Where the Wild Things Weren’t
The LRB spent the weekend at Wilderness Festival. The Talking Politics podcast was there too. On Friday, Kate Devlin, who teaches at Goldsmiths, tweeted: ‘Gotta say, calling the festival Wilderness is a bit of a misnomer. It’s essentially Borough Market in a field.’ Gavin Francis, on Sunday afternoon, talked about the body as a wild place, and what it might take to map it. He quoted some of Kathleen Jamie’s reflections on nature writing and the cult of the wild. Jamie’s account of Britain’s wildernesses, or rather its lack of them, coincides neatly(ish) with some of the best #readeverywhere entries of the weekend (our summer photo competition is back, along with a ‘sale of two cities’: subscribe to both the London Review of Books and the Paris Review for one low price until the end of August):
There’s nothing wild in this country: every square inch of it is ‘owned’, much has seen centuries of bitter dispute; the whole landscape is man-made, deforested, drained, burned for grouse moor, long cleared of its peasants
or abandoned by them. It’s turned into prairie, or designated by this or that acronym; it’s subject to planning regulations and management plans. It’s shot over by royalty,
flown over by the RAF, or trampled underfoot in the wind-farm gold-rush. Of course there are animals and birds
which look wild and free, but you may be sure they’ve been counted, ringed maybe, even radio-tagged, and all for good scientific reasons. And if we do find a Wild Place, we can prance about there knowing that no bears or wolves
will appear over the bluff, because we disposed of the top predators centuries ago, and if we do come unstuck there’s a fair chance that, like the man on Ben Nevis, we’ll get a mobile signal
and be rescued. Wild is a word like ‘soul’. Such a thing may not exist, but we want it, and we know what we mean when we talk about it.