David insisted on writing the book in third person, which is really awkward. The publisher said, Greg, you’re too understated, so this needs to be in the third person. My wife, Tara, also told me that if I wrote a book, it would be a pamphlet.
What happens then is, when you re-create the scenes, you have my recollections, the different memories of those involved, you have his writing, and sometimes things come out different. In order to be convenient, there were some omissions. If we included everything I did from 1993 to 2003 it would take three books to write it. So there were some omissions and compressions, and ... I don’t know, what that’s called?
Yeah. So, rather than me going two or three times to one place, he would synthesize it into one trip. I would squawk about it and be told that it would all work out.
This was my first book. I’m an introverted guy, running ragged for months on end, and in those days I was overseas all the time, and also trying to raise money. My regret—what I wish I would have done—is that I should have taken off several months and really focused on the book. But I was trying to raise a family, be gone most of the year, and work 16- to 20-hour days without stopping.
So you’re saying you were new to the process, busy, and you were naive about how nonfiction is written. And they were sometimes saying, “Let’s tell it this way, it’s better”?
Yes, definitely. I was also overseas a lot, in Afghanistan—we had been really launching there since 2000. When I was there, David would read the manuscript to me over the phone, and so forth.
When the book came out, did you read parts of your own story that made you say, “Hey, I don’t think this is accurate”?
Yeah. Especially in regards to the timing. Like, you know, you went there three times, twice you went there in the fall, so let’s just make it one fall trip. At the end of the book, I took three trips up to northern Afghanistan, over about a year and a half. Those were synthesized into one trip.
Those are general things. But 60 Minutes and Krakauer have challenged the facts of a major episode at the start of Three Cups of Tea, when you come down from your attempted climb of K2 in 1993 and wander, after several days, into the village of Korphe. Their assertion is that you didn’t go to that village at all until a year later, in 1994. Is their reporting wrong? Did the events happen as you say they did?
What they said is inaccurate.
Is there any way for you to prove that?
I have called our managers in Pakistan and the area where this all takes place. They’re talking to dozens of people in the places where these scenes occurred. They will ask them to recall and read to them from the book. Last night [Saturday, April 16th], one of our staff talked with two people from Korphe and they re-affirmed that I was Korphe in 1993, two years before we built a bridge there.