International Year of the Mountains


I started the new working week with a snarl this morning, writing to the editor of the Independent newspaper and cancelling my order. Today was day two in an arts farrago. The winner of the Turner prize (I refuse to learn his name) has grabbed 26 full pages a day of that paper's arts coverage for the year for his latest work - the alphabet, in standard print, one full page letter at a time. Art is not about such a publicity heist. Life is too precious and vulnerable and art too valuable to put up with such a thing.

I've just read that 2002 has been declared the UN's INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF MOUNTAINS. Mountains have guided my life. I journeyed around sacred mountains of the world and so discovered some of my ultimate values. Scores of editors have seen the resulting book, and many have written me loving notes about it. Were it up to them, they told me, they would publish it. But someone within their companies had blocked the way. Ballantine once got so close that they called me into several excited meetings in New York. They were publishing the book for sure. Then, for some reason, they backed away without explanation.

But what the heck. It's time to steer this writing year by my own values. So I've called the book back onto my screen and am editing away. Someone will take this book or I will bring it out myself. It's not clearly commercial, but far too good to hide.

Chapter 1 was edited today, and the old introduction thrown away. What was Chapter 1? A good place for any book of a mountain quest to start - my journey through a warzone to the slopes of Mount Ararat.

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