Friday, May 27, 2016

Slightly Foxed 50

“We had walked the white sands of Luskentyre in a wild wind that left grains in our hair and salt on our lips. The shadows of clouds skimmed across the face of Taransay, indigo over the water. Somebody had scuffed the word ‘Scotland’ with their shoe on the shore. We added ‘Atlantis’, with an arrow pointing west.”

This is the beginning of ‘The Islands Beyond’, my essay on the books of Robert Atkinson, just published in the Summer 2016 issue, number 50, of Slightly Foxed, the ‘Real Reader’s Quarterly’.

I discovered his Island Going while on a visit to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides last year, and at once knew that here was a natural writer. The book is about expeditions that he and a friend, floppy-haired, pipe-smoking John Ainsley, made to remote islands in search of ‘Leach’s Fork-Tailed Petrel’ in the Nineteen Thirties.

But it isn’t simply a birdwatching book. It’s also about the sea, about isolated communities, friendship, and the zest in life of the two adventurous youths. It’s about determination, curiosity, hardship, and a humane interest in everything around us. Even if the avian world holds little interest for you, the book is worth reading for the graceful prose, the sheer gusto, and the fine company it offers.

This issue of Slightly Foxed also includes fifteen other essays by readers writing about books they’ve enjoyed: “books that are no longer new and fashionable but have lasting appeal.”

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