Archive | December 23, 2016

Three Cups of Tea

Not talking about my favourite drink here. Talking about the alleged autobiographical work of non-fiction by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. 

I struggled to finish it. Why, when life is short and books are plentiful did I finish it?

I kinda felt I had to. Greg Mortenson, the person this book is about (he is down as the author but most is written in the third person – which is quite strange), has built schools in remote regions Pakistan and Afganistan. If even a quarter of what the book says he has done is true, it is so noble and involved facing such dangers and challenges that I couldn’t allow such horrible writing to stop me learning of his work. 

And then there’s the fact that a friend lent me the book and neighbours had waxed lyrical about it. So there was the pressure of pleasing neighbours and needing to be able to hold my own in future conversations. 

You need to know how much I struggled to finish this. Purple prose with run in sentences abound. Here’s one example:

“the inspiring view that greets these students from every classroom – the roof of the world, represented by Masherbrum’s soaring summit ridge-has already helped convince many of Hushe’s children to aim high.”

Maybe it is the result of having two authors but there is no real voice here.  It reminds me of the kind of writing that used to fill those little Readers Digest magazines. Except it doesn’t run to half a dozen small pages. It’s over 300 pages. 

The behind-the-scenes story is quite interesting. Apparently there may be discrepancies in Morentson’s tale. Why he felt the need to lie or unduely embellish his tale, I don’t know. There’s also fraudulent use of donations. Sadly, the co-author committed suicide. 

By the end, actually not the end – even a quarter through – I was shouting: I get it, he’s a hero, Pakistanis love him, he’s braver than any other American, he understands the culture and language more than any other westerner. Maybe it is a cultural thing, as in Australian vs American sense of the role of the individual in changing society. We tend to look to askance at people who big note themselves.  Even if they do good. Whose need are they meeting?