I confess, I didn't like Three Cups of Tea, which is awkward, because I keep getting given copies of it by people and institutions who assure me that the book will change my whole outlook on the world. It seemed to be trying a little too hard to inspire me--and to signal, with unsubtle subtlety, what a swell guy Greg Mortenson was at heart. It was the distilled essence of a class of book I call "Global Charity Sticky-Icky". I didn't finish it.
The heart of Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea" is the story of a failed attempt in 1993 to climb the world's second-highest peak, K2.This sort of thing just mystifies me. I have nightmares where a false story has gotten into one of my stories by accident; I wake up with a sick start, and the relief when I realize that it was just a dream is sweet indeed. I cannot imagine the thought process that would lead you to do this on purpose. Leave aside the morality of it for the nonce--aren't people afraid of getting caught? In this day and age, how can you hope to get away with passing off a photo of an Islamabad think-tanker as a terrorist who kidnapped you?
On the way down, Mortenson says, he got lost and stumbled, alone and exhausted, into a remote mountain village in Pakistan named Korphe.
According to the book's narrative, the villagers cared for him and he promised to return to build a school there. In a remote village in Pakistan, "60 Minutes" found Mortenson's porters on that failed expedition. They say Mortenson didn't get lost and stumble into Korphe on his way down from K2. He visited the village a year later.
That's what famous author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, a former donor to Mortenson's charity, says he found out, too. "It's a beautiful story. And it's a lie," says Krakauer. "I have spoken to one of his [Mortenson's] companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said, 'Greg never heard of Korphe until a year later,'" Krakauer tells Kroft.
Mortenson did eventually build a school in Korphe, Krakauer says, "But if you read the first few chapters of that book, you realize, 'I am being taken for a ride here.'"
In "Three Cups of Tea," Mortenson writes of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. In his second book, "Stones into Schools," Mortenson publishes a photograph of his alleged captors. In T.V. appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban.
"60 Minutes" located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson. One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud.
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