Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass
By Martin Shaw
With potent, lyrical language and a profound knowledge of storytelling, Shaw encourages and illuminates the mythic in our own lives. He is a modern-day bard. Madeline Miller, author of Circe and The Song of Achilles
Through feral tales and poetic exegesis, Martin Shaw makes you re-see the world, as a place of adventure and of initiation, as perfect home and as perfectly other. What a gift. David Keenan, author of Xstabeth
At a time when we are all confronted by not one, but many crossroads in our modern lives – identity, technology, trust, love, politics and a global pandemic – celebrated mythologist and wilderness guide Martin Shaw delivers Smoke Hole: three metaphors to help us understand our world, one that is assailed by the seductive promises of social media and shadowed by a health crisis that has brought loneliness and isolation to an all-time high. We are losing our sense of direction, our sense of self. We have “networks”, not communities.
Smoke Hole is a passionate call to arms and an invitation to use these stories to face the complexities of contemporary life, from fake news, parenthood, climate crises, addictive technology and more.
Martin asks that we journey together, and let these stories be our allies, that we breathe deeper, feel steadier and become acquainted with rapture. He writes, ‘It is not good to be walking through these times without a story or three by your side.’
Available now as a podcast! Subscribe to Smoke Hole Sessions to hear amazing conversations between Martin Shaw and some of our most admired writers, actors, comedians, musicians and more, including: Sir Mark Rylance, Tommy Tiernan (Derry Girls), David Keenan (For the Good Times, This is Memorial Device), Jay Griffiths (Wild, Why Rebel), John Densmore (The Doors), Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes), John Mitchinson (QI, Backlisted podcast) and others.
Subscribe to Smoke Hole Sessions
• On Apple here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/smoke-hole-sessions/id1566369928
• On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2ISKkqLlP1EzAOni9f9gGt?si=lnq8jApxRlGZ2qpLlQaOSg
Reviews and Praise
‘When I started reading Smoke Hole, I noticed the hair on my body growing faster. Midway, my fingernails needed to be clipped sooner. By the end, my voice had dipped from a Barry Gibb falsetto to a Barry White baritone. If you dare...read with care.’—John Densmore, The Doors; New York Times bestselling author of The Seekers
‘Through feral tales and poetic exegesis, Martin Shaw makes you re-see the world, as a place of adventure and of initiation, as perfect home and as perfectly other. What a gift.’—David Keenan, author of Xstabeth
‘I read this book in one sitting. It was impossible not to. Enthralled by the first story (‘The Handless Maiden’) much as I might have been enthralled at face value by a childhood fairy tale, I read on. I began to delve deeper, drawing at first from his understandings and truths, then accepting his invitation ‘What are you going to do with it?’ (the story) to search for my own truths.
‘Every now and then a book comes along which turns your world view inside out, and upside down. This is such a book – at once beautiful, enchanting, compelling, disarming, sobering –but ultimately liberating and enabling. Martin Shaw is a powerful storyteller, and what a story (of our times) he has to tell. We would do well to listen.’—Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of Dancing with Bees
‘“The mess out there is because of a mess in here.” With this, the fundamental teaching of all true paths, Martin Shaw launches into his great theme: what the wild, and the myths it gives birth to, can tell us about this baffling, broken moment. There is no way out without a return: maybe here you could find a story that will rescue you.’—Paul Kingsnorth, author of Alexandria
‘A beautiful, quietly radical book. Shaw opens the world of ancient mythology and applies it to modern life, offering the reader a poetic olive branch to help reconnect with – and, crucially, re-enchant – the fabric of life itself.’—Harry Sword, author of Monolithic Undertow
‘In Smoke Hole, Martin Shaw magnificently demonstrates how we need old stories to guide us through the very modern perils we are all now facing, from the pandemic to social media. His storytelling and use of language are dazzling, and through the prism of entrancingly poetic and vital tales of challenges and great testing, he illuminates the power, comfort and absolute necessity of the old stories. This is an important book: thought-provoking, heart-healing and life-enhancing; showing us how myths and metaphor can reconnect us to the wild, help us rediscover a sense of awe and find startling beauty in the strangest and most terrifying of times. Stories are always for those at a crossroads, says Martin Shaw, and as we all find ourselves at a monumental crossroads now, we need to look back to the old stories and let them show us the way forward. Martin Shaw enables us to see how if only we can learn, once again, to listen to the vital teachings and old-world wisdom held within ancient stories, they can, quite literally, save our lives. This is a book with a deep magic and a crucial message for our troubled times. To read it is to be taken on an enriching journey, to gain a new perspective, or maybe an old one. I absolutely loved it.’—Fiona Mountain, author of The Keeper of Songs
‘Ontological dynamite. Cutting through the techno-utopian verbiage of our age, Martin Shaw’s husbandry – his appreciation and respect for the power of modern tools; his awareness of their limits and dangers; and his instinctive reverence for the timeless, the essential and the vital – will awaken the tamed metaphysicist itching to run wild, who sleeps in even the doggedest technologist. A rare kind of modern-day bard, he walks a tight rope, guiding us to that very special place where we can learn to be wiser, worthier, more generous ancestors without failing to show ourselves to be more humble, sensible and compassionate descendants.’—Felix Marquardt, author of The New Nomads
‘In language as resonant as his human voice, master myth-sayer Martin Shaw summons us away from our frantic distractions to that wild place where the answers arise, crows in their hair. Smoke Hole gives us the sight to recognize them. Seize this book. It will be the deepest and most delightful reading you do this year.’—Sarah Chayes, author of Everybody Knows and The Potomac River
‘Is it possible for a small book to contain the vast wild? Can its pages hold the cool breeze, the rustle of small things, the secret history of the earth and of your own face? Can a book help to break the spells holding us prisoner? This book can. Our time is one of breaking and breaking open, and Martin Shaw’s tales help us to reimagine our world so that we can rebuild on the ruins of our untenable civilization.
‘Martin Shaw is that rare teacher whose soul is a harp string strung between the urgency of heartbreak and the joyful ferocity of hope. The music he makes is deeply moving and challenging in the best of ways. The stories and lyrical teachings you will read in Smoke Hole help guide us to a more ethical, a more lucid future.’—Ariel Burger, author of Witness