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Edgelands: Journeys into England's True Wilderness [Hardcover]

Michael Symmons Roberts , Paul Farley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Feb 2011

Edgelands explores a wilderness that is much closer than you think: a debatable zone, neither the city nor the countryside, but a place in-between - so familiar it is never seen for looking. Passed through, negotiated, unnamed, ignored, the edgelands have become the great wild places on our doorsteps, places so difficult to acknowledge they barely exist. Edgelands forms a critique of what we value as 'wild', and allows our allotments, railways, motorways, wasteland and water a presence in the world, and a strange beauty all of their own.

Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts - both well-known poets - have lived and worked and known these places all their lives, and in Edgelands their journeying prose fuses, in the anonymous tradition, to allow this in-between world to speak up for itself. They write about mobile masts and gravel pits, business parks and landfill sites in the same way the Romantic writers forged a way of looking at an overlooked - but now familiar - landscape of hills and lakes and rivers. England, the first country to industrialise, now offers the world's most mature post-industrial terrain, and is still in a state of flux: Edgelands takes the reader on a journey through its forgotten spaces so that we can marvel at this richly mysterious, cheek-by-jowl region in our midst.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (17 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224089021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224089029
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`haunting, often inspiring book...Edgelands covers an impressive range of politics, reminiscence, investigation and rumination.' --Scotland on Sunday,

`a masterpiece of its kind'
`Even more uplifting is the chapter on weather - truly one of the most extraordinary passages of prose I have read in some time'
`This is, quite simply, beautiful, but it is also typical of a beautifully conceived work of exploration, by two emissaries to the wilderness who do the wasteland proud.'
--The Times

`a book that begs us to use our imaginations; to appreciate what we pass by every day but never really see' --Metro,

`in this marvelously quirky, fascinatingly detailed and beautifully written book the two authors fulfill their brief triumphantly' --Daily Telegraph

`this book is a delight: witty and wryly contrarian' --Guardian

`eye-opening and hugely enjoyable book ... overall this is an original, surprising and rather wonderful addition to our literature of place' --Sundat Telegraph

'Edgelands delights with its sly, impish wit and observation' --The Spectator

'This is a delightful and important book. By focusing on the fringes, on the shabby reality of suburban life, these poets remind us that there are always new myths for old, that the `edgelands' may even be our true centre.' --Country Life, John Greening

`A beautifully conceived work of exploration... Something of a masterpiece of its kind.' --The Times

`A highly inventive survey of landfill sites, wastelands, sewage plants, retail parks, golf ranges and other features of `England's true wilderness'. All this is done at a high level of linguistic resourcefulness, and the scope is impressive.' --The Financial Times

`This exhilarating book represents an attempt by two poets to do for the neglected edgelands what Coleridge and Wordsworth once did for mountains and lakes. One of the principle tasks of any writer is to make us see the everyday anew. In this marvelously quirky, fascinatingly detailed and beautifully written book the two authors fulfill this brief triumphantly.' --Daily Telegraph

`Farley and Symmons Roberts are not only a reader's tonic; they also shake up our lazy perceptions of an aspect of England. Edgelands will gain imaginative significance as a result of this gem of a book.' --The Independant

`This witty, evocative book would never wish to claim official status. Farley and Symmons Roberts can scarcely be unaware of the contradiction involved in trying to give definition to places whose character is protean and stubbornly informal, but in their own uninvited way the authors are preserving edgelands from enlistment in the great unthinking project of public "culture" that so often fences and legitimizes and empties places of meaning.' --Times Literary Supplement

`A collection of sharp-witted vignettes of the badlands, dedicated to the redemptive spirit of these maligned places... These brief essays are a pleasure to read.' --New Statesman

`Other authors will owe much to Farley and Symmons Roberts, the first bards of England's edgelands.' --The Observer

`Travelling mostly around northern England, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, both of them British poets, find unexpected pleasures: a car gradually coming into view beneath the surface of a pond, like a photograph in a developing tray; children's dens; a herd of water buffalo.' --The Economist

