Idea of North

Idea of North

by Peter Davidson
     
 

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An exploration of how 'north' has been represented in art and literature.

Overview

An exploration of how 'north' has been represented in art and literature.

Editorial Reviews

Scotland on Sunday - Richard Price
"What is the North? Although it’s almost always that bit further from wherever you happen to be, Peter Davidson’s new study manages to pin down its elusive cultural quality for long enough to offer new insights and lyrical evocations."
Aberdeen Evening Express
"A truly stunning assessment of the concept of 'north' in literature, legend, history and the psyche of "Northern" people. Why do some places feel 'northern'? Peter Davidson writes with an incredible sense of place in the North-east of Scotland."
Times Literary Supplement - Tom Shippey
"An interesting meditation."
The Observer - Jane Perry
"The idea of north clearly inspires strong passion in Davidson, who never lets his learning cloud his enthusiasm for this wide and protean subject and his writing shares the awe of the poets who preceded him on this journey."
The Glasgow Herald - Melanie Reid
"this delightful, original work could only spring from someone who nurtures within a a strong sense of what he writes . . . an esoteric but important gem; original treasure from the north . . . The spiritual equivalent of a large slice of chocolate cake: unexpected, satiating, fulfilling. Suddenly, those cold, high places don't seem so lonely after all."
The Scotsman - Tom Adair
"Davidson's style . . . achieves a lyrical elegance of phrase. . . . he achieves a marvel of descriptiveness that is moving as well as expressive of something irreducibly 'north', yet universal."
The Independent - Christina Hardyment
"Besides being a discriminating critic, Davidson has an arrestingly personal voice . . . The Idea of North is one of those books that have you making a long list of references you want to follow."
Ruminator
"The charm of the book is its exhaustiveness, zooming into a variety of touchstones to show how they've influenced global culture in sly, often surprising ways. . . . The Idea of North is an exhausting book, but in the best sort of way. Davidson tackles so many different ideas about north-ness, both sympathetic and contradictory, that the writing accrues meaning and value as it goes along. . . . Davidson's north is an enormous challenging land: humbling, shifting, austere, empty, fragile, desolate, desolating, marginal, authentic—a place, as Davidson perfectly puts it, forever suffused with 'absolute, difficult beauty.'"

The Guardian
"Davidson is as interesting writing about snow sculptures and 17th-century paintings of the Arctic as he is about Auden, and his reading of the imaginary land of Zembla in Nabokov's Pale Fire as an enternal, symbolic north is highly evocative...a lovely book"

London Review of Books
"The nearer he gets to the North of England and Scotland the more deeply felt his writing becomes. . . . Marvellously sensitive."

Discover - Verlyn Klinkenborg
"This is a book about poetry, myth, and art, and the myriad ways in which artists, poets, and explorers have filtered the north's stark natural splendor through their imaginations. . . . Davidson has compiled an extraordinary catalog of the shapes the north has taken in the minds of humans. . . . A work of genuine erudition, guiding readers northward out of their home ground and into unknown territory."
Times Higher Education Supplement - Max Jones
"Provocative. . . . Davidson's evocative prose and sensitive analyses of an impressive range of sources heighten the reader's appreciation of the rich complexity of humanity's imagined Norths."
Guardian

“[The north] is roamed in fascinating, suggestive fashion. . . . Davidson is as interested in writing about snow sculptures and seventeenth-century paintings of the arctic as he is about Auden, and his reading of the imaginary land of Zembla in Nabokov’s Pale Fire as an eternal, symbolic north is highly evocative . . . [a] lovely book.”
Observer

“From the Old Norse sagas to the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, from the films of Bergman to the paintings of Eric Ravilious, from Nabakov’s Zembla to Simon Armitage’s Yorkshire, [Davidson] finds that the north is a breeding ground for ghosts, a place of exile and punishment, the antithesis of the human. Yet its bleak landscapes have inspired poetry of great beauty: ice, crystal, diamond, and glass all blur in recurring images. . . . Davidson never lets his learning cloud his enthusiasm for this wide and protean subject and his writing shares the awe of the poets who preceded him on this journey.”
Independent

“Beside being a discriminating critic, Davidson has an arrestingly personal voice. . . . The Idea of North is one of those books that have you making a long list of references you want to follow.”
Discover

“This is a book about poetry, myth, and art, and the myriad ways in which artists, poets, and explorers have filtered the north’s stark natural splendor through their imaginations. . . . Davidson has compiled an extraordinary catalog of the shapes the north has taken in the minds of humans . . . a work of genuine erudition, guiding readers northward out of their home ground and into unknown territory.”
Ruminator Review

“There are indeed a lot of norths to cover, and the charm of the book is it exhaustiveness, zooming into a variety of touchstones to show how they’ve influenced global culture in sly, often surprising ways . . . Davidson’s north is an enormous, challenging land: humbling, shifting, austere, empty, fragile, desolate, desolating, marginal, authentic—a place, as Davidson perfectly puts it, forever suffused with ‘absolute, difficult beauty.”
Scotsman

“Mesmerising cultural history . . . Davidson’s style achieves a lyric expression of phrase. In several passages of personal recollection . . . he achieves a marvel of descriptiveness that is moving as well as expressive.”
Herald (Glasgow)

“[A] delightful work . . . beautifully written . . . an esoteric but important gem; original treasure from the north.”
Times Literary Supplement

“An interesting meditation.”
Times Higher Education Supplement

“Provocative . . . Davidson’s evocative prose and sensitive analyses of an impressive range of sources heighten the reader’s appreciation of the rich complexity of humanity’s imagined Norths.”
Scottish Review of Books

“A masterpiece . . . The Idea of North reminded me of Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory in taking a vast and shifting subject and reducing it to clarity, radically changing the way we look at a history. . . . It is hard to imagine writing a better book within the terms Davidson has set for himself . . . beyond being merely clever or wise: a beautiful book. He ends with a magnificent couple of pages entitled ‘Keeping the Twilight,’ a description, from his study, of the fading hours of the northern winter day. His last two sentences are perfect abstract expressionist description of North.”
Scotland on Sunday

“[A] gifted prose writer.”
Scottish Sunday Herald

“A masterpice. . . . It's the kind of book which provokes the gasp of recognition at concepts one has often groped for but never managed to articulate.”
Tablet

“This book is not just about the north; it is a plea for the north, a moving description of what it has given and still offers us.”
author of Weatherland Alexandra Harris

“One of the most beautiful books I’ve read . . . Davidson’s taste is both baroque and ascetic; his prose is correspondingly extravagant and refined. This is cultural history at its very best, unfolding new maps of imagination.”
Scottish Sunday Herald - Duncan Rice

"A masterpice. . . . It's the kind of book which provokes the gasp of recognition at concepts one has often groped for but never managed to articulate."
The Tablet - Rosalie Osmond

"This book is not just about the north; it is a plea for the north, a moving description of what it has given and still offers us."
Alexandra Harris

“One of the most beautiful books I’ve read . . . Davidson’s taste is both baroque and ascetic; his prose is correspondingly extravagant and refined. This is cultural history at its very best, unfolding new maps of imagination.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781861895639
Publisher:
Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date:
06/16/2011
Series:
Topographics
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Peter Davidson is Fellow of Campion Hall at the University of Oxford. He is the author of a book of essays about northern culture, Distance and Memory, a collection of verse, The Palace of Oblivion, and a book about twilight, The Last of the Light, the latter published by Reaktion Books.

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