978-1-8384004-1-5

A Feeling for Rock - Sarah-Jane Dobner

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"How does it feel to rock climb - the touch, ethics, companionship, landscape and language? Such topics are explored in a clever mix of poetry, cartoons, photographs, essays and interviews. Fun for dipping into or a more immersive read, it has something for everyone. A Feeling for Rock won the Climbing Literature Award at Banff Mountain Book Competition 2021. The poem ‘Hands’ won Shextreme Adventure Poetry Competition 2021."

A Feeling for Rock is a clever mix of poetry, cartoons, photographs, polemic and interviews. Diverse topics are
explored including touch, ethics, companionship, landscape and language. Fun for dipping into or a more
immersive read, it has something for everyone. A Feeling for Rock won the Climbing Literature Award at Banff
Mountain Book Competition 2021.

Brief Description:

Do we function by these hierarchies - summit over foothills, grades over enjoyment, human over non-human
(we can drill the cliff, it doesn’t have any feelings)? Throughout this book, questions are asked, assumptions are
challenged and overlooked aspects of the sport are foregrounded.

A Feeling for Rock is a collection of poetry, cartoons, essays, weavings, photographs and technical tips,
touching on multiple topics including touch, injury, community, ethics, landscape and language. There are
verbatim interviews with a handful of committed devotees - including Johnny Dawes, Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and
Jesse Dufton - alongside beginners experiencing their first day on plastic.

Chapters are headed by the many different feelings - joy, pain, comedy, pride, fear, surprise, tenderness and
geekery, among others - which lie at the core of a climbing life. These feelings are non-exhaustive, non-
hierarchical and non-linear. They flit, and change, and clash - just as they do on the rock.

The aim is to convey the feeling of climbing, embodying the experience, what happens at your fingertips and in
your gut. It can be read from cover to cover, or dipped into at whim. Being full of pictures and soft to the touch,
it’s also a really nice book to hold in your hands.

Quotes / Reviews:

Lynn Robinson, BMC President:
“This fresh, eclectic mix of utility and art illustrates why we climb - alongside the how, where and what.”

Natalie Berry, UKClimbing Editor in Chief:
“Sarah-Jane deftly explores the smorgasbord of emotions that rock, climbing and rock climbing culture have
roused in her...As ever, SJ rocks the boat and tackles gender issues head-on; subverting the dominant
discourse of men and mountains and instead putting sex, sensuality and emotion on the menu, through this
highly immersive collection of prose, poetry and essays.”

Ian Parnell, review in UKClimbing 2021:
“One of the pleasures of reading this book is you rarely know what Dobner is going to come up with next…
If…you too have been wondering where the joy of climbing has gone, I recommend you get yourself a copy of
A Feeling for Rock.”

Emmanuelle Tulle, The Professional Mountaineer 2021:
“[Dobner] challenges the status quo, offers encouraging tips on how any climber can find their place in this
ultimately risky and heady pursuit, tries to navigate a way through binaries to propose something different and
ultimately less intimidating.”

Immy Sykes, review in Beta Magazine 2021:
“[Sarah-Jane] does not shy away from questioning the very foundations of climbing practice to see if she can
make more space; ushering in new thought, or new ways of doing things. […] This book has become my
manifesto…If you find yourself struggling to find your place within rock climbing, you’re not quite sure where
you fit, what you want to achieve, why you take part, A Feeling for Rock will have something for you. A truly
wonderful book that will brighten your climbing experiences.”

Andy Clarke, review in Climber Magazine, UK, September - October edition 2021
“A day's climbing – let alone a lifetime's – takes us through an ever-changing spectrum of intense feelings and
this fascinating new book by Sarah-Jane Dobner tackles pretty much every one of them…Dobner deals with
many difficult issues in this intriguing collection, not least Is Climbing Better Than Sex? in the mini-essay
Confusion. Not sure how to answer? Buy the book!”

Jen Roberts, review in Austrian Alpine Club (UK), Newsletter 231, Autumn 2021:
“This book breaks down the entire process of climbing into its minutiae, often the unspoken elements -
emotional, sensory - making it feel more intimate and heightening our awareness…You’ll be amused,
entertained and, potentially, challenged by the content, and regularly have a wry smile on your face thanks to
the universal understanding of what it means to be a climber.”