`This often haunting, often inspiring book... It succeeds in being something distinctive in and of itself.' --Scotland on Sunday

`However readily we might understand what the authors mean by edgelands, reading this book you quickly get the sense that you can never truly know them. They are constantly rewarded by the unexpected--the witty graffito under the bridge, the bedstead in the nettles. I wasn't far into the book before I too shared their devotion to these overlooked and somehow triumphant scraps of our overcrowded island.' --Prospect Magazine

`The wealth of observation, reflection and the physical scope of the terrain covered is genuinely impressive... Their response is generously interdisciplinary, and beckons, not least, towards the spatial arts and professions. An important benchmark of sensitive observation.' --Architects Journal

'This is a delightful and important book. By focusing on the fringes, on the shabby reality of suburban life, these poets remind us that there are always new myths for old, that the `edgelands' may even be our true centre.' --Country Life

`Few writers teach us to see the world afresh as Farley and Roberts do. They have imparted an original vision and blessed us with a beautiful book.' --Church Times

`It's a brilliant idea to give proper attention to those debatable zones, neither country nor city, which are always in flux. This is what Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts do in their thoughtful and haunting book Edgelands. You know places of this sort well, glimpsed as you drive or walk past, but how often do you read about them?' --Conde Nast Traveller

'With chapters on paths, dens, wastelands, business parks and many other topics, this book has opened my eyes to all kinds of things I might not have noticed before.' --Daily Telegraph

Book Description

A book about the blank spaces on the A-Z, the hinterlands of Britain that are not urban and not yet country: the lost, the liminal and the unloved.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new view on the Unofficial Countryside 20 April 2011
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Edgelands is about those vague and undefined places that surround our towns and cities, damaged places, changing places, burnt, bombed and abandoned places - places that we pass through when going somewhere else.

This book comes as a natural extension of "The Unofficial Countryside" by Richard Mabey - a book which is referenced early in Edgelands and one which has clearly had an influence on the thinking of the authors. But while Mabey focuses on the natural places and spaces, the two authors of Edgelands focus on human spaces and impacts. If Maybe's book is an ecology of wastelands, then this book is about the sociology or even philosophy of the same spaces.

"Edgelands" are clearly a mixture of the native and the manmade, a synthesis of the natural and the artificial, and this mixture seems to have entered the nature of the book itself.

It may be just me, but I found that the authors reached for other people words just a little too often, so that the book becomes more of a synthesis of other people thoughts rather than the notably original synthesis that Mabey managed about the same (or at least similar) ground.

Now this does not make this a poor book - far from it, but I cant give it the rave review that other people have done.

In summary - this is an interesting, very well written book about an overlooked landscape. I would recommend it to anybody who has an interest in landscape history and / or philosophy, but I am not completely convinced that the book does not say many things that have been said elsewhere.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journeys into England's True Wilderness 20 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover
In this, quite simply wonderful, book the poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts explore and reflect upon that familiar, yet often unknown terrain, between city and countryside. These are the 'Edgelands', found on the periphery of cities and larger towns; landscapes of wasteland, landfill sites, ruins, allotments and wild gardens, graffitoed road bridges, sewage plants, woodlands and unexpected paths.

Both writers, presenting a single narrative voice, capture beautifully, in elegant descriptive prose the essence of place. They are wide-ranging in their associations bringing in comments on modern culture and often introducing how other poets and writers - from Wordsworth to Seamus Heaney, have themselves encountered these places. They also introduce visual artists who have documented some aspect of 'Edgelands' territory. Other people's stories are occasionally woven in to the stories of the authors' own journeys.

I noted, from the acknowledgements, that the authors' editor at Jonathan Cape was the Poetry editor, Robin Robertson, and one can imagine the stroke of creative brilliance, on his part, in bringing together these two writers to create this book.

