In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. As the climb proceeds, Matthiessen charts his inner path as well as his outer one, with a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty.
©1978 Peter Matthiessen (P)2014 Penguin Audio
I have waited 8 years for this book to come to audible. Having read the book sometime years ago. Imagine my fear at seeing the word " abridged. " How I hate that word, but thankfully I bought it. In the introduction I learned that "abridged," in this case, meant the author made cuts AND performed it himself. Amazing does not describe the smoky sound of a 90 plus year old man, telling the story of his 46 year old self. At times the smoke in the voice almost falls away, at other times you hear pages turning over his soft wispy rumble. And then OM!! The old man jumps on you and you laugh and laugh. When Peter says "kill the buddha." there is so much happiness and fun that you have almost no idea what he is talking about, but perhaps you want to know?The story itself is a trip into nepal, mixed with the life of the author at 46. The story is worth 1 credit, the performance is worth 5, and the strange juxtaposition of old voice and young man is worth at least 4. So you get a 10 credit value for 1. It was worth waiting for 8 years, and it is the first time I have found an abridged book to be better then the original ( with the exception of Moby Dick )
This review is more about the production, abridgment and recording of this incredible book and journey. The book itself is without compare in the annals of Himalayan travel and inner exploration. The recording and abridgment, completed by the late Peter Matthiessen himself is mystifying and entrancing. I usually steer far clear of abridged works, and especially those that I have read in their complete form before, but when I heard that Mr. Matthiessen had done the abridgment himself I was enticed. I was not disappointed. Yes, his voice is deep and gravelly; yes it is the recounting by an older man of his younger self; but the mystery and wonder is still there, and the emotions are brought to life by the voice of the author. I am so grateful to have this production on audio and cannot recommend it more highly to lovers of great travel writing, the Himalaya, Buddhism, Nepal, field biology, and the grieving process for a loved one through adventurous pursuits. Mr. Matthiessen was one of the greatest naturalists and nature writers this planet has known, and this story is one of his best, even in itʻs abridged form. Enjoy. Namaste!
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
I'm a little embarrassed to say I hadn't paid attention to much of Matthessen's work before he died. I had Shadow Country on my shelf and every intention of getting to it soon, but didn't realize he had this whole other nonfiction output. I read the Snow Leopard after I read his obit three weeks ago and discovered he was the only person (?) to win the National Book Award for BOTH fiction and nonfiction. OK, so, maybe it was time to throw off my veil of ignorance and start reading some Matthiessen. I figured 'The Snow Leopard' was a good place to start.
I loved it. Part travel writing, part nature writing, part spiritual journey, this book has it all. It is beautifully written, and seems to float the reader up and down the mountains. At its heart Matthiessen is traveling with his field biologist friend George Schaller (GS) into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Blue Sheep and hopefully see the elusive snow leopard (and hell, maybe a Yeti). Matthiessen was also on a spiritual journey after the loss of his wife to find the Lama of Shey and to find a path through the difficulties associated with the impermanence and suffering of life. His journey is a melting into the now, a search for the present, and an acceptance of finding and not finding the thing(s) you think you seek.
My only disappointment is that it was abridged. I ended up solving my - I want to listen to this read by Matthiessen/I HATE abridged books - dilemma by actually reading and listening to the book at the same time. I would pause once I figured where an abridgment was, pause the audio, read to where the audio picked back up and start reading/listening again. It was kinda a pain in my butt, but you got to climb the mountain you've got in front of you, not the mountain you WANT in front of you. Anyway, the only thing that would have made it better would have been if they had pushed it further into an unabridged version. Oh well, can't change it now. Other than that, his voice was awesome. He sounds like Leonard Nemoy after a box of cigars: a rich, deep and interesting reader of his own fantastic book.
Peter Matthiessen's reading is slow and intimate, a true experience to hold and cherish. It is not, like most audible books-- and what I prefer--an easy book to listen to while driving or fiddling around the house. Matthiessen speaks slow and sometime faintly, making headphones and concentration helpful. My initial reaction was to return the book, though I am happy that I sat through that reflex. His reading is full of character, I felt, once I got past my expectations. What I do still want, however, is an unabridged version of the book expertly performed.
I experienced a lot of difficulty following the story. Could not clearly hear the words and had to replay often. Very monotone and slow. I rated the story a 1 star because I had so much difficulty hearing the words and following the story due to the little inflection and energy of the narrator. I wish I could return the book.
I would recommend this to friends who are curious and search for truth.
Principally the narration, as Matthiessen narrated it himself, shortly before he passed away. The story gains depth and meaning through his voice, aged and full of power.
Although difficult at times to understand Peter in his old raspy voice the story is all the more authentic and penetrating. The Snow Leopard is a koan for the western curious explorer.
I currently have been unable to finish listening to this book. I find Peter Matthiessen's voice to be depressing and the impressions of the local people to be very 'American'....i.e. look down and feel sorry for others view point. Maybe it gets better and I will update my review if I can get myself to finish listening.
Listening to the authors own voice is incredible , and it stays with me even weeks after finishing the book. The great tragedy of this audio version though is the highly abridged nature which eliminates almost all reflections by the author into his own life and the historical lessons that help contextualize both the physical and spiritual journey in the actual book. Standing alone here is the story of the physical trip through the mountains, but it somehow still holds a magic that is worth listening to in the heart.
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