For the most part Holdstock carefully builds, then maintains, a creeping sense of edgy unease rather than venturing into full on horror, but there’s one point late on, where he creates an almost Lovecraftian vision of weirdness, to provide a genuine moment of skin-crawling alarm. This occurs when Stephen and Keeton reach an internal border within the wood, between one zone and another, a threshold marked by a peculiarly grotesque tree:
‘In the middle of the glade stood an imposing tree, its swell of foliage broad and dense, reaching close to the ground. On the far side, however…it was blighted and grotesquely parasitized. Its foliage was brown and rotting, and great ropes of creeper and sucking plant parasites like a net of tendrils…at times the tree quivered and great ripples of writing activity coursed down the sucker net, back to the tree line…The very ground itself was a mess of roots and bindweed, and strange sticky protusions that reached inches into the air and waved, as if searching for prey…’
As the beam touches you, it has a near instant effect, quickly drawing your thoughts out through the window and filling you with a desire to be out there, on the other side of the glass, walking in the sunlight, exploring the city streets, or escaping over the horizon, (I like to think of this particular effect as a positive variety of Corpse-light or Willow-the-wisp, but without the danger of being drawn into some terrible dark and boggy end).
At the inaugural Balham Literary Festival, a gathering of Nature Writers, Landscape Writers and Writer writers came together to discuss the state of the natural world. Here’s my report on what I saw and heard.
It’s dark. It’s raining. January is upon us and the season of reflection, projection and resolve is underway. For voracious readers, this means that the perennial question: what to read next will be nagging at their shoulders more urgently than ever.
This post originally began as a bit of a rant. Fed up with the latest salvos in yet another round of click-baiting polemic about ‘New Nature Writing’, I launched into an aggrieved fan-boy defence of certain ‘nature’ writers.
Since then I’ve occasionally added new links and info to the post, in an attempt to expand its terms of reference and offer some useful resources for anyone else engaged in the debate. I still maintain as I said in the original version: “Let’s not have a Nature Writing of Roundheads and Cavaliers. I’d rather have a mix of scientists who feel and poets and artists who protest, and use evidence and le mot juste. There will always, always be room on my shelves for books by scientists and poets, rationalists and dreamers – as often as possible butted right up against each other.”
I was recently nominated by a friend on Facebook to post a list of the 10 books that had made the most impact on me. It was a lot harder than I thought and I’ve had to miss out some real favourites. I could have written ten lists, let alone ten titles, featuring almost entirely…
I must admit that when I first heard about the campaign to make London the world’s first National Park City, I thought it was a joke.
And yet the more I thought about it, the more interesting the concept became.