September 8, 2013


Where The Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure by Maria Coffey, copyright 2003, published by St. Martin’s Press

Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow is a powerful, affecting and important book that exposes the far reaching personal costs of extreme adventure.

It wasn’t so much that I loved Explorers of the Infinite:  The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes by Maria Coffey but this sounded like it might be a more interesting book so I thought I’d try it.  It was.  Which is kind of a shame as I bought Explorers of the Infinite and got Where The Mountain Casts Its Shadow from the library.  Wish it had been the other way around.

I don’t think this book had a higher body count but it seemed like it did.  Probably because no one was running around finding God.  Actually no, that’s not right.  There is a higher body count in this book.  After all, the focus of this book is the toll that the life and deaths of extreme adventurists takes on their families. 

Of Maria Coffey’s three books on mountaineering, I would recommend this one.  Explorers of the Infinite was too heavy on the Spiritualism and Fragile Edge only covers the death of her then boyfriend Joe Tasker.  Go for the gusto I say.


The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen, copyright 1999, published by Ballantine Books

A history of coffee.  Ho-hum.  I only read this because it was the September pick from our non-fiction book group. 

On the front cover is a review written by Anthony Bourdain:

Absolutely riveting…Essential reading for foodies, java-junkies, anthropologists, and anyone else interested in funny, sardonically told adventure stories

I have watched and enjoyed Mr. Bourdain’s television program No Reservations, especially the parts where he is totally wasted drunk (which is most of the show).  To write such a glowing review as this, I can only assume Mr. Bourdain was sucking up or drunk.  Yet again.

There is nothing intentionally funny anywhere in this book.  The author seems like nothing more than a cocktail party boor who laughs at his own bad jokes.  It is possible that there is a remote chance that the history of coffee might be partially interesting, but not as written by Mr. Allen.  Perhaps as written by Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux, but not Stewart Allen.

Finally, Mark Pendergrast (author of another history of coffee book) says “Stewart Allen is the Hunter S. Thompson of coffee.”  In that Mr. Thompson was yet another self-absorbed idiot, Mr. Pendergrast may have a point.  After all, Mr. Thompson seemed to think (Fear and Loathing) that driving along the freeway completely wasted on drugs with an illegal weapon in the car was a really good idea.  Please note that you have to say a really good idea in a snarky tone of voice, much like Rick from The Young Ones.  If you’ve never watched The Young Ones, then it’s time you started –

Some Hunter S. Thompson moments by Mr. Allen were, when asked to become involved in art smuggling writes that, “The idea of being an international art smuggler was terrifically romantic.”  You can soon see Mr. Allen in Locked Up Abroad on TV.  Later on while sailing to Morocco, Mr. Allen laments that, “We did not have the luck to be raided by pirates.”  Which, now that I think about it, was a shame.  The thought of Mr. Allen getting an AK47 to the head now seems a particularly lovely thought. 

In parting, death over coffee.  At least when reading.





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2 responses to “September 8, 2013

  1. Grignr

    Great reviews! Gotta love the body count part of the review LOL!

  2. Grignr

    PS Anyone who actually thinks that being raided by pirates would be fun is an asshole.

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