Here is just a taste - from the chapter on 'Ruins' of the way in which the authors put you right in a place and enable you to experience it, through your senses, for yourself:

'Pieces of broken glass click underfoot. Every few paces the floor becomes spongy with pads of mossess until eventually you're standing on a hard and level surface. The air smells cold and musty, uncirculated, tinged with motor oil, mildew, brick dust, black unguents. Somewhere high above, there's the ghost applause of a pigeon, before - a hundred yards or so in front of you - you hear the harsh metallic rattle of big shutters being rolled open'.

This is the best book I have read in 2011 so far and it may almost certainly prove to be one of my personal books of the year!
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Places where your mother told you not to go 2 May 2011
Format:Hardcover
I had some lingering doubts when 'Edgelands' was first published. Two poets trying to expose some of the wildnerness areas - and especially in the north west - that I'd come to regard as my own. Lyrical when lyricism just wasn't there or just an attempt to tart them up for wider public exposure. Rather selfish now I come to think about it - a bit like being really annoyed when somebody reveals a magically secluded and jealously guarded holiday spot.

Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts: to you I apologise. What convinced me to buy the book and to recommend it to others was your compelling reading on Radio Four's Book of the Week at the end of April. (I tuned in at 9.45 in the morning and, to the repeat at 12.30 at night when it was a delightful preface to the shipping forecast.)

In the opening chapter, the authors gave credit to where credit's due - to Richard Mabey for the originality of his work nearly 40 years ago, to Alan Berger's 'Drosscope' where the edgelands were set out in a uniquely American way, and to Marion Shoard who did what we'd all like to have done and added the word to our lexicon.

I've noticed, probably only in the last 12 months, how often real ctitics and reviewers of the arts have referred to something that's just a bit different or with a hint, perhaps, of the avant-garde as 'edgy'. Farley and Symmons Roberts have gone a lot further than that in taking us into places where we may once have hesitated to ventue. they have brought to us a new regard for often marginal areas which might have been dismissed as ugly, even threatening, wasteland.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Far from detumescent
I bought this in hardback as soon as it appeared,in 2011, having read a review in the Spectator, and was not disappointed. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sandra Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars Edgelands
What an unusual book! I was a little unsure as the idea behind this book could have failed dreadfully, but I really enjoyed it. Read more
Published 7 months ago by digit
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Took me back to a time when life seemed simpler. Written by two poets and it shows. This is no wordy academic plod but an elegantly written and thoroughly enjoyable tramp though... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Pie
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb read
Engrossing story of the forgotten wastelands I remember from childhood, with memorable word-pictures of bag-blossomed trees, silent ponds and overgrown pits and quarries....
Published 11 months ago by J. N. Hennessy
2.0 out of 5 stars A trudge
The authors are at their strongest when they align their tour with literary insights - poetry and prose - from other authors, but this doesn't occur often enough to sustain... Read more
Published 13 months ago by rayc
5.0 out of 5 stars An unseen world out there
A LOVELY BOOK THAT OPENS YOUR EYES TO AREAS OF THE LANDSCAPE THAT WE CAN SO EASILY OVERLOOK. I RECOMMEND IT.
Published 14 months ago by LizO
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Beautifully written book by two poets. It describes the landscapes at the periphery of towns where the urban meets the rural. Well worth reading.
Published 18 months ago by Half Man, Half Book
3.0 out of 5 stars Work in Progress
This reads like a work in progress: notes towards a poem that doesn't yet exist. There is no strong structure or sense of narrative. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ian Brawn
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done the Edgelands poets!
I had bought this book imagining something very different than it turned out to be; seeing the incongruous dead rabbit on the cover, I had imagined some dark and gritty expose of... Read more
Published 20 months ago by jenny g
2.0 out of 5 stars Diffuse and generalised
If you're interested in those non-places that we're supposed not to see - the bits under motorways, up alleys, beside roads, around cities - don't read this book, read Iain... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Ms. L. R. Fisher
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