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Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Tim Robinson , John Elder
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.67
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Book Description

19 May 2009 New York Review Books Classics
Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran is one of the most striking and original literary undertakings of our time. Robinson’s ambition is to find out both what it is to know a landscape, know it as extensively and intimately as possible, and what it takes to make that knowledge, the sense of the landscape itself, come alive in writing. It is a project that draws on the legacies of Thoreau and Joyce, to which Robinson brings his own polymathic gifts as cartographer, mathematician, historian, and, above all, shaper of words.

In Pilgrimage Robinson walked the entire coast of Airann, largest of the Aran islands. In Labyrinth he turns in to the island’s interior. These two books—parts of an inseparable whole that can, for all that, be read quite separately from each other—constitute a vast polyphonic composition, at once encyclopedic and lyrical, scientific and surprisingly personal. Exploring the illimitable complexity and bounty contained in the seemingly limited confines of a single island, Robinson invites us to look without and within and to see the wonder of the world.

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Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (New York Review Books Classics) + Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage + Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom
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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books (19 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173145
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 12.3 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 499,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Tim Robinson was born in 1935 and brought up in Yorkshire, England. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and worked as a teacher and artist in Istanbul, Vienna, and London. In 1972 he moved to the Aran Islands to write and make maps. He now lives in Roundstone, County Galway. Among his books are Setting Foot on the Shores of Connemara and Other Writings (1996), My Time in Space (2001), Tales and Imaginings (2002), and two volumes of a projected trilogy, Connemara: Listening to the Wind (2006) and Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness (2008). His Folding Landscape Project, which won a major European Conservation Award in 1987, has produced radically new maps of the Burren in County Clare, the Aran Islands, and Connemara.

John Elder lives in Vermont, where he teaches at Middlebury College and operates a sugar bush with his family. His books include Reading the Mountains of Home and The Frog Run.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slowly unfolding topography 3 Mar 2002
By p0km
Format:Paperback
Anyone who appreciates the the slow topographic unfolding of place (in particular, the Aran Islands) through history, literature, myth, botany, geology, language will find their time well-spent in the company of this wonderfully dense and thoughtful exploration.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Tim Robinson first moved to Aran, an island 8 miles long and 2 miles wide, located just off the west coast of Ireland, near Galway Bay, in 1972. He wrote his first book on the island, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage which recounts his walk around the island's perimeter, with, for sure, plenty of diversions. I have previously reviewed "Pilgrimage" at Amazon, and said, in part that: "He ranges over disciplines as varied as cosmology, geology, botany, sociology, history, linguists, economics, anthropology and literature." At first glance, one would believe that one book on such a small island would be sufficient. But no, Robinson has so much more to say in "Labyrinth," as he examines the island's interior. One aspect is the subject sentence, for he is documenting a vanishing way of life. Elegies unawares relates to his description of Evelyn's shop, the last one on the island, and he notes that he no sooner described it than she retired, and the last shop closed.

"Bad reviews" can often provide the motivation for reading a book, even more than good ones. Robinson includes a bad review of "Pilgrimage" in "Labyrinth," which is written from the point of view of some impossible academic twit, who objects to Robinson's "polymath" generalist approach to knowledge, as opposed to the "rigors" of narrow specialization. The review reeks of condescension: "Such failings are only to be expected; a multidisciplinary study demands the modesty of teamwork, and the best that can be said of Robinson's attempts is that he manages to fall between more professorial chairs than most amateurs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book 16 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
10 stars emerging in the landscape
humble and profound view of the insight of a popular island.
history, you can travel in your armchair
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a topological delight 28 Jun 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
this wonderfully rich book and its companion volume (Pilgrimage) densely cover so many fascinating aspects of the aran islands with a sensitive and philosophical approach, from it's geology and botany to its architecture, mythology, history and folklore.
Highly recommended for those who savor reading!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Too often, in writing of Aran, I am writing elegies unawares." 14 Sep 2009
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tim Robinson first moved to Aran, an island 8 miles long and 2 miles wide, located just off the west coast of Ireland, near Galway Bay, in 1972. He wrote his first book on the island, "Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage," which recounts his walk around the island's perimeter, with, for sure, plenty of diversions. I have previously reviewed "Pilgrimage" at Amazon, and said, in part that: "He ranges over disciplines as varied as cosmology, geology, botany, sociology, history, linguists, economics, anthropology and literature." At first glance, one would believe that one book on such a small island would be sufficient. But no, Robinson has so much more to say in "Labyrinth," as he examines the island's interior. One aspect is the subject sentence, for he is documenting a vanishing way of life. Elegies unawares relates to his description of Evelyn's shop, the last one on the island, and he notes that he no sooner described it than she retired, and the last shop closed.

"Bad reviews" can often provide the motivation for reading a book, even more than good ones. Robinson includes a bad review of "Pilgrimage" in "Labyrinth," which is written from the point of view of some impossible academic twit, who objects to Robinson's "polymath" generalist approach to knowledge, as opposed to the "rigors" of narrow specialization. The review reeks of condescension: "Such failings are only to be expected; a multidisciplinary study demands the modesty of teamwork, and the best that can be said of Robinson's attempts is that he manages to fall between more professorial chairs than most amateurs." Or, "Striding roughshod over the bounds of specialisms and genres, it seems to imply that some overarching meaning of it all is going to be revealed... Robinson ends up being nothing in particular." Of course, one assumes that the review is not apocryphal, but even if it is, Robinson captures the essence of the academic specialists proudly defensive of their turf against the generalist.

Robinson "nailed" the tourist also, of a particular nationality, who came to the island, and said: "We would like to see something, if there is anything to be seen!" Robinson retorts: "That what was to be seen was exactly this grudging parceling-out of barrenness, was more than I could explain."

As in "Pilgrimage," Robinson's prose and insights continue to dazzle. Consider: "Time, in such places as London, is a disease of the wristbone; one see sufferers glance anxiously at the glittering lump. I had come to Aran to escape the infection, and bitterly resented its outbreak here." Or: "The sun, on a rococo stage of lavishly gilded cirrus, was retiring with the bravura of a diva well practiced in farewell performances." And then he goes on to give a concise and accurate description of "the green flash" at sunset. Or: "If one waits by the well until the turbidity of the mind settles, then the scratching of a bramble stirred across the rock gives one ground to stand on..."

Robinson concludes the book on a typically strong, yet self-deprecating note: "The virtue of reality is that no understanding is equal to it; no walk, however labyrinthine, wears out the stone... Perhaps when I open it (his book) in seven year's tome it will tell me what I had hoped to learn by writing it, how to match one's step to the pitch and roll of this cracked stone boat of a cosmos; but for the time being I cannot read it."

Robinson has written another masterpiece. Kudos to the New York Review Books Classics for re-issuing it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Robinson Book is a Winner 12 Nov 2013
By Barbara Vasbinder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Robinson is a superior writer who has produced a special look at a special place. "As a cartographer he is well qualified to be a looker and observer.
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