Where the wild places are
“A city, a countryside from a distance is a city and a countryside; but, as you approach, they are houses, trees, shingles, leaves, grass, ants, legs of ants, and so on to infinity: all this is enveloped in the name ‘countryside’.”
Pascal, Pensées, quoted in Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts
The library has recently purchased several books which explore the concept of ‘wildness’ in the British landscape. In each case the authors find forms of wilderness in unexpected places.
The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane
In this highly-acclaimed work Robert MacFarlane travels around Great Britain and Ireland to explore the meaning of ‘wildness’, visiting sites that still possess this quality and examining the psychological impact and benefits of experiencing such environments. His travels take him from the ancient Caledonian Forest to the gravel banks of the English coast. En route he comes to recognise that, while human beings have made their mark almost everywhere, wilderness is more ubiquitous than he first thought.
The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey
A new edition of an account by the natural historian Richard Mabey (first published in 1973) of exploring the waste ground, bomb sites and neglected areas of London, and of the wildlife that flourished there. A new introduction by Iain Sinclair positions the work as a precursor to two resurgent literary traditions: landscape travelogues by the likes of MacFarlane, W.G. Sebald and Roger Deakin, and the ‘psychogeographical’ engagement with ‘hidden’ urban and exurban landscapes by writers such as J.G. Ballard and Will Self.
Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts
In this new book on a similar theme, two poets explore and celebrate the “debatable zone, neither the city nor the countryside” where the urban landscape becomes something else – in wasteland, on the verges of roads and railway lines, in retail parks, industrial sites and elsewhere. The book, which was recently featured on Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme, “forms a critique of what we value as ‘wild'”.