We are living in the anthropocene – an epoch where everything is being determined by the activities of just one soft-skinned, warm-blooded, short-lived, pedestrian species. How best to make our way through the ruins that we have made?
This anthology of commissioned work tries to answer this as it explores new and enduring cultural landscapes, in a celebration of local distinctiveness that includes new work from some of our finest writers. We have memories of childhood homes from Adam Thorpe, Marina Warner and Sean O’Brien; we journey with John Burnside to the Arizona desert, with Hugh Brody to the Canadian Arctic; going from Tessa Hadley’s hymn to her London garden to caving in the Mendips with Sean Borodale to shell-collecting on a Suffolk beach with Julia Blackburn.
Helen Macdonald, in her remarkable piece on growing up in a 50-acre walled estate, reflects on our failed stewardship of the planet: ‘I take stock.’ she says, ‘During this sixth extinction, we who may not have time to do anything else must write now what we can, to take stock.’ This is an important, necessary book.
The Birds and the Bees series was designed for Vintage Classics by Timorous Beasties, the Scottish studio famous for their designs inspired by the natural world
Beginning in summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ending with nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, Tim Dee maps his encounters with birds over four decades of tracking them around the world. He tells of familiar but near-global birds like sparrows, starlings and ravens, and exotic species, like electrically coloured hummingbirds in California and bee-eaters in Africa. Dee restores us to the primacy of looking, and takes us outside, again and again, to marvel at what is flying above us.
In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields – walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields – the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life – looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written.
Dee’s four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields.
Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain’s very best writers about nature.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize
Tim Dee is a BBC radio producer making upwards of thirty programmes a year. His first book, The Running Sky, was published by Cape in 2009 and described his first five birdwatching decades. His latest book, Four Fields, described more deeply his ideas of the pastoral. He collaborated with the poet Simon Armitage on the anthology The Poetry of Birds.