Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind is a history of mankind’s fascination with mountains. It is for ‘anyone who’s ever wondered why people climb mountains’.
I bought it after hugely enjoying his The Wild Places (which is still my favourite) and there was much to like. I also feel slightly cleverer now I’ve finished, which is always a bonus. Here’s a snippet which gives you a taste of Macfarlane’s rich use of language:
To understand even a little about geology gives you special spectacles through which to see a landscape. They allow you to see back in time to worlds where rocks liquefy and seas petrify, where granite slops about like porridge, basalt bubbles like stew, and layers of limestone are folded as easily as blankets. Through the spectacles of geology, terra firma becomes terra mobilis, and we are forced to reconsider our beliefs of what is solid and what is not. Although we attribute to stone a great power to hold back time, to refuse its claims (cairns, stone tablets, monuments, statuary), this is true only in relation to our own mutability. Looked at in the context of the bigger geological picture, rock is as vulnerable to change as any other substance.
I bought my copy second hand and although it’s in pretty good nick I’d rather not send it back to Green Metropolis. Does anyone (in the UK) want it? Leave me a comment by the end of the week.
I’m off to gaze lovingly at Rosie.
More from the book I’m currently enjoying – Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places:
In so many ways, there has been a prising away of life from place, an abstraction of experience into different kinds of touchlessness. We experience, as no historical period has before, disembodiment and dematerialisation. The almost infinite connectivity of the technological world, for all the benefits that it has brought, has exacted a toll in the coin of contact. We have in many ways forgotten what the world feels like. And so new maladies of the soul have emerged, unhappinesses which are complicated products of the distance we have set between ourselves and the world.
He goes on. And so how can we save ourselves? Walk outside for ten minutes for every two hours you spend in the office, even if all you can see of nature is the sky and weeds between the cracks in the pavements. Pick up a stone from the beach and keep it on your desk. For every ten emails you write, shake someone’s hand, or touch their shoulder, or look into their eyes. Take off your socks and feel the carpet against the soles of your feet. When you’ve finished reading this, find a window. Look outside. Stay awhile.
What a gift to be able to spend the afternoon outside in the sun, reading. A gift that my work patterns are flexible enough to allow me to do this. A gift that the sun shone, after so many weeks of rain. And a gift that John Irving writes books, and that he wrote this particular book – A Widow For One Year.
I am an extremely fussy reader. I’m even more fussy when it comes to fiction – I could count the number of fiction authors I choose to read (once I’ve read one of their books) on both hands. I just don’t seem to LOVE many books of fiction. I’ve read a lot of books that are well written, and a lot of clever books with interesting plots, but that’s just not enough for me to want to spend time with them.
The writers I love – Raymond Carver, Anne Lamott, Lorrie Moore, Richard Ford – all have their flaws. Doesn’t all writing? But I love them, I love everything they’ve written, whether or not I ENJOY it. I don’t think I enjoyed Richard Ford’s last novel as much as I wanted to, but I don’t care – I still love him.
This is the way I feel about people too. There are people I love, and I might not see them any more, I might hate many things about them, but I will always love them. They’ve crossed some kind of line.
Maybe this is what turns readers into fans. I don’t know. But the writing I love has the ability to AFFECT me, just like a real person might. What a gift. Thank you Mr. Irving.