Went to an interesting event this evening at the London Review Bookshop: Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts reading from their new book Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness. Edgelands are those ignored, marginal spaces that are neither city nor countryside, neither completely wild nor completely controlled. Think gravel pits, drainage ditches, abandoned retail parks. Manmade, mostly, but often abandoned or divorced from their original intended meaning.
I’d heard mention of the book somewhere and thought it sounded interesting, but didn’t know much about it. In fact, because both writers are poets, I thought it was a collection of poems. I spent the first few minutes of the reading thinking “This isn’t very good poetry – sounds just like prose to me.” Then I realised it was prose. Interestingly, though, the prose sounds as if it has been written by poets. The language is very allusive, full of strong visual imagery and surprising words – the fish of a stagnant pond become “the loose-change colours of roach, minnows, rudd; the dun greys and mud tones and bronzings of big tench, fresh in their cauls of slime; a shoal display of perch, spiny and waspish, arranged in multitudinous dartings that mirror the starlings of the air above; and pike, the centrepiece, the familiar torpedo shape and prehistoric jaw.”
They read a whole chapter, the two authors alternating, and although it was quite a long reading I enjoyed every word of it. I enjoyed it so much that although money is tight right now I bought a hardback copy and had it signed. I hadn’t really planned to do it, but after hearing that section I just wanted to read the rest. I find the concept of edgelands quite fascinating, and the treatment of it was just right for me – they had clearly done research for the book and put some facts in there, but not in a very analytical, logical way. It was something more lyrical, and seemed appropriate for the subject matter.
The Q&A session dragged a little for me, and I would have preferred to hear more from the authors before going to questions. Towards the end I started to feel a completely irrational dislike for many of the people in the audience, although this is something which I often experience at gatherings of upper-middle-class people and which I am sure has more to do with my own issues than with the people themselves. But still it was a good event, and reminded me that I should go along to the London Review Bookshop more often. I saw in my “order history” that the last thing I went to was Nick Davies talking about Flat Earth News, which was a couple of years ago now. Must make more of an effort to leave the flat without being coerced into doing so.
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