Adrian Trendal (author of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge Traverse), review in All Things Cuillin, September 2021:
Anyone who is or has been a climber or who just wants to ask “why” then this is the book for you. Lots of
questions answered but best of all it’s done in a unique style. It encapsulates feelings, thoughts and reasons in
a multi sensory, multi media experience that leaves you wanting to read more, to turn just one more page…The
book is raw, climbing life and ethos told as it is, no Instagram posing production”.

 

Book quote


Sarah-Jane Dobner, the author:
“Rock climbing has shaped my body, my bookshelves, my home, my holidays, the clothes I wear, the vehicle
I drive, how I spend my money and what happens when I die. I am a product of the rock. The dynamic is
visceral, spiritual, intellectual and emotional – no area untouched by this curious hobby.”

Lynn Robinson, BMC President:
“This fresh, eclectic mix of utility and art illustrates why we climb - alongside the how, where and what.”
 
Natalie Berry, UKClimbing Editor in Chief:
“Sarah-Jane deftly explores the smorgasbord of emotions that rock, climbing and rock climbing culture have roused in her...As ever, SJ rocks the boat and tackles gender issues head-on; subverting the dominant discourse of men and mountains and instead putting sex, sensuality and emotion on the menu, through this highly immersive collection of prose, poetry and essays.”
 
Ian Parnell, review in UKClimbing 2021:
“One of the pleasures of reading this book is you rarely know what Dobner is going to come up with next… If…you too have been wondering where the joy of climbing has gone, I recommend you get yourself a copy of A Feeling for Rock.”
 
Emmanuelle Tulle, The Professional Mountaineer 2021:
“[Dobner] challenges the status quo, offers encouraging tips on how any climber can find their place in this ultimately risky and heady pursuit, tries to navigate a way through binaries to propose something different and ultimately less intimidating.”
 
Immy Sykes, review in Beta Magazine 2021:
“[Sarah-Jane] does not shy away from questioning the very foundations of climbing practice to see if she can make more space; ushering in new thought, or new ways of doing things. […] This book has become my manifesto…If you find yourself struggling to find your place within rock climbing, you’re not quite sure where you fit, what you want to achieve, why you take part, A Feeling for Rock will have something for you. A truly wonderful book that will brighten your climbing experiences.”
 
Andy Clarke, review in Climber Magazine, UK, September - October edition 2021
“A day's climbing – let alone a lifetime's – takes us through an ever-changing spectrum of intense feelings and this fascinating new book by Sarah-Jane Dobner tackles pretty much every one of them…Dobner deals with many difficult issues in this intriguing collection, not least Is Climbing Better Than Sex? in the mini-essay Confusion. Not sure how to answer? Buy the book!”
 
Jen Roberts, review in Austrian Alpine Club (UK), Newsletter 231, Autumn 2021:
“This book breaks down the entire process of climbing into its minutiae, often the unspoken elements - emotional, sensory - making it feel more intimate and heightening our awareness…You’ll be amused, entertained and, potentially, challenged by the content, and regularly have a wry smile on your face thanks to the universal understanding of what it means to be a climber.”
 
Adrian Trendal (author of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge Traverse), review in All Things Cuillin, September 2021:
"Anyone who is or has been a climber or who just wants to ask “why” then this is the book for you. Lots of questions answered but best of all it’s done in a unique style. It encapsulates feelings, thoughts and reasons in a multi sensory, multi media experience that leaves you wanting to read more, to turn just one more page…The book is raw, climbing life and ethos told as it is, no Instagram posing production”.
 
John Appleby, review in Footless Crow, October 2021
"I've no doubt that the book will not be to everyone's taste. Certainly for those who like their climbing literature to be structured in a style which they are used to, the book might seem discordant and a bit too edgy for their liking. Certainly the pieces don't follow a clear trajectory in the way they are set out. There is almost a nervous energy here which usually works but occasionally, like a hex dropped from the top pitch of a climb, the piece ricochets down. Glancing off rocks until you lose sight of it in the undergrowth.”

Reviews

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