This is one of the most remarkable and astonishing books I’ve ever read. It’s one of those rare books that you can’t wait return to, hate putting down b/c you’re drooling with sleep and your eyes can’t focus any more, and you want to start again when you’re finished reading it. Completing Underworld comes with the rare sadness that so infrequently comes when turning the final page of a book over, and putting the book down.
MacFarlane tells a/the story of travelling under the ground beneath our feet: from the mycorhizal ‘wood-wide web’ (🤪) extending hyphae beneath the forest floor, to the unnerving catacombs beneath Paris, to tales heartbreaking (the story of Neil Moss, trapped, suffocating, dying and permanently entombed within a deep cave in England’s Peak District), to adventures in deep time, searching out the images early humans inscribed and shadow-painted on cave walls.
This is a work of deep lyrical beauty, but possessed of writing that is never strained in the way some lyrical writing does, where reality is bent to the needs of lyricism, rather than language being the servant of experience.
One to treasure, and one to savour: and one to re-read.
Like walking? Or think you should like walking? I recently published a book about the science of walking – how we do it, why we do it, where we do it, and why it’s good for us. See publisher’s site also.