Friday, 15 April 2011

Everyday Nature Writing, or: “I have travelled a great deal in Concord County”

Here’s some notes on a book I haven’t yet read, but which I’m very much looking forward to reading. The book in question is “How to Live, A Life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell. Tom Cunliffe of A Common Reader has written about it here. In his review he point to something which is very important to me right now, but something I haven’t really found the right words for, but Tom has:
What have I learned from Montaigne?  Well perhaps it confirms my belief that the best place to learn the lessons of life is in the everyday.  There is enough material in daily “stuff” to provide a lifetime of philosophy, but few people actually reflect on the circumstances of their life and what happens to them.  I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau, another philosopher of the domestic world, who when asked if he had travelled much, replied, “I have travelled a great deal in Concord County”. 
 My Concord County: The Ogna river, Jæren

My present reading, which focuses on essayistic nature writing, preferable written in a strong personal tone, is in fact very much dealing with the everyday. Even when the writers are talking about big expedition to unexplored territories, it’s all very much about discovering one self, and the world close at hand.

(ps: I shall not make it a habit to write about books I haven’t read!) 


Tom Cunliffe said...

Thank you for your reference back to me. I don't think it was one of my best reviews but I am pleased there was something in it. I have written about books I haven't read from time to time but I don't make a habit of it. I think I must pull down my Montaigne from the shelf and have another look at it.

I think we can learn much from studying nature every day - but the speed at which life runs along makes it difficult to stop and look closely at things

Sigrun said...

Hi Tom!
Here is Solnit's comment on the point you are making about speed:
Because I do have my very strong, very left (or left of the left) politics, people might expect me to advocate for work that has calculable utility. But I think all this activism is about making the world safe for aimless meandering, for watching cloud formations and those sorts of things. I also think that in an accelerated age, just thinking and reading are already radical acts, acts of resistance to that "Go, go, go; earn, earn, earn; spend, spend, spend" kind of pressure people find themselves under.