Tag Archives: Robert MacFarlane

Adventures in reading

Gabriel Bradford Millar, Crackle of Almonds (selected poems) published by Awen.

This is a collection that spans a long poetic life – the first poem dates from 1958, the last one in the book came from 2011. I very much enjoyed it. These are the kinds of poems that all make good sense at first reading, with striking images that transform the ordinary into the remarkable. If you re-read and ponder, there are depths to explore. There’s a lot of writing from a position of empathy with other women – something I find I need to have more of in my life. It’s warm, human, forgiving work, well worth a look.

More about the book here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/crackle_of_almonds.html

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane – this one really supplies the adventure! I love Robert Macfarlane’s landscape writing, and I have been inspired by his mission to get people more engaged with the natural world. So I started out ready to love this book. Then I didn’t love it at all, it seemed to be about a man with far more time, energy and resources than I can dream of, driving around the country to visit remote places. Most of us can’t do this, and if we did, those remote places wouldn’t be the wild places they are. Wildness as a privilege for the few cannot be the way to go. But then, about two thirds of the way through, a huge shift in the author’s perception occurs. A re-seeing of the world, a willingness to encounter the wild in smaller, more local ways, and at this point I fell back in love with the writing. If you are the sort of person who sees nature as ‘away’ and exotic, and only possible in the absence of humans, then this would be a book to read because you may discover something in the author’s journey.

More about the book here – http://grantabooks.com/The-Wild-Places

 

 

 

 

 

Manic Mosaic, By Alexis Bear

This is a book about living with depression. It’ small enough to be easily read, which if you’re at the bottom of a hole, is a major consideration. The book revolves around the author’s first hand experiences with depression and health care, and there’s a lot of valuable information in it. The two sets of readers who will benefit most from this are 1) people who have just got a diagnosis and are frightened, confused, overwhelmed… This book will give you insights, show you that you aren’t alone, and give you some tools for navigating. 2) People living with, or dealing closely with someone suffering depressive illness. I think category 2 may be the most important here, because Alexis Bear does a superb job of explaining how the depressive mind works (or doesn’t) and what you can do that will help, or at least not exacerbate things. Its not easy to help a depressed person, and the useful interventions may be counter intuitive, because the normal mind does not function like the depressed mind. It’s also a feature of depression that when you’re sat at the bottom of the hole, explaining how you came to be there, why its a hole, why you can’t get out, why you can’t look on the bright side or just get over it, is not only impossible, but makes you feel worse. Pressing this book into a person’s hands may save a lot of trying to explain why, this week, all you can do is cry. I’ve just had a mostly crying patch, and I know its exhaustion, but I also know that this whole process makes very little sense to anyone else.

Manic Mosaic on Amazon


Mountains, music and myths

Both of the books I’m reviewing this week I bought because they have relevance for my Pagan Pilgrimage project. I’m in an ongoing process of studying writing about landscape and the many different forms that takes. The CD in the set has turned out to be an excellent soundtrack for colouring Camelot

Gloucestershire Folk Tales – Anthony Nanson.

Many of the stories in this book are connected with landscapes I know intimately. Some of the tales were familiar, others not, including one about a hill that has left me with a significant mystery to ponder. For me, what made the book so valuable was the intertwining of known history, physical place, and story. At times there are reasons to think that the stories have grown out of those other features, perhaps to explain something. I particularly liked the way in which the Devil stories for the county were woven into one tale. I hadn’t realised just how much of the landscape was of the Devil’s making! Parallels with tales from elsewhere were also fascinating. It’s a lively read, and a must if you’re in the county.

You can buy direct from the publisher – thehistorypress.co.uk or find it anywhere you’d normally buy books.

Dirty Toes – Mad Magdalene

Both the band and the album names are reference to Tom O’ Bedlam, which is a favourite song of mine. This album is an exuberant mix of folk and Pagan music, and very danceable to. It sounds like live performance – there’s something raw and immediate about the production, which I prefer anyway. I’ve seen Mad Magdalene perform live a couple of times, and this is very much their gigging sound. The arrangements are innovative and freshen up some classic folk songs. You can always hear the words. The final track is a version of Lord Randall, unlike any other I’ve heard – (plot spoilers!) the replacing of a sweetheart with a stepmother suggests a far more complicated and unpleasant sort of back story. You can listen to them on bandcamp – https://madmagdalen.bandcamp.com/album/dirty-toes if you like them, do consider supporting them by buying a copy.

 

Mountains of the Mind, Robert Macfarlane,

This book explores the differences between mountains as people imagine them, and mountains as they turn out to be when you’re on one. It’s a difference that has a habit of killing people. Through talking about historic understandings of mountains, Macfarlane is able to open up the broader territory of landscape writing, ideas of masculinity, adventure and conquest. It’s a beautiful, fascinating read, weaving history with personal experience. You don’t have to be obsessed with mountains to enjoy it, either. Being the sort of person who likes to admire them from afar, reading about other people’s deaths, accidents and near-deaths on slippery, near-vertical surfaces has confirmed me in my prejudices! Easily sourced from all places that sell books.