Cocker spaniel by his side, Rees wanders the marshes of Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow, avoiding his family and the pressures of life. He discovers a lost world of Victorian filter plants, ancient grazing lands, dead toy factories and tidal rivers on the edgelands of a rapidly changing city. Ghosts are his friends. As strange tales of bears, crocodiles, magic narrowboatsCocker spaniel by his side, Rees wanders the marshes of Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow, avoiding his family and the pressures of life. He discovers a lost world of Victorian filter plants, ancient grazing lands, dead toy factories and tidal rivers on the edgelands of a rapidly changing city. Ghosts are his friends. As strange tales of bears, crocodiles, magic narrowboats and apocalyptic tribes begin to manifest themselves, Rees embarks on a psychedelic journey across time and into the dark heart of London. It soon becomes clear that the very existence of this unique landscape is at threat. For on all sides of the marshland, the developers are closing in… Marshland is a deep map of the East London marshes, a blend of local history, folklore and weird fiction, where nothing is quite as it seems. This book contains striking illustrations from artist Ada Jusic....
|Title||:||Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London|
|Number of Pages||:||325 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London Reviews
It is hard to write a considered review of a book that has affected one emotionally. This book is inspiring, emotive and eye-opening.I have never been to Hackney. I fear London. There is a side of me that despises it. This is the seat of our utterly disappointing government, the home of evil bankers, vacuous celebrities and relentless musical theatre. London decides what to watch, what to visit, what is best and fashionable to wear, what to listen to, to read, to eat. It is faceless and monstrous, the twisted soul of our country.I initially approached this book with some trepidation, did I want to spend days trawling through a text that explored an area of this city? After exploring the blurb and the fantastic quote pulled from its recesses:"I had become a bit part in the dengue-fevered fantasy of a sick city."I figured that the writer could be singing from the same hymn-sheet. In many ways his book reveals an attitude far more complex than that. Whilst he despairs at the encroaching development of London into the edges of the Marshland in Hackney it is also clear that were it not for earlier developments such as the railway it would not exist. Significantly it is the meeting of these two worlds - this island of nature and the bizarre mix of architecture and industry - that creates a synergy. A little universe in which the strange will occur. A world in which the mundane and the surreal collide. This little world sticks its middle finger up at the city with such defiance that it crackles with an other-worldly energy."Wherever you've got a margin between two types of culture and two types of landscape you often get a deeper awareness of the supernatural and the spiritual." - Revd. Tony Redman - (taken from M.R.James: Ghost Writer - BBC)It is this margin that Gareth Rees explores. Like a 21st Century Kay Harker, he explores a world in which the lines between imagination and reality are continually blurred. In Masefield's "The Midnight Folk" we constantly question whether Kay is dreaming or awake and the sensation is similar here. By placing the real; the architecture, news reports and stringent historical research, alongside the unreal, we are plunged into a vortex of monsters, bears, time-slips, shamen and hallucination.The book explores the geographic reality of the Hackney Marshes, but overlaying this in soft swirls of mystical graffiti are utterly compelling tales inspired by or pulled from Mr Rees' study of the area. It appears that his study is a mix of hard graft and rambling through the Marshes with his dog Hendrix.Rees introduces us to a man who transforms into a bear, two unfortunate time-travellers and an unhappy couple who find themselves possessed and changing into the occupants of a demolished factory. We meet the occupants of a barge from London's netherworld, explore the legacy of the Olympic Village whilst visiting a mystical peddler in contraband antique books. This scratches the surface and I would urge you to seek out this book to discover more.What strikes me about this book is how it has opened my eyes to my own town. I live in Reading which like many urban sprawls contains a weird mix of old and new. It was on finishing the final chapter that I took my children out for a walk. We have been to the nature reserve in Reading but on our way there we decided to try a different route and found ourselves on an old railway line. This ran high above the water meadows. On one side the beauty of the floods were framed by pink-grey tower blocks, while on the other streams and rivers snaked through swathes of green before the drab majesty of the town dump in the distance. We discovered:dumped mattresses, ceiling fans and wheelbarrows vomited out of the backs of broken garden fencesthe remnants of an old fire on the old railway bridge, made from its tumbling bricksa lake of glass (my son's words)two rusted metal fences that framed the path creating "a gate to Narnia" (my daughter's words)It was into this margin that a deer ran across our path.We were in the town yet not in the town.We were in the country yet not in the country.I had discovered the margin between worlds.I hadn't looked for it before.
