the sea is not made of water
LONGLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE 2022
‘A remarkable and powerful book, the rarest of things … Nicolson is unique as a writer … I loved it’ EDMUND DE WAAL
Few places are as familiar as the shore – and few as full of mystery and surprise.
How do sandhoppers inherit an inbuilt compass from their parents? How do crabs understand the tides? How can the death of one winkle guarantee the lives of its companions? What does a prawn know?
In The Sea is Not Made of Water, Adam Nicolson explores the natural wonders of the intertidal and our long human relationship with it. The physics of the seas, the biology of anemone and limpet, the long history of the earth, and the stories we tell of those who have lived here: all interconnect in this zone where the philosopher, scientist and poet can meet and find meaning.
In this blend of fascinating, surprising ecology and luminous human history, Adam Nicolson gives an invitation to the shoreline. Anyone who chooses can look beyond their own reflection and find the marvellous there, waiting an inch beneath their nose.
'In his miraculous new book, Adam Nicolson brings them all together, under his expert, writerly purview. Effortlessly, in deft, sure and delightful prose, he segues through species, science and art to present tidal nature as a microcosm. The result is an utterly fascinating glimpse of a watery world we only thought we knew' Philip Hoare, author of Albert & the Whale 'Nicolson is the supreme poet of the edges - which is where the only interesting and significant things happen. And in The Sea is Not Made of Water - a book explicitly about the liminal places where everything is change - his talents are supremely on display. The shore confounds the whole notion of boundaries, and it takes a writer who himself despises and transgresses the traditional boundaries of 'science', 'philosophy', and 'art' to do justice to the shore. Nicolson brings all of himself to the foaming edge of the sea. No one else I know would have the nerve to do that. The result is a subversive, disconcerting triumph; a wondering, wonderful thing' Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast 'If you like to gorge on words and ideas you could hardly hope for a finer feast than this. Nicolson serves up the nature and science of the seashore with a side order of human history and legend, seasoned beautifully with philosophical insight and a pinch of autobiography ... If it sounds a bit rich, don't worry. It's all so delicious you'll find room for it' Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 'Adam Nicolson takes the margins between land and water, poetry and biology, and creates a beautiful, powerful story of how we understand the unfolding change of the shore. This is a remarkable and powerful book, the rarest of things, both a call-to-arms and a call-to-pause and truly look. Nicolson is unique as a writer, happy soaked to the skin on the shoreline and happy unweaving skeins of philosophy. I loved it' Edmund de Waal
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