Monday, August 27, 2007


Tim Adams at the Observer on Robert Macfarlane--hmm, this guy's books sound extremely interesting, better take a look--and his next one is going to involve retracing Sebald's East Anglian walks--but of course the book recommendation that caught my eye and had me fiendishly opening another window and getting the library call number (I am getting this ASAP!) is in the following:
Macfarlane's mentor in these nuances of 'fierce looking' was Roger Deakin, author of the marvellous swimmers' tour of Britain, Waterlog, and the recently published Wildwood; Deakin died at 63 of cancer last year and Macfarlane is one of his literary executors. For four or five years before his death the pair were rooted friends; Macfarlane was a regular visitor to Deakin's Suffolk farm, where the woods came up to the door and beyond, and Deakin would come and give the odd digressive seminar to Macfarlane's Cambridge students. Some of the wildest walks and nights under stars described in Macfarlane's book were in Deakin's company, and some of the best writing is in elegy to his friend, the great tarn-swimmer and woodsman. His voice breaks just a bit now when he talks about him, a year on: 'A lot of this book was born out of a sense of play,' he says. 'What I always found with Roger was an almost childlike sense of adventure, like something out of Just William.'
The sense of play is underrated, I feel; for me, that's the thing that keeps me bothering with all of this business, the point about play is that it is both immensely high-stakes and also very light-hearted. That's th e spirit I read and write and teach in--in fact though it will seem an incongruous word I have to say that my main association with classrooms is that they are a place where I can rather frolic!


  1. I'm glad you mention this about play, because I take literature far too seriously, which is NOT always a good thing.

    The walks and tarn-swimming also caught my eye. However, I have my doubts that competitive sports are really very playful any longer. It's in fact the reason my eldest son gave it up when he did, though he still takes great pleasure in swimming with the sharks off the Brazilian coast, for example (sigh).

  2. I think it is much easier to have the sense of play as a serious amateur than as a real pro, in whatever field--but certainly and perhaps particularly in sport. However I have also always felt that it would be rather soul-destroying to, say, have a permanent position in a major symphony orchestra...