Author: Nathan Hoturoa Gray
Title: First Pass Under Heaven
Destination: The Great Wall
Length: 2 years (interrupted)
Type: mostly walking
a fan of the lump
The story: 5 dudes decide to walk the Great Wall. Their main objective: to be the First Westerners. Okay, so this is about 15 years after William Lindesay, and almost a century after William Edgar Geil, but whatever. NHG, a New Zealander, is one of the five who start out at Jiayuguan and make their way east. They get separated. Some keep walking, while others don’t. They mostly stay with families in the countryside, whom they seem to approach like solicitors. NHG witnesses a homicide, gets arrested by the military, returns to New Zealand, travels to India and finds a female companion. He eventually finishes the journey two years after he started.
Nathan Hoturoa Gray is wrong on so many levels
But alas! This book is wrong on so many levels (and I am not even going to talk about the rhyming poems). There’s just too much condescension:
“Our presence, however, seems to have the opposite effect on the Chinese, in particular the way they wistfully look upon our modern backpacks, cameras and watches. As they say in science, you can’t measure something without altering it. I only hope our Western presence won’t transform them too much, especially towards a hoarding mindset or one that is fearful of losing one’s material accumulations.”
“It has been hellishly lonely walking those last three days into Zhangjiakou, paranoid that I will be overpowered by villagers.”
…and esoteric bla:
“…a gigantic Buddha statue. It is sitting in the lotus position, etched out of a mountain rock. I approach the structure as a strong gust of wind blows into my face. Suddenly, I feel an unseen presence leap into my body. ‘Ohhhh…fuck,’ I moan, shaking my body, violently trying to rid myself of the possession.”
I was just shocked by it all, especially since the writing wasn’t all that bad, but eventually it made perfect sense, when on page 260, NHG tells us:
“I wake up, shocked, and pick up The Pilgrimage, a book by Paolo Coelho, which accompanies me on my road.”
Yes, shocked. Not a bad way to put it.
A 1/10, because it was still not as bad as the worst of all time: Paulo Coelho.