The surfacing that gives the collection its title is a constellation of several meanings. This is a book full of archaeology: the revelation of the deep past in the present moment, the peeling back of layers of history to reveal the stories written into landscapes. It’s also the way that memories surface, suddenly and seemingly randomly, until more profound reflection reveals echoes and affinities between seemingly unrelated points in time. It’s this deeper logic that connects the 12 essays in the collection, so that meaning is passed like a baton from one to the next, with each essay planting the seed of the one that follows. It makes for a book whose impact is accretive and, eventually, astonishing.
Dopeworld: Adventures in Drug Lands
"To its credit, Dopeworld is nothing if not ambitious. Vorobyov states as much himself, describing it bombastically as ‘true crime, gonzo, social, historical memoir meets fucked up travel book’. That is a lot to cram in. If sometimes he drops the ball (the..."
— The Spectator
There is unity here. This is not just a collection of pieces thrown together in sufficient number to make a book. Even the one essay that does not immediately seem to have a connection to the others – a marvellous picture of a journey to the edge of Tibet at the time of the Tiananmen Square repression in Beijing – does in fact belong... One day, 5,000 years ago, before the Neolithic village was abandoned, someone crept back to leave “a small stone box tucked within a hearth, before the houses were buried completely. Of course, we open the box, hoping for a token, a keepsake, even a message of some kind, but there is nothing inside.” What will be made of what we leave, if there is anyone to receive it? This is a beautiful book, and a wise one. It invites feeling and thought.
Jamie’s writing has a deceptive simplicity: its powers are cumulative. Her way is to build impressionistic detail by recounting conversations, travels, observations of the natural world, and then carefully layer it in. It is its own kind of archaeology. Every now and then, however, she cuts through the assemblage of beautiful prose with a stinging comment: a reminder that the natural balance is out of whack, or that violence and menace can surface just as easily as venerable artefacts from the past.
The first of two splendid offerings from Sort of Books this month is a collection of enchanting writing by award-winning poet and essayist Jamie, characterised by explorations of objects and fragments which surface and reconnect us to our past, from the bones of a bear in a reindeer cave in the west of Scotland, to Jamie's own memories of her grandparents and youthful travels. There is also an extended, mesmerising account of a summer she spent in a Yupik village in Alaska, where objects spilling from the thawing tundra link its present-day people to their hunter-gatherer past.