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Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World
     

Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World

by Kathleen Jamie
 

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Winner of the 2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the John Burroughs Association 2014 Medal for Distinguished Natural History Book

With her poet’s eye and naturalist’s affinity for wild places, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field in this enthralling collection of fourteen essays whose power derives from the

Overview

Winner of the 2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the John Burroughs Association 2014 Medal for Distinguished Natural History Book

With her poet’s eye and naturalist’s affinity for wild places, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field in this enthralling collection of fourteen essays whose power derives from the stubborn attention she pays to everything around her. Jamie roams her native Scottish “byways and hills” and sails north to encounter whalebones and icebergs. Interweaving personal history with her scrutiny of landscape, Jamie dissects whatever her gaze falls upon—from vistas of cells beneath a hospital microscope, to orcas rounding a headland, to the aurora borealis lighting up the frozen sea. Written with precision, subtlety, and wry humor, Sightlines urges us to “Keep looking. Keep looking, even when there’s nothing much to see.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This intelligent collection of 14 essays, informed by science and myth, heightened attention, and cultural dreams, is written with Scots brogue, language, and attitude that will give American readers a fresh view of nature. Annoyed by the rosy stories of sea lions and polar bears at a conference of scientists and artists, Scottish poet Jamie (The Overhaul), whose mother had recently died, wonders about the nature of nature: “Where did it reside?... What are vaccinations for, if not to make a formal disconnection from some of these wondrous other species?” Her musings take her to the Arctic to witness the aurora borealis, a pathology lab to view microscopic tumor landscapes, and to ponder time and legend through a lunar eclipse while staring out her own window. But visits to harsh Scottish island landscapes predominate, with the unsolvable mysteries of whales, endangered birds, and lost human cultures serving as recurrent themes. At one point Jamie recognizes a whale she sighted earlier at an island 180 miles and a year away: “‘Believe what you see,’ say the eye-trained naturalists. Aye, right. Most of the time you’ll sound like an idiot. But once in a blue moon you might be right. You just might be making the same journeys as these other creatures, all of us alive at the same time on the planet.” 20 b&w photos. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge, & White. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the John Burroughs Association 2014 Medal for Distinguished Natural History Book

Winner of the Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2013


Praise for Sightlines

“[Kathleen] Jamie may remind American readers of Annie Dillard for essays that explore the wilderness in detail but find power in the connections the writers make between what they observe in the wild and the way we live our daily lives. . . . The writing is exquisite.”
Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“A lyrical work of profound insight.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Award-winning Scottish poet and essayist Jamie writes of her immersions in nature and history in 14 finely tooled, scrubbed, rinsed, and polished essays. . . . So fully does she give herself over to all that she witnesses, so unexpected are her perceptions, that Jamie’s lustrous essays recharge our appreciation not only for the world’s beauty and mystery but also for the gift poetic writers such as Jamie possess for translating sensory input into gloriously calibrated, revelatory language.”
Booklist

“This intelligent collection of 14 essays, informed by science and myth, heightened attention, and cultural dreams, is written with Scots brogue, language, and attitude that will give American readers a fresh view of nature.”
Publishers Weekly

“Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines dissects the natural world with precision, humor, and love. The essays in this book not only inspire us to look more closely, but also have the power to open us up to a new kind of emotional experience of the planet."
Orion Magazine editors from the awards citation for the 2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction

“Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines, a collection of brilliant and enticing essays about natural phenomena, tingles with life. John Berger called her a “sorceress,” and so she is.”
Diana Athill, author of Somewhere Towards the End

“The dance of Jamie's words enacts the mind in motion as it moves between the shifting, shimmering processes of nature and art.”
The Guardian

“Jamie’s prose is exquisite, yet never indulgent. . . . This is a book that will stay with you, as its sights and sounds have stayed with its writer. [A] work of intense purity and quiet genius, and we’re lucky to have it.”
The Sunday Telegraph

“A haunting new collection from one of our finest nature writers . . . . Immensely beguiling. There are piquant descriptions that stop you in your tracks . . . . but the real power of the writing derives from the steady increment of detail and the honesty of her responses to the natural world.”
The Sunday Times (London)

