Issue 102 of Granta, the British “Magazine of New Writing,” features “The New Nature Writing.” Because the issue showcases Irish, British, and North American writers together, it seems like an excellent teaching tool, especially for advanced undergraduates and graduate students who–if they are American–may have the impression that American nature writers stand alone. Not only do familiar names, like Seamus Heaney and Benjamin Kunkel, appear, we also see Richard Mabey, perhaps the most important Anglophone nature writer no one writes about in the United States.There is also the unexpected treat of “Classic Combo,” by David Heatley, a short graphic story about fast food production, which seems eminently teachable.
The Editor’s Letter, by Jason Cowley, may be worth the price of the whole issue. It begins: “When I used to think of nature writing, I would picture a certain kind of man, and it would always be a man: bearded, badly dressed, ascetic, misanthropic. He would often be alone on some blasted moor, with a notebook in one hand and binoculars in the other, seeking meaning and purpose through a larger communion with nature, a loner and an outcast” (7). Part of me wants to say, You got a problem with that, buddy? before hurling imprecations at %^&#@!!! anti-misanthropic uberposh knowitalls. On the other hand, Cowley is doing us a favor by making us face the persistence of a stereotype we were hoping we’d outgrown. And he does say later that, given everything that’s happening in the world now, nature writing is “urgent, vital, and alert to the defining particulars of our time” (10).
Okay, Granta, you can stay.