Title: Unknown Pleasures: Collected writing on life, death, climbing and everything in between
Author: Andy Kirkpatrick
Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction, Essays, Outdoors-mounteneering/climbing, Autobiography/Biography
Book format: Hardback
Description: Unknown Pleasures is a collection of works by the climber and award-winning author Andy Kirkpatrick. Obsessed with climbing and addicted to writing, Kirkpatrick is a master storyteller. Covering subjects as diverse as climbing, relationships, fatherhood, mental health and the media, it is easy to read, sometimes difficult to digest, and impossible to forget.
One moment he is attempting a rare solo ascent of Norway’s Troll Wall, the next he is surrounded by the TV circus while climbing Moonlight Buttress with the BBC’s The One Show presenter Alex Jones. Yosemite’s El Capitan is ever-present; he climbs it alone – strung out for weeks, and he climbs it with his thirteen-year-old daughter Ella – her first big wall.
His eye for observation and skilled wordcraft make for laugh-out-loud funny moments, while in more hard-hitting pieces he is unflinchingly honest about past and present love and relationships, and pulls no punches with an alternative perspective of our place in the world.
Unknown Pleasures is Andy Kirkpatrick at his brilliant best.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: I’m not sure what to say after reading this book. ‘Unknown Pleasures’ is a collection of writing, short pieces of non-fiction (and a few bits of poetry) on a variety of different subjects. From the first pages you are thrown into stories from Andy Kirkpatrick’s life, stories with some deep observations, many of which will move and even shock you.
I have never read a book or any pieces of writing from this author before so all this was very new to me. The book is seperated into sections and within each section is a short piece of writing, an essay, magazine article or blog post that Kirkpatrick has written. At the start of the book there are stories about his life before climbing, with even the forward of the book explaining where the title comes from. The first half of the whole book is really focused on Andy’s life climbing, how he got into climbing as well as some brilliant stories of some memorable times. I really enjoyed pieces like the climb he did with his daughter, the strength and risilience she showed, as well little things like the last words of the dyslexia examiner which really shaped the path that Andy has taken in life.
Every piece of writing is accompanied with an illustration at the start. These are also done by the author and I liked these being part of the book as they made me more intrigued to read the piece of writing. There is also some poetry which has been described as ‘bad poetry’. These pieces are actually not bad at all, some of them even read more like prose than poetry. There aren’t many pieces of poetry, they seem to be in between the different sections of the book and I enjoyed reading them as I got a more raw sense of the feelings that Andy’s climbing has evoked.
As you move to the latter part of the book there is less about individual climbs and more about his thoughts on various things to do with life and the world. One particular chapter fascinated me about an event that happened with the German SS during the war in France. This was a really interesting piece which has made me want to explore it further. There are also pieces on things like relationships, depression, suicide, arbortion, each with some brutally honest thoughts from the author. Some of these pieces can and do make you feel deep emotions and it’s not always emotions that are positive. There are moments that make you think about life yourself and at other times you might even feel deep disagreement with how he does or feels about things. But one thing that is clear is that whatever Andy concludes he has thought about things deeply and many of the things he says are worth reading about. Having said that though I did not enjoy reading what Andy did to put the hare out of it’s misery, although he did feel bad about it – that one event for me an animal lover was a bit too brutally honest! Despite the fact I liked these later sections I did feel like the subjects were mixed up with no real sense on what subject was coming next.
The back of the book has a glossary type section where many of the writing pieces are explained, giving you an insight into why they were written which I felt was a good added extra. This book does have some swearing, it’s not often but the f word is used as well as one incident of the c word. As well as this there are moments which might upset some people, such as the hare incident which was a bit of a shock and Andy’s own views on some subjects might not resonate with some people. However overall this was still an interesting book to read and I was surprisingly compelled to keep reading it whenever I picked it up.
Do you like reading about climbing/mountaineering or other outdoor activities? What about books that tackle more difficult subjects? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