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Savage Gods

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After moving with his wife and two children to a smallholding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expects to find contentment. It is the goal he has sought — to nest, to find home — after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and author. Instead he finds that his tools as a writer are failing him, calling into question his foundational beliefs about language and setti After moving with his wife and two children to a smallholding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expects to find contentment. It is the goal he has sought — to nest, to find home — after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and author. Instead he finds that his tools as a writer are failing him, calling into question his foundational beliefs about language and setting him at odds with culture itself. Informed by his experiences with indigenous peoples, the writings of D.H. Lawrence and Annie Dillard, and the day-to-day travails of farming his own land, Savage Gods asks: what does it mean to belong? What sacrifices must be made in order to truly inhabit a life? And can words ever paint the truth of the world — or are they part of the great lie which is killing it?


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After moving with his wife and two children to a smallholding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expects to find contentment. It is the goal he has sought — to nest, to find home — after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and author. Instead he finds that his tools as a writer are failing him, calling into question his foundational beliefs about language and setti After moving with his wife and two children to a smallholding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expects to find contentment. It is the goal he has sought — to nest, to find home — after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and author. Instead he finds that his tools as a writer are failing him, calling into question his foundational beliefs about language and setting him at odds with culture itself. Informed by his experiences with indigenous peoples, the writings of D.H. Lawrence and Annie Dillard, and the day-to-day travails of farming his own land, Savage Gods asks: what does it mean to belong? What sacrifices must be made in order to truly inhabit a life? And can words ever paint the truth of the world — or are they part of the great lie which is killing it?

30 review for Savage Gods

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Kingsnorth thought having access to his own patch of land would settle his very being, give him a sense of belonging, somewhere where he could be rooted for the first time. An opportunity came to acquire a smallholding in Ireland and after a lot of thought, they grasped it. The family could begin a simpler life, growing their own food, homeschooling and become more in tune with the natural world. A place that they could call home and discover contentment for the first time in a very long time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Beth M.

    “The position I had painfully staked out in the world began to fragment. I began to fragment. I am still fragmenting, I think. Sometimes it scares me, sometimes it excites me. You have to come apart to be put back together in a different shape. You have to be reformed, or you rust up, and all your parts stop moving.” Sometimes a book finds you at exactly the right moment. The moment when you need to know that someone else has felt what you feel. That someone shares the same questions “The position I had painfully staked out in the world began to fragment. I began to fragment. I am still fragmenting, I think. Sometimes it scares me, sometimes it excites me. You have to come apart to be put back together in a different shape. You have to be reformed, or you rust up, and all your parts stop moving.” Sometimes a book finds you at exactly the right moment. The moment when you need to know that someone else has felt what you feel. That someone shares the same questions and doubts and anxieties about life. It’s funny ... I’ve had this book for a few months, intending to read it before now, but apparently it ended up in my hands exactly when I needed it. ❤️ Savage Gods, a work of nonfiction, tells the story of the author’s move with his family to Ireland, where he hopes to find a home, a greater sense of belonging. Infused with the twinge of existentialism, Kingsnorth chronicles his battle with the words which are so important, yet elude him - his “savage gods” - as he finds himself unable to write after his move. At least, not in the same way he has written previously. There is such a raw vulnerability to Kingsnorth’s writing, where each chapter reads almost like a separate journal entry. There is also an interesting dichotomy of feelings throughout ... an alternating between feeling lost and knowing deep down what to do, an exploration of how one changes through the phases of their life and struggles through these phases to be content. In this way, although Kingsnorth focuses on his writing, the emotions and experiences are in many ways universal. Anyone who has traveled a long road in their life, only to realize the end of the road did not hold what they expected, is likely to find value in Kingsnorth’s self-exploration. For a short book (125 pages), there is so much more that could be said about this one. I find myself struggling to adequately capture the impact the writing had on me, so please reach out if you’d like to discuss this one more! Many thanks to Two Dollar Radio for the gifted ARC. Savage Gods is available today!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    Writers are lost people. Nobody would write a book if they weren’t lost. Nobody would write a book if they were not in search of paradise, and nobody would be in search of paradise unless they believed it might exist somewhere, which means out there, which means just beyond my reach. Writers can see paradise, but can never touch it. This is a parable of a book, a journey that's gradually told via Ireland, fables, gods, and family. I've not read Paul Kingsnorth before, but he strikes me as a Writers are lost people. Nobody would write a book if they weren’t lost. Nobody would write a book if they were not in search of paradise, and nobody would be in search of paradise unless they believed it might exist somewhere, which means out there, which means just beyond my reach. Writers can see paradise, but can never touch it. This is a parable of a book, a journey that's gradually told via Ireland, fables, gods, and family. I've not read Paul Kingsnorth before, but he strikes me as a quite elusive man in his mid-forties, used to writing, prone to recollect without nostalgia. Perhaps the following lines say most about this book: I am a writer. Writing has controlled me and now perhaps it has become me. Writing has been put, always, before everything else, because if you don’t pay obeisance to the god then the god will abandon you. Communicating is an earthed way of trying to be god. One scratches at paper or a computer and hopes to have wrought out a more-than-passable line, and also trembles in lieu of anybody to speak with about what you've produced. There are quite a lot of short sentences in the book, of which many are familiar and some seem like attempts to stay forever, but after a while I thought, wait, they just seem that way; it's a matter of the author struggling with his raison d'être, at least as a writer, or something that nags at his soul, a banshee of sorts that he's trying to exorcise with words, perhaps as he, around two thirds into the book, heavily starts using deities. Other times, Kingsnorth's just funny: I’m a writer, which means that I aim myself at all of those things but fall short at all of them most of the time. Writers fall short at everything except creating sentences. This is what we really like to do: put words in an order which can conjure something real but unseen in the air around us, and around you when you read what we have put down. Really, this business of sentences is the only thing we can do and the only thing that motivates us. All the rest—the stories, the characters, the metaphors, the morals and the messages—they come later, with varying degrees of success. Everything is built on the sentences. We just love sentences, and we can’t get proper jobs. I feel that words are savage gods and that in the end, however well you serve them, they will eat you alive. This book strikes me as a whole middle-age crisis, other times as a quite existential view of how humans mostly work: most things aren't straightforward, and we're quite complex, yet simple beings. We're isolated, yet very intertwined. It's a good book to read, short, savoury, and sweet, and I would like to read another autobiography by the author, in circa 30 years.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    Sad to say it, but this is one of those books that really should have been shelved. Kingsnorth's previous efforts have been disintegrating and the result is this series of loosely connected, egocentric musings about his ambiguous failures, his father, and his relationship with writing - none of which prove to be very interesting, if I'm being honest. This is all very saddening and frustrating. When Kingsnorth is on, he is punchy and witty, and his drive led to Uncivilisation: The Dark Sad to say it, but this is one of those books that really should have been shelved. Kingsnorth's previous efforts have been disintegrating and the result is this series of loosely connected, egocentric musings about his ambiguous failures, his father, and his relationship with writing - none of which prove to be very interesting, if I'm being honest. This is all very saddening and frustrating. When Kingsnorth is on, he is punchy and witty, and his drive led to Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto, which is fantastic. But in Savage Gods all that emerges is rambling nothingness masquerading as thinking. While many writers are cited on writing, on aspiration, and so on, all that these citations do is illustrate the gap between someone like Yeats, William Butler or W S Graham and Kingsnorth - whether it be Yeats' talent for aggrandizing the spirit of his times and building his talent for nostalgic mythopoeia into a career as a statesman and public intellectual or W. S. Graham's utter devotion to the penury of success and the life of experience, Kingsnorth is left grasping after either pole but never able to articulate his own measure for satisfaction. Or, better, he seems unable to find his feet on the ground, which is ironic given the context of this book. At best, I would call this a process book - a text that helps its writer toward better understanding, but is of little use to its readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    An ode to overthinking, to minutiae. Author as bastardized construct, proof-proof: In tandem with oblivion causal ratios, I calculate, quantifying hierarchical tasking rates in the frontal lobe. #poem Chris Roberts, God Once Again