A haunted wandering in the liminal zone of the Hackney Marshes. Feel the black mud under your finger nails as you sift through wormy strata for tasty, timeless gobbets of the past present and future human experience of these edgelands. Melancholy, darkly humourous, mysterious and unsentimental: I bought this book at random at a bookfair and I'm happy that I did.Recommended.
A great book that mixes non-fiction, memoir, short stories, comics, and lots of other stuff in order to describe the Hackney Marshes. It really expanded my thinking about place writing and offered quite a few surprises, making me go: “wait, what?! You’re allowed to do that in this kind of book?!”A very worthwhile read if you’re interested in psychogeography. After reading I am especially tempted to make my own attempt at soundchronicity (a walk with music turned down low, so that it blends with the sounds of your surroundings and created new impressions).
This book, written by Gareth E. Rees and illustrated by Ada Jusic, surprised me greatly. I was initially interested in it because, on the surface, it tells stories of and about the area around the Lea basin; and I grew up a short walk from the River Lea. I was therefore looking to reminisce, perhaps to learn a little more of the area's history.However, Marshland, Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London is so much more than that.I was not prepared for its broad scope. Part memoir, part historical document, part political commentary, part strange story collection... it works on so many levels. It even has a humorous aspect, with a very funny sequence involving social media, which made me laugh out loud. Although it's all of these things and more, Rees has pulled it all together remarkably well, and it is a thoroughly satisfying read.Our protagonist wanders the Hackney marshes and the banks of the River Lea with his dog Hendrix. He reflects upon his life, the geography of the area, its history, and his own imagination. In this unique landscape he muses over the legacy of the London Olympics, the inland waterways, the disused filter beds, the fascinating story of Whipple and Hazlehurst, and much more. The reader is taken on a number of journeys where the past meets the present; and where they collide, ghosts are encountered and strangeness abounds.These ghosts initially take the form of engineers from the Victorian era, haplessly time-travelling and way out of their depth, in The Most Peculiar Vanishing of Messrs Whipple & Hazlehurst. Rees expertly uses these characters from history to highlight the changes in the area both physically and socially. In The Ghost Factory, occupants of a trendy development built on the marshes find themselves transforming into the workers from a demolished factory. Marsh Meat sees Albie meeting a bear... but does the bear meet Albie? Of particular interest to me are the ongoing sightings of creatures in and on the banks of the Lea, as these reports formed part of my own childhood. We even visit the area as post-apocalyptic landscape in Naja's Ark, a fascinating prediction of the near-future; and in Endgames, the switch to the Gregorian calendar is pondered: 'The day Parliament stole time, things began to go wrong on the marshes.'The illustrations work very well, even in the Kindle version which I purchased, adding another dimension to the book. Indeed, included is The Raving Dead, a stand-alone graphic tale involving zombies rising up from the Lea and haunting the marshes. What more could you want?Marshland will make you look at your own environment in a different light. It combines fact with fiction, history with horror, temples with time travel. Rich pickings! I enjoyed the ride and I can't wait to read more from Gareth E. Rees.
