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Written in the spirit of the comic classic Three Men in a Boat, but specifically a parody of H.W. Tilman's Ascent of Nanda Devi, this delightful novel was once a cult artifact for climbers. But republication, and an introduction by best-selling writer Bill Bryson, has helped it find a deserved new audience.

Sir Hugeley Havering and The Rum Doodle Committee assemble a team to assault the Rum Doodle peak, which measures 40,000 and a half feet. the tale is told by the bachelor leader of the expedition, Binder, who is oddly obsessed with the marital status of his fellow climbers. They include Jungle, the guide who is continually lost; Constant, the linguist who is constantly creating confusion and even riots by miscommunicating with the natives; Prone, the doctor who contracts every imaginable disease, as well as a few unimaginable; and Pong, the cook whose cooking drives the team forward by means of their desire to escape the food he prepares.

In Binder's telling his compatriots are all stoic and heroic, even though we read between the lines that they are mainly interested in consuming the massive supply of champagne that they carry with them. Even when he does acknowledge difficulties, Binder dismisses them with the refrain: "To climb Mont Blanc is one thing; to climb Rum Doodle is, as Totter once said, quite another."

Though a short novel it may still be a tad overlong, as the jokes do repeat themselves. But it is extremely funny and richly deserved rediscovery.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

William Bowman Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: William Ernest Bowman
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Ascent of Rum Doodle
    -TRIBUTE SITE: The Ascent of Rum Doodle
    -BOOK SITE: The Ascent of Rum Doodle (Godine, Publisher)
    -EXCERPT: The Ascent of Rum Doodle - The Plan
    -AUDIO EXCERPT: The Ascent of Rum Doodle By W E Bowman. taster reading by Nick Martin (Trickynicky Marts, YouTube)
    -ESSAY: The Ascent of Rum Doodle vs. The Ascent of Nanda Devi – how similar are they? (Mark Horrell, November 2, 2016, Footsteps on the Mountain)
    -ESSAY: A Himalayan mystery – solved?: The Ascent of Rum Doodle is a widely appreciated mountaineering satire — but of what, exactly? (Don Messerschmidt, Dec 01, 2011, Himal)
    -ESSAY: The ascent of Rumdoodle (peak) (11 December 2015, Australian Antarctic Division: Leading Australia’s Antarctic Program)
    -Rumdoodle Peak (Australian Antarctic Data Centre)
    -BOOK LIST: Essential Books for the Well-Read Explorer (Brad Wieners and The Editors, Jan 1, 2003, Outside)
    -INTERVIEW: Tim Key: ‘Man Bites Dog is the funniest film I’ve ever seen’ (Rachel Aroesti, 29 Jun 2017, The Guardian)
    -BOOK LIST: 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list (The Guardian, 23 Jan 2009)
    -ESSAY: Rum Doodle, Windermere: B&B and beyond: This stylishly whimsical guesthouse was inspired by a spoof mountaineering book. Lucy Gillmore gets lost in its imagination (Lucy Gillmore, 3 August 2014, the independent)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The heights of absurdity : Robert Macfarlane on the parody of Everest that got him hooked on mountaineering (Robert Macfarlane, July/August 2013, The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W. E. Bowman (Best of British fantasy)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Stephen Smith, Globe and Mail)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Publishers weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Kim Bunce, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle, read by Terry Dale (Peter Kingston, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Linda Leatherbarrow, slightly Foxed)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Little Bookness Lane
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Joan Hutchinson, The Silverfish)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Chris, La Terrasse)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (My Reader's Block)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Sam Crawley's Little Box on the Web)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Stephen Jones Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Christopher, Blog Bellew)
    -REVIEW: of Rum Doodle (Angela, Tracing Rainbows)

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