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kamalendu Nath

    These are contemplative monologues and introspections on the inspiration to life, in general, to the writing process, in particular. Most sections resonated with me and others I just let pass. Overall, it’s an interesting read, needing certain frame of mind (Zen-like meditative mood). Themes include self-identity via belonging to a place (and people). There is this dichotomy of struggles between belonging and being an outsider. Which one provides literary creativity! I liked most excellent analo These are contemplative monologues and introspections on the inspiration to life, in general, to the writing process, in particular. Most sections resonated with me and others I just let pass. Overall, it’s an interesting read, needing certain frame of mind (Zen-like meditative mood). Themes include self-identity via belonging to a place (and people). There is this dichotomy of struggles between belonging and being an outsider. Which one provides literary creativity! I liked most excellent analogies, of Campbell, on Sexes; Life; and Civilization; oscillating between Fire & Water (book-cover sketches). But I didn’t much care for the sections on skepticism and negativism (not thought out fully). Such as – ‘In Nature animals do what they are programmed for unlike human who’d think about doing and then communicate via language (pg. 116)’. So how does that make human inferior animal than the rest? In the same vain, arguments on ‘talk talk talk’ – isn’t the futility a bit overblown? Pulling down what apparently seems illogical may be romantic but hardly realistic! Here are few highlights from the book: About creative writing; pg.13 – “The creation comes from the pain of the grinding. It is the heart being ground. It is the longing that creates the art, or the attempt of art… From the pressure, from the pain of the contradictions you carry and embody, from the wrenching of the oppositions that tear you, comes the energy that bursts into words, comes the flood, comes the pouring.” And restlessness (pain) of place/people as inspiration for creativity. Pg. 14 - “I want to sit always outside the ring of people and observe them, alone.” Railing against ideals: pg.24 - “Ideals are a pox on humanity: if you have ideals, you will go out into the world as a destroyer.” Power of writing transcending life: pg. 93 - “… I’d have to admit that writing has always felt more real to me than life. More real and more interesting. The patterns you can make from what you see out there are better than what you actually see out there, because they are yours.” Pg. 58 - “Everything I am writing in this book is an attempt to strip something away and see what is underneath it, and that is also what fiction does at its best and what poetry has to do all the time.” Interesting quotes: pg. 111 - “The author of the Dao De Jing knew this 2500 years back (should be year not years!). ‘He who knows does not speak,’ he wrote. ‘He who speaks does not know.’ Every generation forgets this, I suppose, and the next one has to learn it again.” Pg. 31 - “None of this is real. The Scots pine is real… the birds are real, the solidity of the Earth is real and the words are nothing… All humans do is talk. Talk talk talk and out come the sounds and like poetry they change nothing but we talk talk talk in any way and we mistake the sounds for meaning or action, and the trees stand there silently and we just talk.” Illogical conclusions (what of winds) on speech! “In traditional Botswana, says Campbell, men are fire and women are water… If the sexes are divided by elements… so are the two halves of our lives… the first half of our lives is fire, the second water… humanity might be experiencing a midlife crisis. We have been fire… built and controlled and expanded and triumphed… suddenly we feel we can’t understand… What was the point?” - Pgs. 32 -33. “…if there is a difference between the grasses and the human who sits sometimes on the grasses, it is the human who doesn’t just get on with his work, he thinks about getting on with his work.” – Pg.116. So, what’s your point?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike Toms