This book blends almost detached journalism, personal memoir, political commentary, post-apocalyptic horror, graphic novels, and other sources to produce a perspective on the marshes of East London that is both fantastical and believable.Rees takes as his starting point a series of walks across the marshes of Hackney, Leyton, and Walthamstow with his cocker spaniel. Beginning with minor riffs into local history and events, then moving into what might be magical realism, he starts to reveal layers of mystery and excitement just beneath these ordinary parts of London. Moving further into fantasy, he oscillates between tales of every day life and apparent pure imagination. Then undercuts the reader’s perceptions by revealing that some of the fantastical elements were drawn from news reports.Interspersed throughout the work are line drawings by Ada Jusic. Using the prose as an initial inspiration, these blur the line between illustration and interpretation, providing at turns a greater insight into events described and an alternative interpretation of them to Rees’ commentary.This intertwining of prose and picture is used to the full in The Raving Dead, which functions equally well as a stand-alone graphic novel and as one chapter of the greater whole.The shifting between ostensibly real and surely invented, with new chapters subverting or supporting others, conveys better than a dry listing of fact and experience how the marshes (and by extension anywhere) are a product of human interaction and perception: a piece of ground has financial or emotional value depending on what the viewer believes it to be; or lacks value to a viewer who only accepts objective existence as the measure of qualities.This revelation of value allows Rees to tie together different stories and themes without losing the feeling of a coherent whole: detailed political analysis of building the Olympics sits next to time-travel yarns, united by the idea that what we think we see is the equal of what is there.Rees has a definite talent for sketching character with a few quick words, making even the supporting cast immediately seem both deep and interesting. The recurring characters unfold from these short sketches into complex beings, often exposing unexpected qualities like the marshes they inhabit.Rees is also not afraid to turn this whimsical knife on himself, skilfully casting himself as a narrator who is both unreliable and informative. This talent for – almost – self-parody, combined with the clear evidence objective truth is secondary to subjective values throughout the book, makes Rees-as-participant an Everyman figure; free to be baffled, petty, joyous, or sad, without requiring the reader to accept these as a judgement either on events or the reader’s perception of them.After closing his immersive prose-scape with the libretto of an opera about Hackney, Rees puts aside Rees-as-participant and dons instead the role of Rees-as-academic, providing an appendix describing his experimental method, a bibliography, and additional reading. This provides readers, fantasists and sceptics alike, with the option to reproduce his experiences, making the book more than a modern incarnation of the dropping out and tuning in of earlier generations.I enjoyed this book immensely. I recommend it to any reader who enjoys seeing the world through others eyes, who does not require strict documented accuracy for every moment of a narrative.I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
When I was ten years old, my friend Richard and I made a raft from old oil cans and scrap wood. We wheeled it down the road to Lemsford Mill and launched it into the river Lea. Gradually we floated down the river through meadows where inquisitive cows watched our progress. We stared down into the clear water as we passed over streamers of water weed, watching sticklebacks and minnows darting along beside the raft. We passed along the edge of Welwyn Garden City and for a time ran alongside the swimming lido. This was in the time before they flooded the valley to make the boating lakes. After a while we passed under the bridge at Stanborough Lane. It was then we decided to abandon the raft. We paddled to the riverbank and jumped off into the reeds. Then, we pushed the raft back into the current. We watched as it floated off into the distance. Many years later and many miles further downstream, a man is walking his cocker spaniel on Hackney marsh. He is listening to an MP3 player. The music is something obscure that was recommended in the Wire magazine. Two hours of ambient rain noise, or some such. He stops for a while to consider a rusty oil can, that floats in a pool of stagnant water. The man has no idea that the can was once part of a child’s raft. He calls the dog and they walk on.I came across Hackneymarshman through his blog and music mixes. I was immediately interested in his writings. I was put in mind of Lyle Watson who suggests: 'that matter has the capacity to absorb emotional “fingerprints,” the mental fossils that channel echoes from the past.’ Gareth’s writing certainly manifests elements of this investiture of inanimate objects with a life beyond the normal realm. In some respects I’ve no idea whether it was the intention, but I also found the writing reminded me of Japanese Shinto texts. Shinto is a religion with a respect for nature and sacred sites. Is the marshland a sacred site? In Shinto these sites were used to worship the sun, rock formations, trees, and sounds. Gareth certainly imbues Hackney Marsh with something beyond the realm of our senses. Something almost imperceptible. A life force, that inhabits an intersection between the knowing and the unknowing. As Bob Marley says: "He who feels it knows it."So, if you are interested in spectral bears, crocodiles, Victorian filter beds, sexually alluring pylons, matchbox toys and general madness, in a factional stylee, I would heartily recommend this book.
I'm going to try to review this properly when I have a chance, but it's quite a book. Rees' cross-genre, hybrid approach of blending essays, stories, comics, and visual art (by Ada Jusic) is the perfect choice for a space that is never only one thing or another and a complicated hybrid itself. The book is smart, sometimes funny (including a magnificently delivered set piece joke about bloggers), richly descriptive, and deeply compelling. This is the kind of book I've been wanting to see more of from environmental writers, taking a place seriously in ALL its dimensions from the social to the artistic to the historical to the imaginative to the polluted.
I loved this book. It gets a little confusing at times, but once you gt the hang of the narrative, it's a pretty easy read. If you are familiar the area, you know what he is writing about, but if you aren't you can always head over, and see the novel come ti life in front of your eyes.
A perfect blend of local history and community based fiction.