An intimate gathering at Blackwell’s bookshop last Wednesday gave nature enthusiasts the opportunity to engage in discussion with seasoned Scottish nature writer Jim Crumley about his new book, The Nature of Autumn. Alongside taking questions from the audience, Crumley opened up about his personal writing process and his sources of inspiration.
While Crumley had initially planned to write the book as a one-off text, the passion that drove his original study led to his decision to continue exploring Scotland’s flora and fauna into the months and seasons that followed. Thus, The Nature of Autumn will be the first book in his forthcoming tetralogy that will examine the overlapping seasons of the entire year.
In Crumley’s own words, nature writing is a “problem child” genre, one which struggles to conform to a specific category. Bookshops often find themselves unable to categorise such texts, relegating them under theoretically similar headings such as ‘home’ or ‘gardening’ that in practice do very little to reflect the labour of the author. While many are familiar with poetry about nature, it is rare to read literature that explores the natural world so elegantly in a prose format. Nevertheless, during his impassioned Q&A, Crumley took the opportunity to argue that the best nature writing belongs within the domains of literature. Indeed, as Crumley read aloud excerpts of his novel, it was hard to deny the passion and artistry with which he writes about the natural world.
Above all else, The Nature of Autumn is an ode to the Scottish countryside. As a lifelong Scotsman born in Dundee and now based in Stirling, much of Crumley’s work is deeply personal: Crumley’s wide range of influences span from his early childhood into his recent years. The Scottish landscape has long served as a backdrop to the events in his lifetime, and upon hearing him speak it is clear to see just how much it has shaped him as an individual.
With a narrative that stretches across both the highlands and lowlands, and an epilogue set in Edinburgh, The Nature of Autumn is an excellent read for anyone fascinated by the vast wilderness of the Scottish countryside.
Photo credit: Beth Blakemore