Archive for the ‘nature’ Category
I’m all for breaking down the artificial barricades that bedevil speculative fiction part of the frustration behind this post was that I didn’t think Gollancz were putting their money where their mouth was. Why did Graham Joyce have to go to Faber to publish TWOC just because it contains no fantastic elements? Why, when they are so justly proud of having M John Harrison on the books, does the extraordinary Climbers languish out of print? I doubt David Mitchell’s publishers would ever say to him, “sorry, mate, this is insufficiently mimetic, take it elsewhere”.
So I am absolutely delighted to see that Gollancz are re-issuing Climbers with a new introduction from Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is a nature writer, chair of the judges for this year’s Booker Prize and he selected Harrison’s Empty Space as one of his books of the year. As it happens, I’ve just been reading Macfarlane’s latest book, The Old Ways. These ways are not mores but paths: “pilgrim paths, green roads, drove roads, corpse roads, trods, leys, dykes, drongs, sarns, snickets, holloways, bostles, shutes, driftways, lichways, ridings, halterpaths, cartways, carneys, causeways, herepaths.” Like the work of Macfarlane’s late friend Roger Deakin, calling this nature writing seems too narrow; it is memoir and poetry and philosophy, a work of biogeography. Not unlike Climbers, in fact.
Coots are racists. They are extremely unpleasant birds and once a coot (Troy Winters) made me so I angry that I punched him until both me and Troy were crying. It’s weird that they’re so different to moorhens who are actually a bloody good laugh.
The post-war overspill developments seen on the edges of many of our cities were planned down to every concrete walkway, subway and pathway. But their green squares and verges were soon criss-crossed with desire paths: a record of collective short-cuttings. In the winter, they turned to sludgy scars that spattered trousers and skirts and clung to shoes, and during hot summers they turned dusty and parched. Once established, they fell into constant use, footpaths which have never entered the literature. These footpaths of least resistance offer their own subtle resistance to the dead hand of the planner.
Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, 2011
Opening my front door, I am confronted by what I at first think is a juvenile starling but on reflection realise is a thrush. I am surprised not just by its presence but that it is so unphased by mine, sat there as implacably as an owl. After a second I understand that it is in fact stunned: its heart and lungs visibly throbbing, crouched in a thick pile of its own shit, blinded by the terror of first flight. Its sibling, no less stunned, stands tall, head cocked in seeming disbelief at its accomplishment, its Denis Healey eyebrows wryly at odds with its evident youth.