It occurred to me as I headed through the outer reaches of Karori, that when you are looking for silence, you notice sounds. At first it was the sleepy suburban sounds of a hot, still day – a distant radio, children shouting, the thrum of a sparrow’s wings as it flew across my path, cars approaching and fading away, and the steady hum of a electricity sub-station. The cicadas were waking from their long underground sleep, and making their first tentative whirrs and chirps in the trees. Walking up Wright’s Hill, above the drone of insects, I heard wings flapping in foliage, blackbirds rustling among the leaves, a loose stone skittering down the path where I had dislodged it.

It took three flights over three days for Fiona Currie to make her way to Tuktut Nogait National Park, 170 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.

In a couple of months, the Ottawa resident will be able to get there virtually with the click of a mouse or tap of a street, via Google Maps.

(via Arctic Issues)

I can find these same hues at my home, where spring wildflowers are rioting this afternoon, where tree frogs croak at dusk, and where from the kitchen I’ve watched bobcat, mink, and others pass on their indecipherable errands. So the question arises: Why make this effort to hike the French Pete trail, which this afternoon so bewitches me? It’s because even in my home forest, only lightly disturbed by man, I cannot feel as sharply, mile after mile, the intensity of untrammeled, the extent of undeveloped, the amplitude of natural, the starkness of solitude, the classic goals of wilderness management. On this trail, I feel more acutely the defeat of my culture’s manic appetite for raw materials, its yearning for profit, its impatient refutation of numinous life outside the human. It’s here that I feel, instantly and relentlessly, the uncomplicated air pushing against my skin, and know, as the late poet John Haines once wrote, that we are “the guests of a barely understandable host.”

A corresponding mix of ingrained social awareness, optimistic future-thinking, a fervent love for nature, and a large dose of magic is reflected in Finnish literature and in this small sampling from Finland’s contemporary literary scene. The recent Finnish writing in this issue encompasses a wide range of styles and themes, from works in the Nordic realist tradition to personal and confessional stories to Finland’s own varied and ineffable version of Weird fiction. Much of it is also funny, a characteristic of Finnish writing from the beginnings of its literature in the nineteenth century, whose authors, as well as their contemporary counterparts, seem to have a peculiar ability to make you laugh and break your heart simultaneously.

Pearson Sound, “Blanked”

Robert Walser’s work is defined by the action of walking. A walk is an attempt to remain upright while continually moving forward. So is an essay. This essay proposes to take two large steps (made up of many smaller steps). It will attempt to define the concepts behind walking in Walser’s work, and then show the where and how of those concepts in several examples of Walser’s writing. It will attempt to remain upright. It will attempt to move forward. It may stride. It may tiptoe. It may circle back or zig-zag. It may even lose its balance. It will attempt to catch itself.

theartofgooglebooks:

Map left folded.
From Water Supply Paper (1896). Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized April 28, 2009.

theartofgooglebooks:

Map left folded.

From Water Supply Paper (1896). Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized April 28, 2009.

This may be the funniest book I’ve ever read; I certainly can’t think of another that had me stopping so often to laugh. It’s a catalog of narrator Francis Plug’s attendance at readings and lectures by Booker Prize winners, and those invariably wine-soaked misadventures are absurd and hilarious. But the novel is much more than “just” funny as it punctures the bubbles of pretension and illusion that insulate the cult of the “literary author” (the chapters recounting Francis’ visit to the Hay festival do this with particular verve). Francis’ behavior, while shocking, is also the kind of thing we used to expect from literary people, from writers and would be writers, and the gap between the placid gentility of the events he attends and the wild (Wilde, even) interruption he repeatedly brings made me wonder when literature and its celebration became so safely professionalized, and how the danger and excitement were all wrung out.

I’m not generally prone to novels about novelists and such “inside baseball” reading, funny or not, but the depth of How To Be A Public Author comes from the desperation of Francis Plug to enter into this insulated world, in all his drunken, delusional, chaotic glory. That desperation is painfully familiar to me as a someone who has himself spent years trying to break into the bubble, simultaneously mocking and daydreaming of being feted at the kinds of events Francis renders ridiculous. And that overblown, defining desire of an outsider to become an insider is likely to make any reader cringe in recognition, whether from the world of writing or elsewhere. So yes, this is a novel about a writer and familiarity with the world of readings and prizes and contemporary authors will go a long way, but I suspect this book could be just as hilarious and provocative for a reader who knew nothing about all of that.

(also posted at Goodreads)

“Disgust - that’s what drove me to blogging. Climate change, and the reluctance of governments to do anything about it; growing inequality, both in the UK and globally; the normalisation of opportunism and cynicism, and so on and so forth: where else could I express my horror at what the world was becoming? Conventional media? I’m no journalist. And I wasn’t, then, a fiction-writer. Blogging gave me a form – or rather, it gave me a chance to find a form. Blogging can be a kind of laboratory. Perhaps something the same is possible with Twitter…”