Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wild Places-Robert MacFarlane

Wild Places-Robert MacFarlane

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 321
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 2007
Non fiction

Are there any genuinely wild places left in Britain and Ireland? That is the question that Robert Macfarlane poses to himself as he embarks on a series of breathtaking journeys through some of the archipelago?s most remarkable landscapes. He climbs, walks, and swims by day and spends his nights sleeping on cliff-tops and in ancient meadows and wildwoods. With elegance and passion he entwines history, memory, and landscape in a bewitching evocation of wildness and its vital importance.

I am certainly not the sort who likes 'roughing' it. Every time I sleep in the great outdoors I always end up mosquito bit, ant crawling, and damp. I was a bit surprised then when I really enjoyed MacFarlane's journey which was full of biovacs and hikes ending with finding a good place to sleep under a rock. MacFarlane's way of describing the outdoors is a mix of erudition and gorgeous scenery. His musings on 'wild' are broad and fascinating. His definition is gratifyingly broad. He finds the enjoyment in the smallest bit of man made 'wildness' as well as places that are probably truly "wild" in the most narrow definition. It's a view backed up by archaeology, geology, etc. I particularly enjoyed MacFarlane's musings on cartographies and the stories they can tell. It was almost archaeological, at times, his approach to the layers of history which obviously I enjoy.

And let me tell you, I loved the style. Sebald is a favorite author of mine and I definitely think he might be one of MacFarlane's too. There's a similar lack of linearity and similar resistance to easy definition. Just as Sebald set his rambles in almost strangely other-worldly versions of our world, MacFarlane refuses to tell you where he's going. He's developing his personal story map. MacFarlane also admits the shortcomings of language which made it all so more compelling because he is acknowledging our difference, our distance, from our surroundings in a rather subversive way. He's not telling, he's showing and he shows using tricks of analogy, drawing unlike things together in a way I'd never think of. And there's a gratifying evolution of character in the book, there's change in the narrative and thought process that can be followed.

I think there's something here for everyone. I can imagine some of my die hard nature loving friends enjoying it as much as I did...though perhaps different parts. That's the beauty of books that don't stick to any one genre.

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