Memoir, place and empathy.
I very much looked forward to reading the late Barry Lopez’s final book, having belatedly got round to reading his wonderful Arctic Dreams. Horizon isn’t as good as its predecessor, but this is hardly surprising, as very few books are. It’s still a fantastic read.
In Horizon, Lopez writes at length about a small number of places that meant a lot to him over the years. He sensibly tends to merge accounts of different visits to the same place, as if they were all part of a single trip. On the whole, this works very well, although the early section on Cape Foulweather seems rather fragmented, chopping and changing between subjects. This is far less noticeable in the rest of the book.
Lopez’s trips range from Skraeling Island in northern Canada to the South Pole, from the Galápagos Islands to the Great Rift Valley, and from the Oregon coast to Botany Bay. A key message of this book is that different cultures bring different perspectives, and we ignore them at our peril. Lopez also brilliantly describes how indigenous peoples pay attention to the natural world in different ways to how westerners do. In passing, Lopez also provides some fascinating history lessons about, among other topics, Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, human origins, and polar exploration. He also occasionally strays briefly into some dodgy evolutionary psychology—although all evolutionary psychology should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, as far as this sceptic is concerned.
A couple of minor misgivings aside, Horizon is an excellent read.