An exquisitely detailed portrait of a special landscape, this is a gem-like addition to the travel genre. Robinson, an artist and cartographer, has made prize-winning maps of southwest Ireland and adjacent islands. Describing himself as "self-appointed resident scientific busybody," he walks the coastline of Arainn, largest of the three Aran Islands, clockwise from the western edge, in an exploration of geology, topography, history, language and folklore. Arainn is limestone, and its natural forms are rectilinear. We see storm beaches--mile after mile of huge boulders stripped from the rim of cliffs and moved inland by wind. Robinson recounts hazardous sports once practiced by the natives--birdcatching and fishing from clifftops; he calls our attention to prehistoric sites and to abandoned forts. He takes a side trip by curragh to the Brannock Islands and meditates on the origins of placenames. Arainn's north coast was a center for kelp factories producing iodine and fertilizer in the 19th century; Robinson offers a vivid picture of that period as well.
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"This is a heart-felt and informative micro-history, and a eulogy and an elegy as well. Robinson is especially good on Aran's once great but now vanished kelp industry, and all that was involved....this is a fine addition to a fertile genre." --The Times
"A loving anatomy of the largest of the Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland, in which the point where nature and culture meet in the island is observed with great beauty and precision." -Colm Toibin
"Tim Robinson's maps and books honor the landscapes they describe. As invitations, they irresistibly beckon the archeologist, botanist, geologist, bird-watcher, folklorist, student of the Irish language, or just plain tourist." -Chet Raymo.
"Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage
...is a necessity for all visitors and walkers."--Guardian
"An exquisitely detailed portrait of a special landscape, this is a gem-like addition to the travel genre."-Publishers Weekly
"Robinson takes the reader on a meditative walking tour of Aran...[he] seeks the essence of an increasingly distant Celtic past...like a visitor peering through the warped and colored glass of an ancient church window." -Los Angeles Times
"A kind of travel writing The New Yorker
sometimes sponsors: a virtuosity of gratuitous fact-gathering, a penitential recording of minutiae, a recitation of information as if it were prayer." -New York Times
"Looked upon with a tactful, eager, strategic care that is as tender in its address as an admission of love...It is a wonderful achievement." -Seamus Deane, London Review of Books
"The best book ever written by an Englishman about Ireland." -Independent
"One of the most original, revelatory and exhilarating works of literature ever produced in Ireland." -Irish Times
"Rapt, encyclopedic volumes...Robinson has done for the west of Ireland what Ruskin did for Venice, Proust for the voids and vasts of time." -Telegraph
"Climate and location, flora and fauna, culture, myth and legend, people, and over it all, the veneer of language and place name...Tim Robinson achieves this ultimate map in Stones of Aran
" -New Scientist
"Wholly irresistible." -Observer
"This is a marvelous book--quirky and endearing, universal in scope yet with an extraordinary sense of place and purpose." -Sydney Morning Herald
"One of the most interesting and important books produced in Ireland in the twentieth century. In prose as layered and rich as the area he explores, Robinson deals with space in the way Proust deals with time." --Sean Dunne