John Burnside

Planet Song

Horizon

By

The Bodley Head 572pp £25 order from our bookshop

What makes a great travel writer is not the distance he or she covers, or the variety of mysterious and glamorous locations visited, but the quality of the pauses taken along the way. Pauses for thought, pauses to look past what is on show and, most of all, pauses to remember – with due humility – what a privilege it is to travel at all. So when Barry Lopez pauses, on a journey in some faraway, exotic-seeming place, to remark that his chief duty is to ‘carry some of this home’ and to understand that ‘what you’ve found are not your things, but our things’, he is recalling the time-honoured obligation of those who go on journeys, whether for adventure, trade or research, to bring news of the wider world to ‘people who are not able to travel to Lake Clifton’. Once, any itinerant craftsman or trader who went from village to village plying his skills was a source of news, someone whose tidings enriched the communities he touched – and this is what Lopez has done for decades, renewing our sense of the entire planet (and not just our own small circle of friends, cares and obligations) as home.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,
    • 'The wicked are truly revolting and the rage is wholly understandable' on new thrillers by John Le… ,
    • In @aaciman's sequel to 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Erotic urgency has merged with middle age’s frugality of heart', s… ,
    • 'The repression of free speech in Uganda is common. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 Press Freedom Index ranks Ugand… ,
    • RT : The Topeka School is out today! I reviewed it for and I'm psyched to see him talking at the Tate tonigh… ,