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Item #: OP64D-355
THE ASCENT OF RUM DOODLE W.F. Bowman 1st US ed Hardcover No DJ Near Fine
By Bowman, W.F
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New York, Vanguard, 1956, 1st US edition. 141 pp, 16 b/w illustrations. Small hardcover with no dust jacket. Near Fine.

A droll spoof of expedition climbing. First published in 1956, The Ascent of Rum Doodle quickly became established as a mountaineering classic. As an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a 40,000-and-a-half-foot peak, many thought it inspired by the 1953 conquest of Everest. But Bowman had drawn on the flavor and tone of earlier adventures, of Bill Tilman and his 1937 account of the Nandi Devi expedition. The book's central and unforgettable character, Binder, is one of the finest creations in comic literature.

Bowman mercilessly rips the piss out of Old School mountaineering expeditions in a spoof expedition book. The starchy, formulaic style of pre-1960s expedition books is hijacked by Bowman to tell a preposterous story of death-or-glory conquest. It involves a 40,000 ft mountain, Yogistan and its revolting inhabitants, Pong the terrible cook, plus the heroic details behind The Men Who Would Go High - and their fiancies.

With The Ascent of Rum Doodle, Bowman achieved the near-impossible: a very funny fictional climbing book. The sport has not lent itself terribly well to parody or satire, it's really too much of a specialist pastime to be able to generate mirth amongst a wider public, and too many knowledgeable practitioners have taken themselves and the sport far too seriously to readily indulge in self-deprecation. However, Bowman exploited this very flaw to produce an absolute comic classic. He adopted the pompous and pretentious tone exhibited in much British mountaineering writing up to the 1960s, and uses it to splendidly mirthful effect to relate the story of the assault on "Nature's last citadel against the conquering spirit of man". 

Rum Doodle, standing like a goddess, defying those who would set sacrilegious feet on her unsullied shrine.' By doing so he parodied to perfection the stuffy British expedition book so prevalent of the pre- and immediate post-war period. There was plenty of material for Bowman to draw on, the anal-retentive style was almost generic in most mountaineering texts of the time (with the honorable exception of Tilman and Shipton's fine tomes) but it is clear that Noel Odell's Everest 1925, Ralph Barker's The Last Blue Mountain, and above all, John Hunt's ghastly The Ascent of Everest, must have been key turgid texts which inspired Doodle.

However, the really amazing thing about Doodle is how many of the fictional events depicted seem to crop up on real expeditions. Characters like 'Pong' the awful 'Yogistani' cook (who makes everything taste of burnt rubber), eccentric climbers and recalcitrant porters, are all too familiar to anyone who has ventured on a climbing trip to the Greater Ranges.

This apparent insider knowledge led many to assume that 'W.E. Bowman' was in fact the pen-name of W.H. Tilman, whose normally acerbic and dry-witted delivery make his climbing and sailing books such a delight in contrast to that of most of his peers.

Visit the Rum Doodle Website: http://www.rumdoodle.org.uk/


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