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Wild: An Elemental Journey


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About the Author

Jay Griffiths was born in Manchester in 1965. She is the author of Pip Pip, Wild, A Love Letter from a Stray Moon and Kith. She won the Orion Book Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for the best new non-fiction writer in the USA. She has also been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the World Book Day award. Jay is a contributor to various publications and platforms including the Guardian, London Review of Books and the Radiolab podcast. Her memoir Tristimania will be published by Hamish Hamilton in May 2016.


Griffiths (A Sideways Look at Time), a freelance writer whose work has been seen in the London Review of Books, the Guardian, and the Ecologist (among other publications), has written an exhaustive and at times exhausting book on all things wild. She divides the text into six categories: "Earth" (jungle), "Ice" (polar regions), "Water" (sea), "Fire" (desert), "Air" (mountains), and "Mind" (internal). While her text is filled with some accounts of her worldly adventures in such regions as Amazonia, Nunavut, Indonesia, Australia, West Papua, and Mongolia, it is mostly a treatise on wilderness in general, with her take on its role in history, sociology, religion, and, yes, our human character. Although there are interesting facts-and more than a little etymology of words relating to forms of wildness-the text is also preachy, and Griffiths often comes off as pompous, self-absorbed, and pretentious. Furthermore, the book is laced with gratuitous vulgarity, which is a shame. An optional purchase.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Wild is like nothing else I've ever read: thrilling, troubling, frightening, exhilarating. Jay Griffiths' courage and energy are formidable, but so is her sheer intelligence and literary flair * Philip Pullman *
Reality is such that both language and imagination have to exaggerate in order to confront it truly. Living with such exaggeration you need a very good head for heights and a lot of bravery. In this book Jay Griffiths has both. If bravery itself could write (by definition it can't), it would write, I believe, like she does * John Berger *

In her second book (after A Sideways Look at Time) Griffiths narrates her seven-year exploration of the wildest places left on the globe-the Amazon rain forest, the Arctic and New Guinea, among others. The book is divided into five sections representing the "elements": earth, ice, water, fire and air. Her search for what remains wild is as much a linguistic and spiritual journey as it is a physical one, although she does take real risks, like drinking psychedelic ayahuasca infusions with shamans deep in the jungle. Griffiths's central thesis-that by developing and destroying our last wildernesses we are impoverishing our lives-is not an original one, but she brings fierce conviction and impressive scholarship to her work. Although Griffiths has great erudition and a real sensitivity to language, her ultraromantic perspective, in which civilization is always bad and nature always idyllic, lacks nuance. For someone so inspired by nature, Griffiths doesn't allow her observations to speak for themselves; instead, every event becomes another opportunity to condemn modern man. The lack of a narrative arc makes the book a collection of variations on a theme, and although Griffiths is a gifted writer, after 60 such essays, the mind starts to wander. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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