Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nazis, Supermen, Nipple Clamps and Baking - 4 More Snowboard Books Reviewed

After a number of years of reviewing books on this site, I think I'm probably now the world's foremost expert on ski resort based literature. Sit back and bask in my knowledge as I use all that experience to review four more snowboarding books...

Chalet Boy - by Andy Smith

Spoiler alert: This book is about as interesting as its cover

Welcome to the tedious and inane whingefest of the 31 year-old chalet boy Andy Smith. This is the memoires of the entirely unlikeable man who spent an entirely unmemorable season in the Alps.

Every year hundreds of people head to the mountains to do two things: take up low-paid menial jobs that allow them to spend the rest of their time snowboarding and/or partying. Andy Smith unfortunately didn't get the memo about the second part of that deal, then he wrote this book detailing his five months of cleaning and cooking exploits. This is an example of the kind of excitement you're in for if you read this book:

"I was really worried I was going to mess the carving up and ruin Christmas dinner for everyone. Dan and Tom had done a great job of preparing the birds in advance with stuffing and covering them with bacon and they looked fantastic as they came out of the oven. I needn't have worried because when the time came I managed to do a pretty decent job and all the plates went out with the neatly cut slices of juicy Christmas meat on them."


In addition to being a bore, Andy Smith is also a miserable piece of work. During another bout of whittering on about some cooking, he stepped things up a bit with some casual racism...

"My feeling was that our menu is way too sophisticated for Welsh taste buds (plus it contains no lamb)"

Which is about the most interesting thing about the book.

Chalet Boy - The Diary of My First Ski Season (Aged 31) in a pie chart:

As far as I can tell only two interesting things have ever happened to Andy Smith:

One was when he tried to promote his book on Snowboarding Forum, only to get torn a new one.

And the other was when he actually did tear himself a new one. When he was nine years-old he decided not to shit any more and a few days later he fainted trying to expel the inevitable massive turd:

"As the fog of passing out cleared and clarity returned, I realised I was on the floor with blood from both my head and my arse creating a terrible mess. As if that wasn't a bad enough scenario, I still had half of the 'iceberg' left to dislodge. I clumsily made my way back onto the toilet to pass what felt like a sandpaper covered marrow before desperately calling my mother to come and make sense of all of this mess."

Today Andy Smith is boring the Internet to death via his blog about the food he eats.

The book is here if you want to read it (you don't).

The Werwolf on Eagle's Nest Mountain - by Susan Hira

I'll happily admit I acquired this book purely because of the cover. 

This one has a swanky intro video to save me having to explain the plot...

As a bad writer you're faced with two choices, either practice and get better before you publish a book, or just don't write a book at all. There are however a lot of bad writers that ignore these simple choices and think that the best solution is to write books for kids, because kids are mugs. Susan Hira is one of these writers.

Here are the four highlights of the book:

1. Early on someone fires a machine gun at some of the kids who are on a chair lift. The kids are a little shaken up by the ordeal, they head back to the hotel, everyone talks about it for a bit, no one suggests options like leaving or calling the police, the holiday continues.

2. One of the girls later finds out about a Nazi conspiracy that endangers her and all her friends, but she gets distracted by the smell of a tasty soup. She instantly forgets Nazi conspiracy as a result.

3. This sentence: "Doesn't hurt that Nick has always admired her spunk."

4. Hitler's octogenarian daughter, who has only tried snowboarding once before, scythes down one of the baddies with her snowboard mid backside seven twenty.

The book is available here and it's a sandpaper covered marrow of crap.

Clamped - by David Blackwell

The first thing you notice about this book, other than the epic use of Microsoft Paint on the cover, is that David Blackwell is addicted to similes. He's constructed his entire book out of them, and when you're trying to produce a whole book of similes some of them become a real reach. Here's just three choice examples from the opening page:

"The impact came, and Ben collapsed like a bag of used body parts being thrown from the back of a hospital, his bone marrow rattling inside his skeleton as it slammed into the snow."

