After some weeks of letting the ideas in this essay settle in, and not reading (until now) any of the criticism of those ideas, it is more clear to me that I mistook Franzen’s position for something familiar, even close to home. Going back through my own postings on this platform, the mistake is understandable. We have been highlighting soft and gradual and mostly (but not all, by any means) comforting approaches to thinking about climate change.
I just revisited this post, thinking that Franzen’s position is like that word I heard 5+ years ago, but Franzen is not a collapsitarian. From my poking around, it is not clear that Paul Kingsnorth is one either. In that earlier post I linked to the About section on his website and it is still as funny ever, but now this:
I am 75% English, 25% Greek Cypriot, 100% European and 0% European Union. I share 96% of my genetic material with chimpanzees and 60% with bananas. I am descended from the Viking Earls of the Orkney Isles. I live with my English-Punjabi wife and our two children in the west of Ireland, where 85% of the men are descended from eastern Mediterranean farmers.
I’m a writer. I mainly write novels, poetry and essays.
Tell me about your writing
My non-fiction takes deep dives into big questions about how we might live in a world losing its cultural and ecological bearings at a rapid rate.
My fiction is mythological, otherworldly and multilayered, and is aimed at adults with at least one underworld journey under their belts…
It is worth reading in full, to see how his views may have changed in recent years, but mainly what caught my attention is the program of courses he has created, which look worthy of promotion, especially as captured in the photos (©Natasha Lythgoe) below and at the top:
The Wyrd School is a writing school unlike any other. Founded in 2018 by Paul Kingsnorth, an award-winning novelist, poet and essayist, with two decades of writing experience, we are home to unique writing courses, talks, and other events designed to bring the human and the non-human worlds back into contact, and to help you produce writing and art from the resulting sparks.
Wyrd is an old Anglo-Saxon word, often translated as fate or destiny. The philosophy behind the Wyrd School is that the fate of all of our lives is determined by the wild, living Earth of which we are all a part, though often we forget it.
To put it another way: each of our lives is a story told by the Earth itself.
Wild book-making, cliff walks, harp recitals, carving quills from swan feathers, stories around the fire, rune-casting, writing from the perspective of stones … we build courses designed to crack you open, to release your strange, old soul. All of our courses are unique; designed by us in collaboration with artists, mythologists, craftspeople, storytellers, wilderness guides and other such reprobates.
At their heart, our courses and events offer up a radical proposition: that writing which focuses only on human concerns is art half-made. That the living world has something to say to us, and that we have often forgotten how to hear it. Our courses aim to help us all to begin listening again. Metaphorically – and sometimes literally – we will take you to the place where civilisation meets the wild wood. When we get there, we will look under the mossy rocks and behind the great tree trunks, and see what we find.
If you are a writer, we also offer a mentoring and manuscript assessment service. If your writing needs sharpening, focusing or otherwise shaking-up, we might be able to help. Find out more.
All the photographs on this website are ©Natasha Lythgoe.