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Josh Allan on Paul Kingsnorth

Paul Kingsnorth’s Savage Gods is a book about the dwindling of the author’s urge to write books. At Full Stop, Josh Allan tries to find words to convey the sense of Kingsnorth’s failure to find words to convey his very failure.

What makes Savage Gods interesting is that Kingsnorth’s love for his vocation is tempered with a sense of shame, so that writing itself becomes a painful dilemma. It is language which has come to define Kingsnorth’s life, given him a career many would dream of, and provided an outlet for his ideas and imagination — of which this book is one ironic example. It has also, according to Kingsnorth, engendered his greatest crises, making him both helplessly dependent and the victim of a lifelong deception. The words which had previously protected Kingsnorth’s ideas with the inviolable veneer of certainty began to crack open from within when he moved to the rural hinterlands. His words began “to fragment”, as Kingsnorth puts it, “because the kind of words you create to speak to the urban crowds of the alienated West don’t come from places like this.” Where the act of writing could formerly explain, contain and satisfy, it no longer provides any kind of solution, furnishing only a natural image in place of a rational answer. “What does a writer do when his words stop working?” he asks. “I don’t know. All I know is that I am churning inside and everything I knew is windskipping like brown willow leaves in a winter gale.”