canadian Club)

my thoughts:

I love reading poetry so when I had a chance to read Stanley Park I happily dove in.
This collection of 35 poems by Sapphira Olson revolves around two lovers who break up and then reunite. I enjoyed dipping in and out of this set of poetry and would go back and re-read a few lines in order to savor them fully. There are themes of nature, old legends and love flowing throughout these poems. The history of  Stanley Park in Vancouver is woven in throughout which was also a nice touch.

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The Phantom Prince by Elizabeth Kendall

book

source: purchased
title: The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, Updated and Expanded Edition
author: Elizabeth Kendall and Molly Kendall
genre: memoir/true crime
published: January 7th 2020 by Abrams Press (first published September 1981)
pages: 210
first line: In May 2017, I learned via the Internet that a new Ted Bundy movie was being made, and the story was going to be told from the perspective of Bundy’s long-time girlfriend.
rated: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
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blurb:
This updated, expanded edition of The Phantom Prince, Elizabeth Kendall’s 1981 memoir detailing her six-year relationship with serial killer Ted Bundy, includes a new introduction and a new afterword by the author, never-before-seen photos, and a startling new chapter from the author’s daughter, Molly, who has not previously shared her story. Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history and one of the most publicized to this day. However, very rarely do we hear from the women he left behind—the ones forgotten as mere footnotes in this tragedy. The Phantom Prince chronicles Elizabeth Kendall’s intimate relationship with Ted Bundy and its eventual unraveling. As much as has been written about Bundy, it’s remarkable to hear the perspective of people who shared their daily lives with him for years. This gripping account presents a remarkable examination of a charismatic personality that masked unimaginable darkness.

my thoughts:
I finished reading The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, Updated and Expanded Edition yesterday and I am still thinking about this uncomfortable and morbidly fascinating memoir.

Elizabeth Kendall wrote her memoir in 1981 and it has been out of publication for some time so when I saw this updated edition was coming out I had to read it. It is hard to say that I enjoyed reading a true crime story like this because it is based on horrific and sad subject matter but it was fascinating to get a glimpse into what was going on with the woman who loved Ted Bundy. One thing that struck me while reading is how naive Elizabeth Kendall was. She was a single mom in her twenties when she met Bundy while out drinking. And she got so drunk that night that she brought him home then passed out with him in her apartment. It is hard not to judge and I know the times were different back in the 1970’s but come on, that is still really risky behavior.

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes PBK mech.indd

source: free copy via Amazon Prime membership
title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
author: Caitlin Doughty / Twitter
genre: memoir
pages: 242
published: September 15, 2014
first line: A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.
rated: 4 out of 5
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blurb:
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight…..

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*trigger warning for delicate subject matter for some readers*

 

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Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

IMG_6091 (413x550)source: free review copy via LibraryThing
title: Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own
author: Kate Bolick
published: April 21st 2015 by Crown
genre: memoir/non-fiction
pages: 352
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
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blurb:
“Whom to marry, and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence.”
So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she – along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing – remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless – the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically.

my thoughts:
Where to begin?
I acquired an ARC of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick via LibraryThing back in 2015 and as I have mentioned on my blog recently, I am really trying to get through all my review books this year. So I happily grabbed this one off my shelves and I dove right in. Isn’t the cover pretty?

I have to say straight away that Kate Bolick is a talented writer and that I loved her writing style. She drew me right in, especially as she wrote about her love of being alone and of reading and of books and about her literary heroines. I enjoyed reading about her work as an editor and book reviewer and her New York City life as well.

“I’ve always known that a book will find you when you need to be found; in New York I learned that so did history.”
p.65, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

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