- Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
- Simpson, Joe — Touching the Void (210 pages)
Page count: 425.
As one online review puts it, the documentary is good, but the book is better.
Touching the Void is one of those books that has been staring up from my stacks of books, calling me to read it, for months. I'd seen the movie when it came out years ago and enjoyed it. I kept seeing the book on lists of recommendations, including 100 Must-Read Books for Men, and it seemed like a good cold-weather read.
I watched the film again shortly after finishing the book, and it is a well-made film. In particular, I appreciated how the camera work and soundtrack were able to convey instantly some of the things that were happening to Simpson and Yates psychologically that required many words to convey in print.
That said, the book is far more impactful in conveying this harrowing story. Certainly, nothing can ever really make us understand the full impact of what Simpson and Yates went through short of being there ourselves. The book gets closer in this regard, though, because of the stretched out timeframe required while reading and because of the greater amount of detail that a book can accomodate, as well as the various insights into mountaineering culture and other accidents that a film of any reasonable length cannot accomodate. (The film, by the way, does make clear that it is a documentary based on the book and not an adaptation of the book, an important distinction.)
Touching the Void is a fantastic, gripping read. Simpson is unflinching in his account of his near-death experience in the Andes, told in a straightforward style with much detail and stark candor. Even though we know the outcome (seeing as how this isn't written by a medium in a séance), Touching the Void is a page-turner which left me emotionally wrung out by the end.