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The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics) by Peter…
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The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics) (original 1978; edition 2008)

by Peter Matthiessen, Pico Iyer (Introduction)

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1,545204,753 (3.99)66
Member:AlexiFrancis
Title:The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Peter Matthiessen
Other authors:Pico Iyer (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2008), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (1978)

Recently added byprivate library, seite, ICALIB, UCBear, jamesabg, KelMunger, hopeless
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I cannot say enough good things about this book. Peter Matthiessen has, alas, left us but his writing will live on forever.

This is the kind of book you take with you on a backpacking trip and savor over and over. Like Desert Solitaire, or A Sand County Almanac, or Thoreau's Journals. This is a book that can't be adequately described in a review.

Anyone who has ever identified as a seeker of any kind should read it.

Beautiful, crystalline prose as rarified and miraculous as the Himalayan setting he describes. ( )
3 vote anna_in_pdx | Oct 5, 2014 |
Mourning the loss of his wife to cancer, Peter Matthiesen joins George Schaller on a trek to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and in hopes of glimpsing the rare Snow Leopard. His trek will take him from the slums of Varanasi to the roof of the world, both literally and figuratively, in Nepal.

Part contemplative travelogue, part Buddhist primer, The Snow Leopard reminds me often of [Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance], with the constant switching between observant travel writing and the pursuit of deep ideas. But it has a lot more zen than Pirsig's book. He has a way of writing about Zen that encompasses both the deep philosophy of Zen and the esoterica that surrounds it, but also captures Zen in the daily moment:

My foot slips on a narrow ledge: in that split second, as needles of fear pierce heart and temples, eternity intersects with present time. Thought and action are not different, and stone, ice, sun, fear, and self are one. What is exhilarating is to extend this acute awareness into ordinary moments...for this present - even while I think of it - is gone.

The Snow Leopard is a deep book, by turns joyous, philosophical and melancholy. Matthiesen's preoccupation with death runs through the book, starting on page 2 as he crosses paths with a dying old man in Varanasi.

The old man has been ravened from within. That blind and greedy stare of his, that caved-in look, and the mouth working, reveal who now inhabits him, who now stares out.

I nod to Death in passing, aware of the sound of my own feet upon my path. The ancient is lost in a shadow world, and gives no sign.


Matthiesen's writing is evocative throughout. "There are no roads west of Pokhara, which is the last outpost of the modern world; in one day's walk, we are a century away". If I measure my interest in a book by dog-eared pages, my copy of the Snow Leopard might be one of my winners. Every 10 pages there's something I marked when I read it. The book is all omens, dreams, portents, and deep thoughts, interspersed with the day to day minutiae of hiking, wet boots, blisters and snow blindness, together with encyclopedic descriptions of flora and fauna of his trip. He captures the dynamic of being on the trail with someone for an extended duration perfectly. After a particularly exhausting climb one day on a cliff, Schaller says something only mildly annoying, and Matthiesen remarks, not entirely joking one suspects, "How easy it would be to push him over".

While The Snow Leopard is a book about a journey with an objective (seeing the Snow Leopard), as is usually the case, the journey IS the objective. It is a gorgeous book. If you have any interest in zen, hiking or travel, read it. ( )
1 vote viking2917 | Mar 29, 2014 |
This wasn't what I expected. I guess I should have read the description and/or reviews a little closer. I thought it would be about snow leopards, like Tigers in the Snow was about tigers, their behaviour, their habitat, conservation of, etc.

It was actually about a trip the author took with zoologist George Schaller. GS was going to the Himalayas to study sheep and invited Matthiessen along. The area they would be in is a place where they might spot a snow leopard. Along the way, as they hike to the area they need to be, Matthiessen describes the people in the area, as well as the religion. His focus is on Buddhism. Overall, it was o.k., but I was disappointed that it wasn't what I'd hoped. ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 31, 2013 |
I enjoyed the contrast in the book of the banal and the majestic. It more closely resembles the realities of life where even the most magical moments are only seconds away from the earthly realities of a rock in your shoe, the biting cold, falling behind schedule. Matthiessen is prone to the same pains and failings as the rest of us which makes him such a compelling character.
I did get lost in some of the more technical aspects of field biology and the history of Buddhism, but mostly it was the names that turned me around and it was often helpful. The philosophy is interesting and the story compelling. Give it a try. ( )
1 vote EricFitz08 | Apr 27, 2013 |
3.98
  mcnabbp | Mar 10, 2013 |
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Epigraph
That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
---Rainer Maria Rilke
Dedication
For
Nakagawa Soen Roshi
Shimano Eido Roshi
Taizan Maezumi Roshi
GASSHO
in gratitude, affection, and respect
First words
In late September of 1973, I set out with GS on a journey to the Crystal Mountain, walking west under Annapurna and north along the Kali Gandaki River, then west and north again, around the Dhaulagiri peaks and across the Kanjiroba, two hundred and fifty miles or more to the Land of Dolpo, on the Tibetan Plateau.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143105515, Paperback)

In the autumn of 1973, the writer Peter Matthiessen set out in the company of zoologist George Schaller on a hike that would take them 250 miles into the heart of the Himalayan region of Dolpo, "the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture on earth." Their voyage was in quest of one of the world's most elusive big cats, the snow leopard of high Asia, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical; Schaller was one of only two Westerners known to have seen a snow leopard in the wild since 1950.

Published in 1978, The Snow Leopard is rightly regarded as a classic of modern nature writing. Guiding his readers through steep-walled canyons and over tall mountains, Matthiessen offers a narrative that is shot through with metaphor and mysticism, and his arduous search for the snow leopard becomes a vehicle for reflections on all manner of matters of life and death. In the process, The Snow Leopard evolves from an already exquisite book of natural history and travel into a grand, Buddhist-tinged parable of our search for meaning. By the end of their expedition, having seen wolves, foxes, rare mountain sheep, and other denizens of the Himalayas, and having seen many signs of the snow leopard but not the cat itself, Schaller muses, "We've seen so much, maybe it's better if there are some things that we don't see."

That sentiment, as well as the sense of wonder at the world's beauty that pervades Matthiessen's book, ought to inform any journey into the wild. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"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{8212} 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."--Publisher information.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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