The Hills of Wales, by Jim Perrin
At one level, this is an immensely readable volume written by someone I felt I would like to know more about. He has a deep knowledge and familiarity with the hills and writes in a very intelligent and readable style which borders on the lyrical in places.
So, we have a book that is a collection of essays from various periods by Jim Perrin, joined together by the thread of the Welsh Mountains in the title. They are grouped roughly geographically and, unlike other reviewers, I didn't feel the need for a map, although it would have been nice to see one in the endpapers.
However, the more I read the book, my sense of it being more like a work of fiction increased. Some of the anecdotal encounters seem more like wish-fulfillment fantasies than actual events, particularly the encounter with the member of the mountain rescue team who questions why he was destroying the tops of the cairns designed to aid walkers in his area. He comes across as arrogant sometimes, although perhaps that could be forgiven, if Perrin's account of his childhood is to be believed. He says he was an underpriviledged kid from a Manchester scheme who would dodge fares on the train to Wales in order to go climbing and get away from his disinterested parents.
So far, so good. But in trying to find out more on the man, I have come across some rather troubling revelations that seem to suggest...well, have a look for yourself: the "To Hatch a Crow" blog, for instance, or the Jacssisters blog.
He certainly appears to have "reinvented" himself more than a few times. But then many artists and writers have done so...the great Bob Dylan, for instance, who also wrote several autobiographies, all of which were more fiction than fact. I don't know what to say...I still love Bob Dylan's work, and I did enjoy this book...a lot. Passages from it have stayed with me, or appeared in my head while I am walking in the hills. Yet I can only shake my head and wonder if I can separate the lyrical writer who brings the hills alive with his prose from the alleged inconsistencies within the man.
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