Rock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality

John Long, Author Simon & Schuster $11 (174p) ISBN 978-0-671-88466-6
Rock climber and writer Long's account of rock climbing in California during the 1970s is slow going at first, with excess professional jargon (though a glossary does help) and mystical pronouncements (``There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, just the electric now''). But Long proves to be an expert guide once he launches into a memoir of his teenage days as a ``Stonemaster'' in suburban Los Angeles. Taking readers from the training grounds of Joshua Tree National Monument to the sheer walls of Yosemite, he evokes a fascinating subculture of eccentrics as obsessed with the climb as he. As he reinhabits those memories, Long creates scenes of gruelling physical exertion (he wrote the premise for the Stallone film Cliffhanger ) and begins to earn his mythic language (``Sometimes I'd filch a couple of my dad's cigars to stoke and enjoy, hanging in my butt bag, the whole world spread out below me. We were seventeen. We would never die.'') Long perhaps tries to do too much, mixing dollops of history, geography, technical information and cultural overview. But he shines as a flat-out storyteller, especially in his tales of Camp 4 in Yosemite, unofficial headquarters for ``rock jocks and wall rats'' from around the world. He writes with affection and insight about how climbing changes people: ``Their youth lay behind them like snakes' skins, and their faces had set overnight.'' (July)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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