I wrote this for the excellent Caught by the River Nature Book Reader. It's on page 79.
One phrase that comes to mind when thinking of Kathleen Jamie’s Findings is John Muir’s dictum that ‘when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he [sic] finds it attached to the rest of the world’. These 11 essays then, whether they are investigating storm beaches in the Orkneys, hunting elusive corncrakes in Coll or examining the nature of attention via a meditation on a family illness, very much explore the sense of our being immanent, embedded within the natural world. The world isn’t other, a theatre we wander into on special days, but instead the very ground of our being. And Jamie’s great power is the way in which she uses language to convey this fundamental connection: she has the alchemical poetic eye and ear, but her metaphors and descriptors always tend towards the pared down, the domestic. There is no disconnect between writer, reader and that which falls between. Her other great strength is a kind of heroic stillness: amid the hurtle of the world she so beautiful apprehends, is a plea to pay heed, to pay heed with what she calls a ‘simple plain tenderness’.
A great piece by Gay Talese on the Paris set in the '50s and the formation of the Paris Review. Impossibly Romantic, but there we are.
Early in the fifties another young generation of American expatriates in Paris became twenty-six years old, but they were not Sad Young Men, nor were they Lost; they were the witty, irreverent sons of a conquering nation and, though they came mostly from wealthy parents and had been graduated from Harvard or Yale, they seemed endlessly delighted in posing as paupers and dodging the bill collectors, possibly because it seemed challenging and distinguished them from American tourists, whom they despised, and also because it was another way of having fun with the French, who despised them. Nevertheless, they lived in happy squalor on the Left Bank for two or three years amid the whores, jazz musicians, and pederast poets, and became involved with people both tragic and mad, including a passionate Spanish painter who one day cut open a vein in his leg and finished his final portrait with his own blood. Read on...
The Cairngorm Massif
Cracking edition of the Guardian Review yesterday:
A beautiful piece on Nan Shepherd - the keeper of the Cairngorms - by the, at present, untouchable Robert Macfarlane. Shame the cheapest copy of the book I can find is for £30... (Edit: make that £60 - the power of a good review...)
Iain Sinclair moves a step closer to ubiquity with this great piece on Robert Camberton, an obscure writer about the denizens of London...
And, finally a companion piece by Robert Hughes to the huge Bacon show that is imminent at the Tate Modern. See also Peter Conrad's revealing biographical melange on Bacon from a couple of weeks back.
Some stuff to read for the evening:
Simon over at Ballardian on the putative link between Dubstep (in the guise of Kode9) and Ballard. Great piece.
The Guardian on the discovery of Kafka's writing papers
I'm fast becoming a Robert Macfarlane fanboy. After reading the moving and inspiring The Wild Places (more of which sometime soon) I've recently bought his Mountains of the Mind and, on his recommendation, Waterlog by the sadly deceased manifestation of the Green Man, Roger Deakin (it was this beautiful elegy for Deakin that first alerted me to Macfarlane's writing, and subsequently Deakin's). Now I see this in Saturday's Guardian - an account of his journey to the massive Minya Konka mountain on the Chinese side of the Himalayas. Macfarlane is an academic at Cambridge, teaching English; he's also already got a wide history of exploration behind him, both local to Britain and otherwise. All this and he's only 32. The swine.