Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Jennifer Hull's "Shook"

Jennifer Hull is a writer and teacher. She grew up in New York, graduated cum laude from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in history, and has a master’s degree in education. She has taught K-12 students as well as college freshmen at the University of New Mexico. She lives in New Mexico with her husband, twin sons, and cocker spaniel.

Hull applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Shook: An Earthquake, a Legendary Mountain Guide, and Everest's Deadliest Day, and reported the following:
If a browser were to open to page 99 of Shook: An Earthquake, A Legendary Mountain Guide and Everest’s Deadliest Day, they would come upon the first page of "Chapter 17: The Khumbu Country Club." At the top of the page is a blog entry by renowned mountain guide and the protagonist of this narrative nonfiction story, Dave Hahn. At the bottom of the page is the first paragraph of the rest of the chapter. The entire page reads as follows:
17 The Khumbu Country Club

April 10, 2015
Posted by: Dave Hahn
Categories: Expedition Dispatches; Everest
Elevation: 17, 575 feet


One of the finer days we’ve seen on the trip, weatherwise. Clear skies and calm as anything in the morning, which made us forget the cold. We were out in the glacier again, at our jungle gym of ladders and fixed lines and ice walls… In the afternoon on this fine day, our Base Camp manager, Mark Tucker, took a foursome out for the first day of a planned four-day golf tournament in the mellow section of glacier close to camp. Tuck showed his party around the Khumbu Country club, scoring a hole-in-one in the process. (His partners now each owe him 100 rupees.) Newcomer Robbie came away with the low scholar for the round however, with a nine under par performance.

Best regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Glacier golf, chess, scrabble, and various versions of poker became popular ways for the team to unwind at Base Camp after mornings of concentrated activity. Peter enjoyed learning to play poker when he wasn’t writing in his journal. Robbie was a natural on the “golf course.” Hans loved a good book. Dave’s favorite game was Scrabble; he had carried a pocket dictionary with him to Base Camp. On the dry-erase board used to communicate messages to the team each day, he scrawled today’s message in red marker: “Learn your two-letter words.” Hao especially liked playing chess when he didn’t have a strong enough Internet connection to get work done on his laptop.
Page 99 of my book is a short page but does give a decent sense of the structure of the story, particularly of the interplay between the protagonist’s first-person blog posts and the third-person “behind the scenes” narration of the story. The overall chapter, however, gives a very accurate idea of the book, beginning with this light and breezy passage listing some of the pleasurable Base Camp activities enjoyed by the climbers and culminating in a detailed and visceral and somewhat horrifying account of what it feels like to be the victim of a slab avalanche versus being the victim of an ice avalanche;
An ice avalanche is a different beast. Like the more common slab avalanche, the first signal of an ice avalanche might be an ominous crack, in this case when a giant, overhanging chunk of ice calves off the snout of a glacier and drops. The chunk of ice, which might be the size of a building, shatters upon impact. This may trigger secondary slab avalanches all around. The ice accelerates down the steep mountain slope, pushing a massive powercloud of snow, rock, and ice pellets ahead of it. Ahead of the powder cloud, an invisible and immense air blast travels fast enough to easily uplift and overturn a train car. A victim of an ice avalanche is lifted from the hurricane-wind force of the blast and then hurled back down on the ice, rocks, and glacial moraine…
The chapter illuminates just how high the stakes are for the climbers, contrasted with the less serious diversions they use to happily distract themselves as they nervously and patiently bide their time at Base Camp, waiting out storms.
Visit Jennifer Hull's website.

--Marshal Zeringue