Landmarks

Landmarks

Book - 2015
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"In this, his fifth book, Macfarlane brilliantly explores the linguistic and literary terrain of our archipelago, from the Shetlands to Cornwall, and from Cumbria to Suffolk. Landmarks is a book about the power of language - 'strong style, single words' - to shape our sense of place. It is both a field guide to the literature he loves (Nan Shepherd, Roger Deakin and many more), and a 'word-hoard', gathering an astonishing archive of place-terms from old Norse to Anglo-Romani, living Norman to Hebridean Gaelic. Over the book's course, via its chapters, its glossaries and surprise of its postscript - we come to mrealize that words, well used, are not just a means to describe landscape, but also a way to know it, and to love it. If we lose the rich vernacular lexis of these islands, developed over centuries, then we also risk impoverishing our relationship with nature and place"--Dust jacket flap.
Publisher: [London] : Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books, 2015
ISBN: 9780241146538
0241146534
Characteristics: x, 387 pages ; 24 cm

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JCLChrisK Aug 08, 2018

This book is what Macfarlane calls a "word-hoard." It is his attempt to preserve the many, particular, local words the inhabitants of the British Isles have used to name their environment. It is his attempt to preserve a deep knowing of that environment through the power of language. It is his attempt to personalize nature, to give it a face with poetry, so we might better have meaningful, tangible relationships with it.

The core of the book is a collection of glossaries of British words that have been used to describe the natural world, divided into various topics: Flatlands, Uplands, Waterlands, Coastlands, Underlands, Northlands, Edgelands, Earthlands, and Woodlands. Each is further subdivided into categories, like words for "flowing water," for "mists, fogs, shadows," for "peat, turf and earth," and so on. These lists are fascinating in and of themselves. I'm quite excited to know there is a name for something I've observed on the Kansas plains, that of "shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day" (rionnach maoim - Gaelic), for instance. They can be enough on their own.

Preceding each glossary is a related essay. The introductory ones lay forth his purpose. A final one concludes with the language of children at play in nature. The bulk are a mixture of personal experience, reflection, and analysis of other nature writers that have inspired Macfarlane's nature thoughts, language, and experiences--source material for the glossaries, if you will. It was these that I found the least enthralling aspect of the book; while glad to know of the writers and their works, I itched for the immediacy of interacting with them directly rather than channeled through Macfarlane. It was his use of language, the result of their influence, that was most fully a joy to read. Between his ability to experience the natural world and his ability to write about it, I think I want to be him.

This is a most unusual, beautiful, and extraordinary book.

w
wmcleod
Jan 29, 2018

I loved the language, etymology and stories behind how he discovered them. What a quiet trek through place and their word's placed within it.

sundanced Jul 07, 2017

A fantastic book that examines the power of language in developing an understanding and love for our natural world.

e
empbee
Sep 26, 2016

A well written book about nature, landscape, language and literature in Great Britain.
Their connection is uniquely observed.

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