Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review - The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

I know I am reading a great book if I am able to "see" myself in said location with said characters. That, to me, is a sign of a great storyteller who has quite a grip on what they have presented to the rest of the world. The Snow Leopard was that kind of book and so much more. Peter Matthiessen and his friend, the zoologist George Schaller (known as GS) travel to the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal in search of Zen enlightenment, bahral, 'blue sheep' and the elusive snow leopard. What I read was a several month account of two men, several guides and a combined ordeal of truth, Nature, peace, danger and knowledge that remained buried in my brain for days afterward. Before I go any further, I do have to mention this story. In May of this year, I visited Nashville, TN with my family. While we were out and about, my mother took me to Franklin, TN and specifically, Landmark Booksellers. Since my mother is painfully aware that I am quite the bibliophile, my level of foaming at the mouth was not too bad. Once we reached the parking lot next to the bookstore, my mother told me to have a good time and she would take a nap in the car. Now was my chance. I walked into the store, looked around and fell in love. I did notice, however, that there were signs regarding their discount books and their location. Having walked within the entire place twice, I marched up to the counter and politely asked about these discount books. The owner, a really nice guy, informed me that I had to "follow him", of which I did because, well, he was going to show me more books. We walked outside while having a lovely chat about me being from Memphis, as he led me to a small house located behind the bookstore. He then unlocked the door and opened and I nearly died. In front of me were rooms of books stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I also noticed that there was no air conditioner, a fact that would be my downfall much later. In any case, the gentleman told me where everything was, bid me to have fun and to close the door once done and soon, I was alone. With thousands of books. Here are several of the photos I took of the place:
I scrambled to find books while trying hard not to either fall down or die of heat exhaustion. Even now, while I think about that moment, it brings a smile to my face. So, why did I mention that story, you may ask? For the simple reason that my copy of The Snow Leopard was one of the books purchased during that moment of biblio-glory. However, once I finally decided to read the book, I realized that the first thirteen pages were missing. I, therefore, located a copy of the book at one of the libraries in Memphis, made copies of the pages and stuck them in my copy. I also have plans to laminate the dust jacket and place it on a wall in my apartment. Yes, I have it that bad for books. The Snow Leopard is a wonderful book that showed how a man overcame much in order to trek out on such a journey. This is an excellent book for a person who enjoys a good story, anything regarding travel or any book regarding enlightenment. I did spend some time reading comments made about this book on Amazon and was shocked to find that a lot of people did not like the "religious" aspect of the book, i.e., the Zen moments Peter experienced and felt the need to write down. All they wanted was a travel book and that was that. However, we all have our journeys to make, be they around the world or just to the end of your city. Once you have made the journey, what then? What will you do with yourself now that the journey is over? What did you learn during the journey? Although Peter did not see a snow leopard, the journey was much better than the actual goals. And that, to me, makes all the difference in the world.

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