Pilgrimpace's Blog

pricking the balloon

It’s very important to be able to laugh at ourselves.

The inimitable John Crace gave me the chance to do this with his Digested Read of Robert MacFarlane’s new book Landmarks in The Guardian.  You can read it here.  It’s extremely funny.

I like Macfarlane.  He’s a fine writer, he helps me look at nature and my environment more deeply.  He inspires me.  But it’s good to critique, and if this can be done humorously, more the better.  What critical questions do we need to ask about any authors, especially the ones we admire?  What bits of criticism don’t we agree with? (for example, I don’t think ‘Macfarlish’ is quite fair – his introducing us to the authors who inspire us is for me a real service).  What hits home that we’d rather didn’t?

It is also good to read fine writers like Katherine Norbury, Helen Macdonald, Esther Woolfson and Kathleen Norris against the male canon of the New Nature Writing.

That said, I’m looking forward to reading Landmarks at some point soon.  I hope it’s as good as The Old Ways.


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Hi Andy –

Hope the two of you are in equilibrium with life and health now, and your daughter’s thriving (mine’s returning from ten weeks in Burkina Faso on Saturday, and already has a ticket to jet of to Thailand and beyond at the end of April – which scares me!).

On the subject of digested reads, I hope you know these limericks by Wendy Cope on The Waste Land, which I think add something to the original. (Sending them is the kind of breach of copyright she hates , so I wouldn’t dare post them on your blog!) I was inspired by her to do something similar with Little Gidding (a poem I know by heart).

All the best


*Waste Land Limericks* /copyright Wendy Cope/

*I* In April one seldom feels cheerful; Dry stones, sun and dust make me feel fearful; Clairvoyants distress me, Commuters depress me – Met Stetson and gave him an earful.

*II* She sat on a mighty fine chair, Sparks flew as she tidied her hair; She asks many questions, I make few suggestions – Bad as Albert and Lil – what a pair!

*III* The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep; Tiresias fancies a peep – A typist is laid, A record is played – Wei la la. After this it gets deep.

*IV* A Phoenician called Phlebas forgot About birds and his business – the lot, Which is no surprise, Since he met his demise And been left in the ocean to rot.

*V* No water. Dry rocks and dry throats, Then thunder, a shower of quotes From the Sanskrit and Dante. Da. Damyata. Shantih. I hope you make sense of the notes.

(from her collection /Sipping Cocoa with Kingsley Amis/)

Comment by Chris Fewings

Thanks Chris. I didn’t know those – wonderful. Would love to read your fifth quartet.

Bharti is well on the road to recovery thanks. Meenakshi is enjoying Cambodia. Hard, challenging work but it is going well. What’s your daughter doing in Thailand? See you soon

Comment by pilgrimpace

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