by Tom Cox - £9.99 Unbound (2019)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781783527397 | ISBN 10: 1783527390
A nature book, but not quite like any you’ll have read before.
21st-Century Yokel is the book that, as someone entrenched in a love of the countryside, I’ve been waiting a decade to write - maybe longer. It’s not quite a nature book, not quite a humour book, not quite a family memoir, not quite folklore, not quite social history, not quite a collection of essays, but a bit of all seven.
People who’ve read my recent books about my cats - which are in truth often about lots of other subjects, besides cats - will hopefully get similar enjoyment from it but get something a little bit broader and more muscular out of it too. It’s the restless, sometimes dark beast I could feel ferociously trying to punch its way out of my last cat book, and in order to give the restless beast the space it needed I decided not to try to sell it on a synopsis and sample chapters, as I had with previous books, but to let it take me where it needed to go, without commercial influence. I wanted it to be what I needed it to be, first and foremost, not what a sales team needed it to be.
The result is a book that explores the way we can be tied inescapably to landscape, whether we like it or not, often through our family and our past, and goes deep into ties of this nature in my own life. It contains owls, badgers, ponies, beavers, otters, bats, bees, scarecrows, dogs, ghosts, my loud excitable dad and, yes, even a few cats. It’s full of local folklore - the ancient kind, and the everyday kind - and provincial places and small stuff, but in a curious way what has emerged from that is something broader and bigger and more definitive than my other work.
I am aware that I could have approached 21st-Century Yokel in a different way: forced it into a neater, more marketable concept, but I felt that would have made for a less natural collection of writing, and one where I challenged myself less, and found out less about who I am. Instead, I think the book has a lot in common with the country walks I was on when I composed much of it: it’s bewitched by fresh air, intrepid in minor ways, haunted by weather and old stories and the spooky edges of the outdoors, restless, sometimes foolish, prone to a few detours, but always reaches its intended destination. As a non-fiction writer, all my books are true, but this one is somehow a bit truer, and it’s been by far the most difficult and enjoyable and painful and satisfying I’ve ever written.
(Price & availability last checked: July 2019)