Granta, issue 133: What Have We Done (autumn 2015)

When I was young, and just beginning to travel with them, I imagined that indigenous people saw more and heard more, that they were overall simply more aware than I was.

So begins Barry Lopez’s short essay on how to really observe, entitled “The Invitation.”

granta 133
This is only one of the fine pieces I read in Granta‘s issue 133, titled “What Have We Done.” Ann Beattie’s short fiction “Lady Neptune” was haunting and vibrant, and a collection of photographs by Helge Skodvin of taxidermists interacting with their work was weirdly intriguing. (I found Audrey Niffenegger’s introduction to those photos less dynamic.) “The Hand’s Breadth Murders,” one of the longer pieces, by Adam Nicolson and with photos by Gus Palmer, really captured my interest: it’s an investigative story about the murders in the Maramureș province of Romania over teeny-tiny parcels of land. These killings have increased dramatically since the revolution of 1989 and the land claims cases that followed. It’s a complicated story: pick up your copy of Granta 133 here to learn more.

I also enjoyed the disturbing short story “George and Elizabeth” by Ben Marcus very much – it’s left me wondering. And “Fragments” from the notebooks of Roger Deakin, introduced by Robert Macfarlane. Check out Deakin’s words on trees:

We live in symbiotic association with trees – they are an intimate part of all our lives. We eat of them, open and shut them to go in and out of our houses and bedrooms. We play cricket with them, we sail the seas with them and row boat races with them. We eat our daily bread on them, we warm ourselves before them at the hearth, we sit on them, play croquet with them, canoe rivers in them, grow runner beans up them, build sheds and shacks out of them, sit underneath their shade in summer, reading books or picnicking, read them every morning on the train to work or borrow them from the library.

In between these pieces I enjoyed are others, that you might like even better.

I knew Granta by reputation, of course, but now I’ve confirmed that this is a journal of high quality. It won’t be easy to get into, naturally: this issue includes a number of “names.” But I’ll keep reading.

Rating: 8 details.

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