Adam Nicolson sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as the foundation myths of Greek—and our—consciousness, collapsing the passage of 4,000 years and making the distant past of the Mediterranean world as immediate to us as the events of our own time.
Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the poems themselves and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts."
The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea, but emerging at a time around 2000 B.C. when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.
Adam Nicolson's books include the New York Times bestseller God's Secretaries, Sea Room, Sissinghurst, and Seamanship. Among his honors are the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Prize, and the British Topography Prize; he lives on a farm in Sussex with his wife and their five grown children.
Early in the year, Adam Nicolson decided to leave his comfy life at home on a Sussex farm and go on an adventure. Equipped with the Auk, a forty-two-foot wooden ketch, and a friend who at least knew how to sail, he set off up the Atlantic coasts of the British Isles: Cornwall to Scilly, over to Pembrokeshire and the west of Ireland, to the Hebrides and its offliers, St Kilda and North Rona, before heading on to Orkney, and finally to the Faroes, a two hundred mile leap out into the autumn winds of the North Atlantic.
But the book is not just a travel journal. Adam Nicolson writes of his own yearnings for the sea and for wide open spaces. His year is strung between the competing claims of leaving and belonging, of thinking that no life could be more exhilarating than battling a big gale driving in out of the Atlantic and of wanting to be back, in harbour, safe, still and protected. Running throughout the book is a dialogue within the author himself between the attractions of home and not home, the certainties of what you know and the seductions of what you don't.
Reflective and poetic, this book is full of rich experience. It is a story passionately engaged with the beauty and marvels of the wild Atlantic coast, but is also a self-portrait of a man in the middle of his life who is determined to find out what it’s all for.
It is a story rich with modern resonance. This was a battle fought for the control of a global commercial empire. It was won by the emerging British world power, which was widely condemned on the continent of Europe as "the arrogant usurper of the freedom of the seas." Seize the Fire not only vividly describes the brutal realities of battle but enters the hearts and minds of the men who were there; it is a portrait of a moment, a close and passionately engaged depiction of a frame of mind at a turning point in world history.
A global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds on our planet is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of the seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.
Seabirds have always entranced the human imagination and NYT best-selling author Adam Nicolson has been in love with them all his life: for their mastery of wind and ocean, their aerial beauty and the unmatched wildness of the coasts and islands where every summer they return to breed. The seabird’s cry comes from an elemental layer in the story of the world.
Over the last couple of decades, modern science has begun to understand their epic voyages, their astonishing abilities to navigate for tens of thousands of miles on featureless seas, their ability to smell their way towards fish and home. Only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds as creatures riding the ripples and currents of the entire planet, but that is what the scientists are seeing now today.