Angels of Light
by Jeff Long
It might sound silly, but I was torn about how to rate this book.
On the one hand, the author has bursts of prose so fantastic that it’s like seeing the aurora borealis. And his understanding of the climbing world is either from personal experience or the most devilishly fastidious research.
The flip side is that every now and then, there is this 70s style machismo underneath the surface of the writing that I caught in snatches, like whispers almost, that seem a little outdated. It’s like spying on an earlier, celebrated style of writing and writer that has evolved and gotten better, and it’s still good, but it was the precursor to what was later greatness. (I should note that this was written in 1987.)
The masculinity of the writing, and also some moments of brutal honesty, reminded me of Hemingway or Barthelme or Bukowski. Don’t get me wrong, because I love a lot of their work, but sometimes … I don’t know, I guess at times it isn’t fully appealing.
The odd thing about this novel, however, is that it seemed to me that the writer was on the precipice between that more old-fashioned style of prose and something more brilliant. It was like Long was bridging a divide, and you were able to witness it.
For any type of climber, this book will no doubt yield a bunch of head-nods and “been there, done that” type of moments.
I really enjoyed it. Maybe my rambling makes sense, and you’ll have a good idea whether you can enjoy it, too.
I’ll end with a favorite passage:
“They had seen tiny spiders clambering across snow on twenty-six-thousand-foot mountains and solitary blue flowers in the Antarctic. They had seen that where life was possible, it persisted. Especially on the brink. In their vertical wilderness, that was the measure. It was more honest than right or wrong, sin or justice. Survival itself was right and just. The fact that each of them was still on his feet with air in his lungs on a day like today made it so.”