Book - 2016
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From Robert Macfarlane, the acclaimed author of The Old Ways—a celebration of the language of landscape and the power of words to shape our sense of place. 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.-- From publishers description.
Publisher: London : Penguin Books, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780241967874
Branch Call Number: 914.10486 MACFARLANE
Characteristics: x, 434 pages : illustrations ; 20 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.

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.

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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