Granta 102 - The new nature writing

The literary journal Granta is one of those glossy, handsomely done volumes I don't ever feel adequate to hold in my hands for long. If nothing else, Granta 102's take on "The new nature writing" has meant I've spent enough time with an issue that I'll have a go in future at reading Granta's contemporary fiction and feeling - maybe - that I'm not the butt of the joke. We'll see how it goes.

Worth the price of admission, absolutely: $16 is a tremendous bargain. Richard Mabey's piece on the Fortingall Yew is excellent, Matthew Power's on communal squatting in Giuliani's Bronx illuminating, Edward Platt's on bird-watching in Israel seriously eye-opening, etc.

My favourite piece is Jonathan Raban's "Second Nature: The de-landscaping of the American West," which tells the post-Contact history of much of the Northwestern plains (east of the Coast Range, where things are significantly drier), ending with an imagination of the same area after the irrigation and electrical infrastructure gives out. I imagine I'll inflict it regularly on students - look out, future students of English 478!

The best lines, though, are to be found in the entries taken from Roger Deakin's journal in the years before his death. Here's a special gem, on recalling hearing at age 17 of his father's death by heart attack on the London Tube:
That might actually have been the moment that made me a conservationist. When I was writing poems like 'Gentian' and later on fighting for Cowpasture Lane, I was wanting back what I had lost. I wanted my father back. I didn't want to lose anything more. I had lost such a big part of my life, I needed to compensate by holding on tightly to everything else. (p.242)
Honestly, you should read this issue.


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