Barbara Hurd, Entering the Stone

I'm tired, and I found lots of reasons to quibble with Barbara Hurd's nature-writing memoir Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark, but in the end, one test matters. I kept reading the book. I finished it quickly, but it's a thoughtful and provoking read.

Not, though, in quite the way I expected it to be. Nothing about the book (expect possibly the metaphorishness of the subtitle's second half) suggested it'd be about anything other than caves, caving, and the meaning of caves, but the key thread running through the chapters was the offstage death of the author's friend Jeanne. She only stops by once in a while, and never for long, but she's in Hurd's mind throughout this book. Entering the Stone counts as nature writing, certainly, but the memoir component is strong enough that the book falls neatly into neither genre.

My main quibble is based, I think, in the fact that I'm camping on the northern tip of Vancouver Island with members of BC's logging community. We spent five hours in a vehicle today, for example, so we could visit a staggeringly beautiful beach that's been made accessible only by Western Forest Products' decision not to deactivate a logging road, and that's been kept beautiful because of WFP's decision not to log as near the beach as they could have.

And I think they'd find Hurd's book girly and a bit precious, so much so that I don't see them ever reading the thing, so while I kept reading the book and kept thinking about its ideas, its preciousness is one thing I kept thinking about.

After all, nature writing is a secret handshake of a genre. It excludes, often deliberately, many of those people who love the places eligible to be featured in such writing, and it can even make targets out of these people. The world is a complicated place, of course, but it'd be nice if we could share our interests, no?


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