Discovering Philip Hoare

One of the great pleasures of reading is finding writers who share your passions. I recently found a writer who loves both the ocean and Bowie. Philip Hoare was born and lives in Southampton where I’m currently living. He lectures in creative writing at Southampton University.

The first of his books that I attempted was Albert and the Whale, which was about Albrecht Durer’s trip to visit a whale. I knew nothing about Dürer before reading the book and I was drawn into the world of Renaissance naturalism. Hoare’s writing, liberal references to Whales and obvious love of the ocean sent me on a quest to read all of his books.  The next book I found: risingtidefallingstar – I loved deeply READ MORE ABOUT/BUY HERE

It was one of those fantastic purchases made in a bargain bookstore that was closing down. I can’t really say what the book was about; like the title it’s a composite of observation, recollection and lots of fascinating biographical snippets of people linked together by water, ranging from Henry David Thoreau and the time he spent at Walden Pond, to Virginia Wolf and the echoes of the sea that run through her work and her eventual drowning in the River Ouse at Lewes. There is some exceptionally fine atmospheric descriptions of place, especially of Cape Cod, which filled me with longing to be back in Cape Town.

I thought I was a swimming addict, but Hoare’s affliction is much worse than mine:

He writes: “for me every day is an anxiety in my ways of getting to the water. I worry that something will stop me reaching it, or that one day it won’t be there…”

Having lived close to the ocean for many years, I know what he means when he says, “I’ve become so attuned to it, so scared of it, so in love with it that sometimes I think I can only think by the sea.

And his lines, “It is the only place I feel at home, because it is so far away from home.” made me realise something that I’ve sensed, but never been able to articulate, that it’s the wildness of the ocean, its otherworldliness, that I love.

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