    Although there were passages in this book that I found really interesting, the overall effort turned out to be a disappointment of first read. Maybe it will better next time around. What happens when a writer cannot write, when the writer loses their muse? This is what Kingsnorth explores, speaking from his own experience. While you get the sense that the text was written as the writer experiences the loss of his muse I found this approach too scatter gun at times, even irritating (the conversat Although there were passages in this book that I found really interesting, the overall effort turned out to be a disappointment of first read. Maybe it will better next time around. What happens when a writer cannot write, when the writer loses their muse? This is what Kingsnorth explores, speaking from his own experience. While you get the sense that the text was written as the writer experiences the loss of his muse I found this approach too scatter gun at times, even irritating (the conversations with Loki, for example). I love Kingsnorth at his best, which for me is as a well-informed, examiner of the environment and its politics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Masters

    An enigma of a book, Savage Gods takes a long hard look at the creative process of writing as well as deep, philosophical questions of purpose, place, and belonging. Kingsnorth wrestles with his prose and the whole idea of attaching words to lived experiences; questioning his choices and impulses at every turn. Purposefully meandering, deeply personal, and playfully existential, Savage Gods asks page after page, “What the hell is the point of all of this?” Kingsnorth doesn’t provide easy answers, but he An enigma of a book, Savage Gods takes a long hard look at the creative process of writing as well as deep, philosophical questions of purpose, place, and belonging. Kingsnorth wrestles with his prose and the whole idea of attaching words to lived experiences; questioning his choices and impulses at every turn. Purposefully meandering, deeply personal, and playfully existential, Savage Gods asks page after page, “What the hell is the point of all of this?” Kingsnorth doesn’t provide easy answers, but he has written an essential companion to anyone who creates or takes pen to paper. A unique, bleak and yet uplifting work; honest in a way few books ever are.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynn McMillan

    Brave and honest If you have ever wondered about the dark night of the soul, Paul Kingsnorth allows us to see how it is for a writer when words no longer serve. An important book for its honest and brave revelation of a man on the night-sea journey of personal crisis. If it doesnt resonate with you now, it will.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sumption

    A blistering stream-of-consciousness hundred pages of poetic thought, reminiscence, fabulation and euology, ostensibly about the author's inability to write any more. If this is what not writing looks like then, please, can we have more of it?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vuk Trifkovic

    Not an easy book, from a writer who certainly is not easy on anyone, but which makes it way easier to get his other novels. Particularly "The Beast". Can't wait to read the last installment in that trilogy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a unique read. Intellectually stimulating and emotionally raw. It’s virtually impossible to capture in a review. If you are looking for a challenging, thought provoking, but still accessible, deeply personal book then give this a go. It’s a book I will certainly return to.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    THIS BOOK SOUNDS INTERESTING BUT IT REALLY NEEDS MORE DETAILS.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom Stanger

    As a short review, a very thought-provoking book of ideas. I'll be writing a full review in Issue 3 of The Pilgrim magazine, out in September 2019.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elbrackeen Brackeen

    Julia's review blog 9/18/19

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A reminder that getting lost is ok. But you have to remember to get found sooner rather than later.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    "All nature is a language-- but none of it is written down." [p. 117]

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Burris

    A journal, an examination of writing and writer’s block (if that’s even the right word) and a philosophical essay. Meandering the way something like this should be. I liked it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sally Piper

    A thought-provoking book for any writer questioning why they write.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I can't review this book yet; it has had a profound effect on me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex Watson

    One of those books that really got me; spookily insightful at the outset, I found myself underlining constantly in the first half. My path and the book’s diverged somewhere before the end, but not wildly, and the parting was not harsh.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Connerley Nahm

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Connor Davison

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Swenson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Ranft

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Robinson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

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