For years now, the British writer Robert Macfarlane has been collecting place-words: terms for aspects of landscape, nature, and weather, drawn from dozens of languages and dialects of the British Isles. Read more...
For years now, the British writer Robert Macfarlane has been collecting place-words: terms for aspects of landscape, nature, and weather, drawn from dozens of languages and dialects of the British Isles. In this, his fifth book, Macfarlane brilliantly explores the linguistic and literary terrain of the British archipelago, from the Shetlands to Cornwall and from Cumbria to Suffolk, offering themed glossaries of hundreds of these rare, deeply local, poetical terms, organized by such geographical terrains as flatlands, uplands, waterlands, coastlands, woodlands, and underlands. Interspersed with this archive of place words are biographical essays in which Macfarlane writes of his favorite authors who have paid close attention to the natural world and who embody in their own work the huge richness of place language from Barry Lopez and John Muir to Nan Shepard, J. A. Baker, and Roger Deakin. Landmarks is a book about the power of language and how it can become a way to know and love landscape, from a writer acclaimed for his own precision of utterance and distinctive, lyrical voice."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Macfarlane’s (The Old Ways) beautifully written blend of nature writing and lexicon connects the work of his favorite writers to the British Isles’ natural settings and the distinctive, lyrical vocabulary used to describe them. Each chapter is devoted to a different landform (such as flatlands, coastlands, and woodlands) and followed by a glossary of relevant terminology. The featured authors include “word-hoarder” Nan Shepherd, whose book The Living Mountain has its own lengthy glossary of colorful Scots words, such as “roarie-bummlers” (fast-moving storm clouds); and “water-man” Roger Deakin, whose book Waterlog, about his experiences swimming around the United Kingdom, unearthed archaic words such as dook (a swim in open water) and tarn (an upland pool or small lake.) The sources of the words in the glossaries are as diverse as the British landscape: works by famous wordsmiths such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Clare, as well as the various cultures, regions, and languages of Great Britain. Macfarlane bemoans the gradual disappearance of these colorful descriptors from modern usage, resulting in a “blandscape” of general terms. It would be fabulous if his wish in writing this exceptional compilation—for these words to “re-wild” contemporary speech—comes true. (Aug.)