Wild Culture Bedside Table - April 2013

Wild Culture Bedside Table - April 2013
Published: Mar 25, 2013
In the latest instalment of Bedside Table, the Wild Culture team run through what we're reading this month and why - from dazzling nature writing to a history of psychiatry.

JA Baker – The Peregrine
As writing about nature rises to increasing prominence, JA Baker becomes ever more firmly enthroned as one of the masters. From October to April, the Peregrine documents Baker’s obsessive observation of a pair of peregrines wintering near Chelmsford in Essex. Interweaving the intrinsic toughness of Old English bird-watching terminology with frequent flashes of lyrical grandeur, Baker’s prose is utterly mesmerising. “Godwit and peregrine darting, dodging; stitching land and water with flickering shuttle.” No one else comes close.

Maurizio Lazzarato – The Making of the Indebted Man
“Everyone is a ‘debtor’, accountable to and guilty before capital.” In this little essay-as-book, Paris-based sociologist and philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato analyses with clarity and nuance of thought what he sees as the increasing brutality of neoliberal ideology. Lazzarato’s argument is that we lack the theoretic tools to be able to make a proper analysis of the economy of debt, and so by drawing on Nietzsche, Marx, Deleuze and Guattari, he attempts to provide us with such tools “for the struggle to come”.

Fawzia Koofi – Letters to My Daughters
The remarkable life story of Afghan politician and human rights activist Fawzia Koofi. From the day of her birth, when Koofi’s own mother left her (the nineteenth child) to die, this is a story of survival amid desperate circumstances. The only girl in the family to attend school, Koofi worked for UNICEF after her father was murdered, before turning to politics following the fall of the Taliban in 2011. Each chapter begins with a moving letter to her two daughters: this is a harrowing but necessary work.

Mark Goodwin – Else
Ahead of featuring some of his latest sound poems at the start of April, we’re reading Mark Goodwin’s first full-length poetry collection, produced over the course of some fifteen years. Bracketed alongside the likes of Kathleen Jamie and Robert Macfarlane, Goodwin’s gusting rhythms and lithe, sinuous syntax adapt impressively to a range of ‘landscape’ subjects – from a run-down Leicestershire housing estate to an ancient stone circle on the edge of the Hebrides.

John Hopkins/Peter Neal – The Making of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
With a focus on nature and biodiversity, architects John Hopkins and Peter Neal (both of whom were at the heart of the Olympic Park project) chart the evolution of the planning, design and implementation process in painstaking detail. With a foreword by Tate Director, Sir Nicholas Serota, and glossy images throughout, this is an interesting but one-eyed view of a £9 billion taxpayer-funded mega-project. Sadly, Hopkins died in January this year, just weeks after the book was published.

Emily Darcy – Inspiration for Writers
Even (or especially) the most talented writers reach the occasional impasse, but what’s interesting about this little book – part of a larger series by Emily Darcy – is how different their various responses can be. Novelist Shalom Asch points out, sagely, that "Writing comes more easily if you have something to say"; whilst for French author Jules Renard, “writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted”. Writing is clearly a distinctly personal process, for writers as much as it is for readers.

Michel Foucault – Abnormal
Consisting of transcripts of a series of lectures given at the Collège de France between 1974 and 1975, Abnormal traces the origins of psychiatry as inextricably linked with ideas around responsibility, especially criminal responsibility, in relation to the law. Emerging as a “technique of power” with the promise of explaining apparently motiveless crimes, psychiatry “came to function as a medical science responsible for public hygiene”. A brilliant example of the great Michael Foucault at his most wide-ranging and innovative.

Image credit: Library of Virginia

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