The cover of The Marshes, the recent Tartaruga publication by Samuel Wright and Josh Lustig, features a stark monochrome print of a log. or tree stump, folding over the spine of the book, perhaps not immediately intelligible but unmistakeable once seen. It almost appears as a map, radial lines spoking outwards.
'So many places to sit here. It's nature, but with seats. Sometimes they're only logs, but the slick damp of them, the patted down rot, tells me they're seats. Some are proper benches, but sitting on the benches is like watching animals in the zoo through glass. Their eyes look dull through the scratches. On logs and stones you're in it. Nature wraps around you, seeps through your trousers.'
These are the opening lines to the first separate story that you encounter in The Marshes, if starting from the beginning at least. These inset sections are not ordered or chronological, but are intended more as forking paths, to be encountered by the reader as they find their way through, charting their own route.
Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places, The Old Ways) is a writer who explores the idea of how we understand nature, or the idea of the wild, and the journeys we take through it. He recently wrote of the The Marshes:
'What a dark, beautifully made, intricately imagined document it is. I have read it through twice now, if it is something one reads through (rather than around, or into and out of), and I find myself no closer to comprehension, but fascinated and troubled by it. It stakes out a space. It is not easy to shake (I notice that the striking cover features, in fact, those artefacts - cracks - introduced into timber by too-rapid drying, which I think are known as 'shakes').'
An artefact is something man-made, or 'given shape by man' - not something you might expect to encounter in a log. But the very idea of nature is an ambiguous one, and this is the nature we find in The Marshes:
Robert told me it was nature, but I don't know where he got that from. He said nature was wild. I said, what was wilder than a gang-fuck behind a bush.
Alongside this praise from Robert Macfarlane, The Marshes also recently caught the attention of David Collard (TLS), who describes it is as 'a spell-binding short story that strikes me as a dark, latter-day equivalent to Joyce's ['An Encounter']... superb typesetting, haunting images and elaborate inserts combine to make this a very collectible first edition.'
To read his full post, head to: http://davidjcollard.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/samuel-wright-josh-lustig-marshes.html
The Marshes is also now available via the excellent Antenne Books, who will be making the book available in Europe.