I’m rereading The Rings of Saturn right now as part of Robert Macfarlane’s international Twitter book club. I’ve been enjoying it so far. The book itself yields new things every time I read it, and it’s fun to see others’ thoughts each day and gain multiple perspectives. It’s forcing me to read it much slower than my normal pace and to really sit with the material.
I first read the book about three years ago while I was living in the UK. It had been recommended to me by three separate people who were totally independent of one another, so I had to check it out.
I was in a particular state of mind. I was working in London and I spent most weekends walking in the countryside with a good friend with whom I would have long philosophical conversations. I was drawn to the seaside multiple times and witnessed first-hand the desolation of so many places that had been left behind by the economy. A week before, a hurricane had swept through, causing flooding in much of the country. I was preoccupied with coastal erosion. Every day on my walk to work I would look at the ground and think that one day everything around me would sink into the ocean and be erased. Reading The Rings of Saturn felt like climbing inside the claustrophobic head of an old friend I knew intimately well.
Today I’m reading it with my poet hat on, with so much more appreciation for the craft of the book, how the individual essays continually call back to each other and Sebald’s choice of sometimes cryptic images. This time around I’m much more able to appreciate the thread of silk that weaves its way throughout the text.