Once, someone lent me a copy of Peter Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard. And I can honestly say it’s a book that changed my life. It made me look at the world in a different way, and see it as a bit more beautiful.
“The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoilation of a continent which we once confused with progress.”
― Peter Matthiessen, Wildlife in America
Since reading that book, I’ve read others by Matthiessen. His writing is lyrical and thoughtful, and I found odd phrases that stayed with me for a long time. Birds of Heaven, his 2001 love letter to cranes is enough to make anyone want to work in bird conservation. Which is what I do, and it made me feel happy, and proud, and like I’m not doing enough.
Peter Matthiessen died on the weekend. The New York Times published a brilliant profile of him just before he died (the photo is from that piece). What a life. What a man. If you haven’t read his books – do – you won’t regret it.
Peter Matthiessen – b May 22, 1927, d April 5, 2014. One of the greats. May his work inspire many more people to think about nature and care about the world a little bit more.
In the Tube tunnel yesterday, I saw a giant poster advertising Hugh Howey’s Silo trilogy (Wool, Dust and Shift). I read these recently and thought they were great – a really interesting imagining of a dark future. Like all good sci-fi dystopian novels, they’re as much about the human condition as they are about people living underground and seeing the world through electronic screens. What I really liked about these books was their intricate imagining of everyday life for people, and the way that the reader’s viewpoint changes and develops throughout the series – at the start we are in the dark with everyone else.
I do love a bit of dystopic fiction – I think it’s my favourite genre. At what age can you introduce your kids to the idea that civilisation might end?
For anyone who hasn’t read these books yet – do. There is even a trailer! And Mr Howey has some interesting views on self-publishing. Anyone for a revolution?
So, over the weekend, I took the little kiwi to our local library. He loves the library – and it’s a great place to hang out with him. Basically, he takes books off the shelves and gets me to read them to him in series, and there is never enough time to choose any to bring home.
Anyway, this was a particularly good library visit because I managed to get myself some books – and read my first Neil Gaimans –
Coraline (also a very dark and beautiful animated film from the director of the Nightmare Before Christmas) and the Graveyard Book. Both of these books are amazing and emerged into the world long after I was a sensible age to read them. Which of course is even more the case now, but now I don’t care! The Graveyard Book is just wonderful – a brilliant imaginative world, exciting story, revenge, and narrow escapes, good and bad… it has it all. And the great thing about reading Young Adult Fiction (or kids books if you like) is that they’re short and you can romp through them in the hour when lights should really be out and you should be asleep. And if you’re a bit tired the next day, you’ll have the other mother to thank, (or Silas).
The little kiwi got his favourite Jez Alborough book – Six Little Chicks – which I absolutely adore, as well as a whole bunch of others. Perhaps more on those later.