It has happened before…

… Fortunately, in those days, the good citizens of San Francisco took it as an enormous joke.

Emperor Norton copy“At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton… declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the first day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.”


Norton I, Emperor of the United States
(San Francisco Bulletin, 17th September, 1859)

Here’s his wikipedia entry

Posted in California history, Oddities & Off topics | 4 Comments

The Sharp End by Katie Ives, featuring Enduring Patagonia

Delighted to see a discussion of Enduring Patagonia right at the beginning of “The Sharp End,” Alpinist editor Katie Ives’s front-of-the-book editorial, in her summer 2016 issue (No. 54).

(Click on the image to read it enlarged.)

FullSizeRenderMighty fine to share the page with Alex Honnold, Colin Haley, Kelly Cordes, and Rolando Garibotti. I’d love to learn what Alex Honnold thought of his EP read. What he and Colin have accomplished in Patagonia in recent seasons leaves me slack-jawed in astonishment. (.oot, nytaroB gerG yb otohp a fo lleH)

EP Kindle edition

Kindle edition

Enduring Patagonia paperback


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“Continental Divide” by Maurice Isserman, reviewed by Gregory Crouch

Continental Divide Cover copyHere’s “Climb Every Mountain,” my review of Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering by Maurice Isserman in the May 1, 2016 issue of The New York Times Book Review.



Here’s a screen shot of the review online (click on the image to go to the review on the NYT website):

Continental Divide review copy

David M. Shribman, executive editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reviewed Continental Divide for The Wall Street Journal in “High Society.” Very different POV than mine.

Here’s the full list of books I’ve reviewed for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR Books, and others. (This is the 25th.)

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | 2 Comments

The perils of predicting the future…

If you’re going to predict the future, you’d better be prepared to be spectacularly wrong…

Excerpt from an immigrant’s journal, written near “Sacramento City,” California, September 18, 1849:

“As for living in this country, it is too poor for man, beast, or the devil. The hills are so poor and parched up that they can scarcely hold up the rocks on their tops. I was reading Henry Clay’s speech, on the 13th of March last, on his compromise Bill in which he expressed the opinion that the immigrants to California, like those to Louisiana, will in ninety cases out of a hundred become permanent citizens. If Clay were to come out here he would take that back, for it appears to me that he just as well link heaven and hell in the same speech, as Louisiana and California. I have never seen a man yet, among all the vast crowd that are here, who thinks of remaining longer than he can make a raise; and all that some ask is enough to go home on.”

Fayette Boys en route to California, 1849,” in the Merrill J. Mattes Collection on the Oregon-California Trails Association website.

Posted in California history | 2 Comments

“I tell you folks that’s a lie!”

Here’s some 19th century humor in a news item in The Sacramento Daily Union, 8/17/1883, which they apparently poached from The Reno Gazette.

he knew him well copy SDU 1883 08 17 copy

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Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings in the South China Morning Post

Thrilled to see this story about Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in the Valentine’s Day edition of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “In Love and War: a Hong Kong honeymoon for Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn.”

Looks like a few chunks of the story were sourced from this website.

China’s Wings, William Langhorne Bond, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), Emily “Mickey” Hahn, and Pan Am all get substantial mentions.

SCMP copy I suspect the author sourced these posts I made shortly after China’s Wings published: Emily Hahn, Ernest Hemingway, China’s Wings, and the Boxer Uprising; and Emily Hahn and CNAC, aka The Hardest Cut; and Ernest Hemingway and China’s Wings.

China's WingsI read all of the books mentioned in the story when I was researching and writing China’s Wings. Martha Gellhorn’s Travels With Myself and Another is a minor classic. The description of Hemingway defeating a dozen Chinese generals in a drinking contest had me howling with laughter.

Never bad to get mentioned in a story about Ernest Hemingway.

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My review of “The Last Thousand” by Jeffrey E. Stern

Last Thousand cover copyHere’s “Education as a pathway to pacifying a violent nation,” my review of The Last Thousand: One School’s Promise in a Nation at War by Jeffrey E. Stern in the February 14, 2016 issue of The Washington Post.

“… a paean to the power of education and its potential to peacefully revolutionize a violent nation.”


Last Thousand review copy

Review 001Here’s the full list of book reviews I’ve done for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and elsewhere. (This is the 24th.)

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | 1 Comment

My review of “The Ghosts of K2” by Mick Conefrey

Ghosts cover copyHere’s “The Savage Mountain,” my review of The Ghosts of K2: The Epic Saga of the First Ascent by Mick Conefrey in the February 6 & 7, 2016 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

(This is the 10th book I’ve reviewed for the WSJ: Here’s the full list.)


Check out this K2 documentary Conefrey made for the BBC. Exciting stuff.


Enduring Patagonia paperbackTo present my credentials to comment on climbing, here’s my alpine memoir, Enduring Patagonia (Random House, 2001), which TheCultureTrip picked as one of the ten best books ever written about Argentina.


Again, here’s my full list of book reviews–for The WSJ, The Washington Post, NPR Books, and others. (In total, this is the 23rd.)

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | 2 Comments

Thrilled to see Enduring Patagonia on this 10 best list

Enduring Patagonia paperbackI’m delighted to discover Enduring Patagonia on TheCultureTrip’s list of The Ten Best Books About Argentina.

Ten Best copyI’m honored to be in company with Cortázar, Chatwin, Borges, Hernández, and Sábato.


My rabidly right-wing father rolls over in his grave seeing me on the same list with Che Guevara, but I’m enjoying needling him in the next world.

I haven’t read Martínez, Pron, or Bracken, but they all look interesting.

  • L’Autopista del Sur y Otros Cuentos by Julio Cortázar
  • In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez
  • The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
  • My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron
  • Martín Fierro by José Hernández
  • Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch
  • El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato
  • ¡Che Boludo! by James Bracken

Thank you, Bethany Currie!

Enduring Patagonia paperback

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Ever wonder about the human cost of WWII?

Here’s a graphic demonstration of the toll.

Posted in 1930s and 1940s history, China's Wings | Leave a comment