No reader who is stirred by mountaineering exploits should miss Nanga Parbat (Knopf, $5,00) by Karl M.Herrligkoffer, leader of the successful German-Austrian Expedition of 1953. The first third of the book tells the somber and highly dramatic story of the numerous attempts, dating back to 1895, to climb “the killer mountain” — more men have lost their lives on Nanga Parbat than in all the rest of the Himalayas. Dr. Herrligkoffer’s account of the 1953 victory is memorably climaxed by Hermann Buhl’s description of his solitary sixteen-hour ascent of the last 3000 feet, and his still more incredible return to his companions after a night spent just below the summit without food, tent, or oxygen. The expedition’s triumph was somewhat tarnished by dissension and subsequent recrimination (mentioned by the author with the greatest reticence); but nothing can detract from the breath-taking drama of Buhl’s forty-hour battle in the uppermost reaches of Nanga Parbat — possibly the greatest solo mountaineering exploit of all time.
More Stories by Frank O’Connor (Knopf, $5.00) — a second collection of the tales which the author considers his best — is a case in which the mixture as before remains a rare mixture. O’Connor is a writer whose stories are not only superlatively good but also extremely attractive reading. His style is artfully simple and flowing, his portraiture full of subtlety and charm. And he has a perfectly balanced sense of life’s beauty, heartbreak, and humor.
Great River (Rinehart, $10.00) is a 1000-page history of the Rio Grande by Paul Horgan. Although it reached me too late for anything more than a cursory sampling, I feel that its publication should be noted in this pre-Christmas issue. The passages I read were colorful and vigorous, and the superlatives that abound in the advance comments of several authorities suggest that Mr. Horgan’s book would make a handsome Christmas gift for aficionados of Americana.