Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Sanctified Landscape by David Schuyler

Sanctified Landscape was such a fanscinating book.  I love reading anything about NYS, especially upstate and/or western NY.  So this was my cup of tea.  it basically is exactly what the title says.  It chronicals the history of the Hudson River Valley through the eyes of famous writers and artists fromt the early 1800s to the early 1900s.  Through their eyes/words, we see the beauty of it, but also the changes that we as humans are slowly making on the landscape.  Each chapter is pretty much on a different artist or author whose work focused on the Hudson River Valley.

What I loved so much is that these writers and artists are mostly people I had never heard of.  Thomas Cole is one who really stood out to me.  A painter from NY, he made the Hudson River Valley the focal point of most of his artwork, including a series of paintings called "the Course of Empire", in which he paints the valley as it was once with little human impact, and then paints it as humans slowly start making their mark, and then the last painting is a completely civilized Hudson with not very much green left.  He, along with pretty much all of the other people mentioned in the book, were naturalists or environmentals, even if they didn't realize it.

Many of the people, including John Burroughs (a naturalist who lived in a cabin in the valley), tried to convince people to leave the natural beauty around them.  They were concerned that too many trees were being cut down and too many railroads were being put up.  And seeing what the Hudson River is now (polluted.....), they were so right, and people should have listened to them.

There is so much history about the region in the book.  There is also a ton of information on the authors and writers in it.  I wish I had made a list of everyone who had been mentioned throughout the book.  Unfortunately, I got this ebook from netgalley and it has expired, so I can't go back through it.  The two people I mentioned above are the two I was most drawn to while reading though.  Thomas Cole and John Burroughs are two people I definitely want to read more about.  I had never heard of them before reading Sanctified Lanscape.  Now I am intrigued. 

One thing is for sure, I would LOVE to be able to go back in time and see what the Hudson Valley looked like before settlers came along.  I bet it was beautiful, green, and vast.  Here are some of my favorite lines from the book.  I didn't include page numbers because it was an ebook and I wasn't really paying attention to pages. 

-Quote from a work by naturalist and essayist John Burroughs called "A Sharp Lookout":
"One's own landscape comes in time to be a sort of outlying part of himself; he has sowed himself broadcast upon it, and it reflects his own moods and feelings; he is sensitive to the verge of the horizon: cut those trees, and he bleeds; mar those hills, and he suffers."

-Beginning of Chapter 8:
"Many people think of rivers and other natural features as timeless.  Indeed, the very scale of geologic time is so vast that it is difficult to grasp.  In certain ways the Hudson River is timeless: it continues to flow from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic Ocean, as it has for millenia, though its path and its length has changed as a result of glaciers, floods, and other natural phenomena.  Just as these forces have altered the river, so has human intervention.  Even in the middle of the Hudson highlands and the heights of the Catskills the human presence is ubiquitous, and almost four centuries of settlement by European Americans has transformed much of the adjacent landscape even as it has polluted the river and fundamentally altered its ecosystem."

Title: Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909
Author: David Schuyler
Date of Publication: May 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 240
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Ebook from Netgalley

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