Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Snow Leopard by Peter Mattheissen

Several, no quite a few years ago, I tried reading Far Tortuga by Mattheissen, but the style was so odd I gave up. Lately, I have had The Snow Leopard come to my attention by way of passing remarks in a couple of things I have read.
While at The Blue Bicycle in Charleston, SC, I came across a first edition of TSL, and decided to buy it. I began reading it on the plane ride home, and I was hooked.
Part travelogue, part adventure, and part spiritual journey, Mattheissen’s attention to detail – physical and psychological – is nothing less than enchanting. I have a fear of heights, and believe me, there were times I felt a sucking feeling that I was being pulled over the edge of a cliff. I would love to see the Himalayas – from the foot of the mountains!
The author accompanies George Schaller on an expedition to Dolpo in the Himalayas of Northern Tibet to study “bharal” or the Himalayan Blue Goat. The pair also hopes to see the rare and elusive snow leopard. Peter never sees one, but after they separate, (Mattheissen had promised his children he would be home by Christmas), Schaller encounters a pair of leopards quite by accident.
At times, Mattheissen gets sidetracked by local myths of ancient deities and zen masters the local people revere. The names are completely unfamiliar, and the stories convoluted. I could not remember these from one page to the next.
Overall, this book is mesmerizing – I could hardly put it down. 4-1/2 stars.
--Chiron, 11/21/07

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