words and pictures by charles rangeley-wilson

Vertigo’s Reader in the Rucksack and Some Landscapes

To my delight Silt Road has received a generous mention on two of my favourite blogs. Okay, so I cold-called their authors, but Terry and Andrew were at liberty to start fires or prop doors open with the review copies I sent them.

Terry authors a fascinating blog entitled Vertigo, inspired at its origination by the works of WG Sebald, but now an eclectic overview of swathes of interesting literature, with a particular interest in novels with embedded photographs. Vertigo has been an inspiration for my reading list for a year or two now and is a great source of information on events. All I can say I have done in return is remind Terry, when commenting on his list of favourite books, of one of the greatest books of all, Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. Keen fans of Hamsun, if they ever read Silt Road, may spot that my first and last paragraphs pay a nod of homage to the first and last of Hunger.

You can read Terry’s review here. And if you are interested in Sebald or works of literature and photographic art, I recommend you follow the blog. And thanks Terry for writing “His message is that, properly told, local history can become universal.”

Over at Some Landscapes Plinius writes about landscape and the arts. Again the site is engagingly wide ranging and eclectic. Quite how Plinius keeps up the breadth and depth of content I don’t know. As Plinius says of his site: ‘It highlights ways in which landscape has been evoked, depicted or transformed in painting, photography, literature, music and film.’ Recent posts include landscape photographs digitally altered to incorporate financial charts (I love explorations of fractals like this) and Barocci’s unsung nature studies, a few of which are on display at the current exhibition in London. In sending Plinius a copy I hoped he might be interested in the way I use Silt Road to explore the threads of dependence that link landscape and human history and the idea I explore that at some point in history – and I believe it was at that moment when Enlightenment turned to Romanticism at the turn of the Industrial Revolution (Romanticism being, among other things, a reaction to those Satanic mills) – we abandoned the soft, understated beauties of tertiary landscapes and looked instead ‘for paradise in a more igneous landscape’. A turning away that made it easier to bury a river.

Interestingly, there is also a posting on Some Landscapes of a new exhibition entitled Silt, though nothing to do with my book. This is the silt from Robert Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways, traversed in his walk across the shimmering sands of the Broomway, the deadliest pathway in Britain. The photographs are by David Quentin, taken on a Leica and printed in black and white. The exhibition, which I visited yesterday, takes you on a shorter and safer version of the same walk around five walls across two rooms. The images of empty horizons or dizzying reflections, and sometimes of Macfarlane in tweed jacket and rolled up trousers, are interspersed with text from the book. And though I wasn’t offered the soundtrack accompaniment, apparently there is one: ‘Silt’ by The Pale Horse.

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