I was asked to read a couple of chapters from the book ‘Edgelands’ and give my responses.
I couldn’t help but think that the writing was rather ‘wishy-washy’; at times reminicing about childhood memories and then suddenly emphasising the worst in humanity.
The title at least sums up the theme that runs through this narrative- barbed wire, chain and fencing all setting the scene for the effective and ineffective use against exploration.
The most interesting part for me was the question, “can disused military bases be considered edgelands?” 1 This makes up the only small section which actually deems to explore a notion outside of the writers personal experience.
I wonder though if really, this is a piece of writing that would be better titled, ‘My experience with edgelands in the 70s and 80s’. It certainly doesn’t match with my experience of these outlying areas.
I found power plants an interesting topic to talk about in relation to ‘edgelands’, particularly as I’ve never considered them to fit within the framework of what those areas should be. I don’t consider these buildings and spaces to be edgelands, rather they appear to be dropped into the landscape rather than emanating outwards.
‘Are power stations a marker of edgelands?’ 2
Well, no, I don’t think that they are. When I looked up what other people consider the definition of edgelands, they all seemed to agree:
‘the environmentalist Marion Shoard called it “edgeland”, which she defined as “the interfacial interzone between urban and rural”. The edgelands are the debatable space where city and countryside fray into one another.’ 3
‘Robert Macfarlane provided one of the best descriptions, albeit in a review of the book that was not especially sympathetic: The edgelands are the debatable space where city and countryside fray into one another.’ 4
As such, I’m not sure that this piece of writing is even about ‘edgelands’, more a love letter to cooling towers and the feeling that they can inspire. Even so, this feeling seems over-the-top yet acts as if absolute truth. The writing is very prosaic- It doesn’t feel as if there’s much importance to the points that are being made.
1 Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S. (2011) Edgelands, Journeys into England’s True Wilderness. London: Vintage Books.
2 Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S. (2011) Edgelands, Journeys into England’s True Wilderness. London: Vintage Books.
3 Robert Macfarlane. (2011). Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts – review. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/19/edgelands-farley-symmons-roberts-review. Last accessed 30/07/2016.
4 Gerry. (2013). The Edgelands: a zone of wild, mysterious beauty.Available: https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/the-edgelands-a-zone-of-wild-mysterious-beauty/. Last accessed 30/07/2016.