"The girl had risen and skied away, floating over the piste like steam unfurling from an espresso."

"He prized himself away from his past life, like a metallic spatula scraping a greasy egg out of an old frying pan, and flipped himself into the mountains."

As you can see, as well as being one of the foremost simile crammers of our generation, he's also an exponent of the flowery adjective. Through that fist page we also get treated to, "playful shadows", "sumptuous eyes" and "fizzing eyes", which sounds fucking painful.

One of my favourite adjective-laden passages was this one describing one of the main characters:

"Malio was a huge, heavy, meat rack of a man. Breeze blocks for feet, his legs solid and thick like those of a gout-ridden hippo. ... Welded to his stout body were two piston arms, pumped full of dark blood. ... He looked as though he could break things with his bare hands."

OK, he lost it for a moment with that last sentence. Just in case it wasn't clear, Malio is a baddy.

But by far the best sentence in the book, which combined both his incredible adjectives and bonkers similes, is this one:

"Both boys were hizz-whizzing down the slope, crouched up like they were about to get a spanking from their headmaster, buttocks high in the air, clenched."


While we're in this very dubious place though, we might as well discuss the plot of the book. It all revolves around an ancient set of nipple clamps that have been acquired for the Courchevel erotica museum (which is sadly fictitious). It involves a couple of skiers who become male prostitutes for the season, a bunch of criminals slaughtering various people to get hold of the clamp and a couple of chalet boys/snowboarders that get caught up in the whole palava. It's kinda what you would get if you mixed Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels together with 50 Shades of Grey (not that I've read it or anything) and fluffed it all up with a ton of adjectives and similes.

It wasn't a good book, but is wasn't the worst either and if your really struggling for something to read it's probably worth a go, if nothing else it's a change to see someone try to write a novel based in a ski resort that isn't about the standard shit that happens in a ski resort.

Clamped was written back in 2005, David Blackwell hasn't written any other books since and probably the best bit of it is his promotional website which is still live. Shame he didn't get into blogging really...

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance - by Steven Kotler

Unfortunately not a book about an inter-dimensional ghost octopus attacking Travis Rice as advertised.

This one came out recently, had a lot of marketing money behind it and has been doing the rounds so I thought I'd get involved too, and like the Nazis book, I get to save some time because there's also an intro video complete with epic background music...

But that's where the similarities with the Nazi book end because this one isn't shit. It's a book that introduces the theory of the psychology of Flow through the stories of a range of action sports stars including our very own Travis Rice and Jeremy Jones. It's an interesting way of approaching the subject and it's pretty much guaranteed to be the only book about snowboarding where you'll read a passage like this...

"We've seen near-exponential growth in ultimate human performance, which is both hyperbolic paradox and considerable mystery. Somehow, a generation's worth of iconoclastic misfits have rewritten the rules of the feasible, not just raising the bar but often obliterating it altogether."

It' all a tad hyperbolic.

It's the one shortcoming of this book that Steven Kotler, a journalist, writes as if he's part scientist and part self-help guru, which did get on my tits after a while. Reading this book won't change your life, like the marketing implies, but it will help explain those fleeting moments of flow that we've all felt snowboarding at some time and continue to strive to re-experience.

On the plus side, what other book about psychology can you also be regaled with (nicely in keeping with the way this article has been progressing in general) an impressive anal anecdote, from the experiences of the BASE jumper Dean Potter:

Potter landed in a heap on the cave floor. His hands were destroyed, other parts as well. He'd torn all the muscles in his stomach and his rectum. "I blew out my ass," he says "I didn't even know that was possible."

You learn something new everyday; sometimes, thankfully, through other people's experiences.

The book is here and the fancy marketing website is here.

You Might Also Like...

If you can't be bothered to wade through all of The Rise of Superman, we summed up the theory of Flow rather succinctly here: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow & Why You Love Snowboarding

Or take a look at the 16 other books we've reviewed so far.

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