A delightful morning, with a clear, blue sky and sharp, westerly breeze. So of course I bunked off work and took a walk on the Moor.
Up at the trig point, I could see mist rising in the valley towards Todmorden. It thickened as it was blown uphill behind Stoodley Pike monument, becoming a dense bank of fog above Cragg Vale and Blackstone Edge. Bright sunshine on one side of the Calder Valley, thick fog on the other. Local microclimates strutting their stuff.
In the evening, Jen and I drove to Farsley, a village mid-way between Bradford and Leeds, for a Caught by the River event featuring amusing observations from Huddersfield postman Kevin Boniface, a sonic slideshow from legendary sound-recordist Chris Watson, and Amy Liptrot in conversation with Kathleen Jamie.
As always with these Caught by the River events, I came away inspired, and determined to be more ambitious with my own writing. Kathleen Jamie is my favourite writer. I was encouraged to hear her say she sees the 3,000(ish)-word essay as her natural prose format, and has no desire to have narrative arcs running through her books. My sentiments exactly—even though well-meaning people keep advising me I need to have a damn narrative arc in there… Well, I don’t.
Although I know not to market it as such, my book On the Moor is simply a collection of standalone, 3,000(ish)–word essays set on the local moor. The ‘Darwin book’ I’m currently working on is simply a collection of standalone, 3,000(ish)-word, Darwin-related essays. It turns out the narrative-arc-less, 3,000(ish)-word essay is my natural format too, and I’m sticking with it!
“…wonderfully droll, witty and entertaining… At their best Carter’s moorland walks and his meandering intellectual talk are part of a single, deeply coherent enterprise: a restless inquiry into the meaning of place and the nature of self.”
—Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
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