Granta 102: The New Nature Writing, ed Jason Cowley
Sunday 24 August 2008
"A writer needs a strong passion to change things," asserts Roger Deakin in his "Notebooks", as he eloquently probes the poignant roots of his own fascination with trees. A sense of urgency pervades these evocative essays, stories and photographs; we must change our appreciation of the delicate environments in which we live, cease damaging and instead preserve and cultivate their beauty – which might first mean improving ourselves.
What exactly is nature and why do things function – and stop functioning – at all? One rainy day following her mother's death, Kathleen Jamie visits a pathology lab where she dissects a tumour-ridden colon while simultaneously examining the complex definition of nature. Jamie's sensuous writing thrives on powerful juxtapositions: our "intimate, inner natural world" and the outer; microscopic detail and philosophical pondering. (Jamie is one of only two female writers in the book.)
The contradictions and curiosities of human nature are set against physical nature. Paul Farley and Niall Griffiths detail their ambivalent relationship with the inner cities of their youths, as the desire to escape battles the impulse to return to the roots of who we are.
Why do some survive while others become extinct? Robert Macfarlane describes the "ghosts of nature" – a soft-shell sea turtle, the desert bighorn, the sawfish – those lacking skills exportable beyond their environment, unable to adapt. But mourning at the loss inherent in nature is balanced with awe and joy at the capacities of regeneration. The appearance of exceptionally rare, dazzlingly white egrets, surviving in a changed environment, is one of the many small but potent symbols of hope which flutter throughout the pages of this collection.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote