Saturday, 29 December 2012

Snowdon: The Story of a Welsh Mountain

Everyone of course knows it’s in Wales or do they? As the first book about the mountain in ninety years, I think the author wanted to emphasise its roots in the local landscape, history, folklore and community as opposed to viewing it in isolation. Having taken a swipe at the ‘colonialists’, the record has now been set straight.

There’s nothing glossy about the book which boasts not a single illustration, not even a map. Going against the adage of pictures painting thousands of words Jim Perrin says you can convey so much more in writing; mixes of description, history, hopes, fears and so on. The writer can direct the reader more specifically, creating a mental picture, forcing thought and contemplation as opposed to a quick flick through.

That sounded plausible but I also liked what the publisher (Dylan Williams of Gomer) said at the book launch. Not only was Jim’s manuscript seven years late it was more than double the target wordcount. In parallel with the words, photos by Ray Wood had been commissioned and delivered but, with 65,000 words that were too good to be cut, there simply wasn’t the room for them.

It’s a very learned book, with many of those words being quotations from older texts or footnotes, and a ‘select bibliography’ stretching to seven pages, but it’s also very personal. Even the man who drove his Vauxhall Frontera to the summit (twice) gets a mention. This is followed by an admission of the author’s ‘hoodlum’ motorbike rides to reach the best climbing cliffs in time for an after work climb .... ‘It ill becomes old men like me, whose pasts will scarcely bear the weight of scrutiny, to grow sanctimonious’.  

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