“Her written words make readers see with a clarity bestowed by only a few most gifted writers. . . . It is not often that the prose of a poet is as powerful as her verse, but Jamie’s is. There are people uninterested in books about remote places and wild creatures; but to the rest of us [this book] will be a treasure.”
Literary Review

“There is such a precision, of both thinking and seeing, displayed in these works that you would have to be a very obtuse kind of reader not to realize that Jamie is a poet.”
The Scotsman

“At which point I put the book down again and thought: ‘I wonder if I would actually kill to be able to write, or think, like that.’ It’s like this pretty much all the way through.”
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

“This is a lovely book, full of gentle joy and anger and an almost spiritual wonder for and affinity with the natural world. It is written in crystalline language that enhances perception, and explores the essence, ultimately, of our human existence in relation to the rest of the natural world.”—Words with Jam

Further Praise for Kathleen Jamie and Her Previous Books

“A sorceress of the essay form. Never exotic, down to earth, she renders the indefinable to the reader’s ear. Hold her tangible words and they’ll take you places.”
John Berger, author of Ways ofSeeing and About Looking

"Whether she is addressing birds or rivers, or the need to accept loss or, sometimes, the desire to escape our own lives, her work is earthy and rigorous, her language at once elemental and tender."
2012 Costa Poetry Prize citation

"A book of unparalleled beauty, sharpness of observation, wit, delicacy, strength of vision and rare exactness of language."
The Daily Telegraph, on Findings

“Kathleen Jamie is a supreme listener … in the quietness of her listening, you hear her own voice: clear, subtle, respectful, and so unquenchably curious that it makes the world anew. This is as close as writing gets to a conversation with the natural world.”
Richard Mabey, on Findings

“[A] remarkable collection of essays about sites where nature and non-nature intersect. American readers can now meet a sensibility who attends to the living world, and the world as made in language, with wily intelligence.”
Boston Review, on Findings

“Whether writing about darkness and light playing in the Neolithic ruins in the Orkneys, human body parts displayed in glass jars at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons, or gardens that grace that city’s rooftops, Kathleen Jamie is a clear-eyed and lyrical witness.”
Orion magazine, on Findings

“Utterly luminous.”—The Independent, on Among Muslims

“The leading Scottish poet of her generation.”—The Sunday Times (London)
Kirkus Reviews
A Scottish poet's eloquent meditations on nature and on the art of observing the world around her "even when there's nothing much to see." In this probing collection of 14 essays, Jamie (Poetry/Univ. of Stirling; The Overhaul, 2012, etc.) turns her imaginative gaze on the natural phenomena of the many wild places to which she has traveled. She begins with a sea cruise along the fjords of Greenland and a sighting of the aurora borealis. Awed by the spectacle, Jamie writes, "if we could taste the green aurora, it would fizz on the tongue and taste like crème de menthe." Her wandering footsteps led her to remote Scottish islands in the North Atlantic, prehistoric caves in Spain and whaling museums in Norway. With the help of the scientists, surveyors and naturalists with whom she traveled, Jamie honed her sensitivity to the environment even more keenly. She learned to understand the patterns engraved in stone, earth and bone that told stories about the land and sea and the humans who lived and sailed on both. Watching other creatures, from the fragile magpie moth to the majestic killer whale, gave her glimpses into natural laws that often escaped her understanding. Not one to stand apart from what she observes, Jamie examines her own relationship to the landscapes and living things she celebrates. Her life as a writer began when, as a disaffected teenager, she joined an archaeological dig in the Scottish Highlands. Probing the past inspired her to probe beneath the surface of things with words and eventually led her to poetry. Her mother's death many years later led her to scrutinize the human landscape from behind the lens of a hospital microscope. From there, she began to understand the connections that bind the Earth and everything in it and accept her own place in "the rough tribe of the mortal." A lyrical work of profound insight.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781615191758
Publisher:
The Experiment
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

Kathleen Jamie, one of the UK's foremost poets, is the author of four books of poetry and three nonfiction titles, including this one. In January 2013, she won the Costa Book Award, and she has won numerous other prestigious poetry awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award, Forward Poetry Prize of the Year, and Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award (twice). Her essay "Pathologies" appeared in Granta's "New Nature Writing" issue. She is a professor of creative writing at the University of Stirling and lives with her family in Fife, Scotland.

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