There is no ‘just’ to just looking

A review of ‘Into the tangled bank’ by Lev Parikian

As a writer, I am never overly comfortable with people ‘summing up’ the books I have written.  After all that thinking, writing, editing and re-writing, it seems a little unfair. Even so, I am hoping that Lev Parikian will forgive me for summarising his book in two words:

Just Look

I do so because that is the essential message of this book. With gentle humour and self-deprecating wit the author urges us to do that.  He encourages us to look at the birds, or the flowers, or even the spider – and see what is really there.  He also uncovers the peculiar anthropomorphism of our relationship with nature, whereby we invest some species with positive characteristics -such as a ‘cheery’ robin, or others with more negative associations, such as a moth.  It takes a writer of outstanding skill and patience to make me think that a spider might be anything even close to worthy of a second look – but he has done it!

The book is somewhere between travelogue and a nature journal, with a bit of Bryson-esque humour thrown in. Its sparkling quality is its tone.  This book is not ‘preachy’ or ‘worthy’ or intense as nature writing can sometimes be.  Plunge in and let this skillful writer take you on a walk or three with him.  You won’t regret it, and you’ll probably want to go out yourself for further exploration too.

As an inveterate early-morning walker, I leave you with Lev’s description of that time of day. If poetry is the art of bending words into shapes which make us see the world differently, then he should add ‘poet’ to the list of his many skills.

‘There’s that heady feeling of being a conspirator in the hatching of a new day, the knowledge that whatever the ensuing hours may hold, I’m giving it my best shot’.

LEV

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