The book I am reading for the club which will be discussed this evening is The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. I read it on my Kindle or should I say I read 25% of it. It is one of those rare occasions where I haven’t finished the book.
I knew I wouldn’t really take to this book. I enjoy a good novel; I even prefer a bad novel, to reading about nature. I’m just not that kind of person. I can look out at my window box and enjoy the cyclamen and pansies bright purple and dark red. I don’t need to go any further than that to as they say to commune with nature.
I was surprised when reading the introduction to the book that I became interested despite him being up a tree at the time. But as I read on I found it all a bit repetitive. How many lakes, phosphorescence lights, craggy mountains and sleeping under the stars can one read before boredom sets in.
The book is more about him than what is around him. He is constantly swimming in very cold waters or climbing dangerous cliffs; making fires and cooking fish; picking up stones and bits of driftwood.. And why does everything have to take place in the depths of winter making his journey all the more taxing. I wonder if it is because these so called wild places might have more visitors in the spring and summer months. He just sounds like a literary Bear Gryls to me.
And I miss people on these journeys. Occasionally he has a companion but still it is always about him and there is very little conversation.
Some of his prose is pretentious. For example, when meeting a man in the Burren who has shot some woodcocks which he has stowed in his pockets, he writes “Bright red domed beads of blood stood out on the waxy sleeves of his jacket, and in one I could see a fisheye reflection of me and the land behind.” And where does he get all the rye bread?
His disdain for the pilgrims on Croagh Patrick was marked. The least he could have done was some basic research and then he would have known that he would not be alone on the day he chose to climb it.
He seems to come to a realisation a third way through the book when he says “Thousands of years of human living and dying have destroyed the possibility of the pristine wild,” which rather defeats the object of his mission. And again in the chapter on the Burren “My idea of wildness as something inhuman, outside history, had come to seem nonsensical, even irresponsible.”
As a 76 year old woman living on a pension, I will never visit any of these places and I suppose I should be grateful he is doing it for me, but I’m not.