Landscape, memory, walking, writing

Some recent discoveries on landscape, memory, walking and writing. For more see the writers tag.

The latest Talking walking featured Linda Cracknell, currently on R4’s Book of the week with Doubling back: ten paths trodden in memory (publisher| review):

The walks trace the contours of history, following writers, relations and retreading ways across mountains, valleys and coasts formerly trodden by drovers, saints and adventurers. Each walk is about the reaffirming of memories, beliefs and emotions, and especially of the connection that one can have with the past through particular places.

The podcast:

Our interview explores how she sets out to write a narrative of a journey on foot, what she leaves out and how she draws in the reader to the journey or story she tells.  Now living in Scotland, her surroundings offer her plenty of variety for walks, short or long, in the surrounding countryside, much of which is devoid of people since the Highland Clearances. Nature and isolation are both important elements in her writing, as are memories conjured or animated by other walks, some personal, some collective, some political.

My notes:

  • Linda takes notes in small handmade notebooks as she walks – this helps her to observe
  • there’s a relationship between notetaking qv and memory – once something is written down it is somewhere in your brain
  • she writes her notes into a journal in the evening – this is not a compelling narrative, ie it is data
  • this gradually takes on shape and structure through an iterative process of rewriting – it may become an essay, or a piece of fiction
  • it is a joy to rewrite a journey, selecting material and pulling a narrative together to make it compelling for the reader
  • Linda walks to get to know an area, setting off in every direction
  • it’s a process of discovery – go back years later and to see if you react in the same way, reacquaint yourself with a place by going back (digitally?), what’s still there; rediscovering the place and your self
  • if other people are routinely walking in an area it becomes a social act – her example: Kenya; cf dog walking
  • defamiliarise to observe afresh, eg walk slowly, at night, at a different level (eg beagle level)
  • novel: Call of the undertow about a cartographer
  • places that have echoes of other walks/routes from the past, eg drovers, pilgrims…this can be sad in areas which are now depopulated, wilderness; find traces of human remains, eg paths, buildings

Book of the week episodes:

  • Dancing, kicking up her legs – visits a hillside above Loch Ness following in the footsteps of Jessie Kesson
  • Baring our soles – walking barefoot through Kenya discovering the connection between feet and politics
  • Outlasting our tracks: in his footsteps – retraces the Alpine ascent made by her father in 1952 plus some truths about the past and her relationship with her father
  • The heaven above and the road below – a walk from her front door to the Isle of Skye uncovering memories of the past and finding inspiration for the future
  • Walking home – looks to the future walking the pilgrimage route of St Cuthbert’s Way between Scotland and England and following her own footsteps around her home town of Aberfeldy

More Linda (@LindaJCracknell):

In a similar vein, through the wonder of Guardian tags I discovered a series of three podcasts and related articles on landscape and literature from 2012:


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