Friday, July 05, 2013

The agonized groans of mangled men

Because I signed up to summit Mt Rainier this summer, La Otra Hermana suggested I read Bear Grylls' autobiography. Though I am permanently scarred from watching Man vs. Wild footage of him squeezing elephant dung in order to drink water while "stranded" in the savannah, I decided to read it because La OH never recommends books (the last one was The Maker's Diet).

Of course, La Otra Hermana did have ulterior motives: it turns out, Grylls is super-Christian. The first half of Mud, Sweat, and Tears is basically him detailing how pure grit and God got him through the grueling tryouts for the elite British Special Forces. The second half is how pure grit and God got him through the grueling climb up Mount Everest, when he became the youngest Brit (at the time) to summit.

It's not the most well-written book... and that's a kind understatement. There's also a definite "muscular Christianity" and vaguely colonial attitude underlying the stories he tells about his adventures, which gets a little uncomfortable at times.

I was surprised, though, that Grylls is actually from a pretty well-off, privileged family. There was one line that had me laughing out loud: when Grylls shows up for Special Forces training with a chum from Eton, they're heckled by trainers with shouts of "Where are the lads who speak like Prince Charles?"

What strangely does motivate me to train for Rainier?  A mystery series set in ancient Athens. Maybe it's the Spartans as intimidating secondary characters, or the reminder of how marathons started, or the setting of the third book at the Olympics. But the series is thoroughly enjoyable, as well as hilarious.

Nicolaos is the fictitious older brother of the 12-year-old Socrates. He is commissioned by Pericles to solve a politically charged murder in the early days of Athenian democracy. Then he's dispatched to Ephesus, deep in the heart of the Persian-ruled part of ancient Greece, to see what an ostracized Themistocles is up to. Upon returning to Athens in time for the Olympics, he has to solve yet another murder in order to avert a war with Sparta.

I haven't taken classics since ninth grade, so I had to brush up on my ancient Greek history a bit after the first few chapters of The Pericles Commission. Then I breezed through the next two books because they're so wonderfully witty! Can't wait for the fourth book to come out sometime next year.

In the meantime, I have two weeks left of stairs, weighted backpacks, and pain. Lots of pain.

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