My House Of Sky: The Life of J.A. Baker

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite books is The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. In September Little Toller Books are set to publish the first biography of the man, written by Hetty Saunders. Baker was an intensely private figure whose back-story was almost completely unknown until the recent resurgence of interest in his writing, which started with a 2010 edition collecting his two published books (The Peregrine and The Hill Of Summer) together with selected entries from his diaries and an incredible article he wrote for the RSPB Birds magazine, and has evolved ever since with a recent endorsement by Werner Herzog.  That said, this biography has had to rely on crowd-funding for its publication, and at the time of this writing is still over £2000 short of its target. The book has quite a team behind it. Along with the author herself, who has access to Barker’s voluminous notebooks and papers via the Baker Archive, there is John Fanshawe (editor of the 2010 collection of Baker’s writings), photographer Christopher Matthews, author and vocal champion of Baker’s writing Robert Macfarlane and the artist Jo Sweeting, whose work will be used as a special edition print and frontispiece for special editions of the biography. Below are some of her sketches:

This is a project I would have sold a kidney to be part of, so I’ll have to make do with my mock-up cover (above) using my 2017 drawing ‘The Monarch’. The actual book cover is set to be a photograph of Baker, but I feel for such a private man he’d prefer to be represented by the creature whose senses he had come to view the world through:

Like the hawk, I heard and hated the sound of man, that faceless horror of the stony places. I stifled in the same filthy sack of fear. I shared the same hunter’s longing for the wild home none can know, alone with the sight and smell of the quarry, under the indifferent sky. I felt the pull of the north, the mystery and fascination of the migrating gulls. I shared the same strange yearning to be gone

My House Of Sky discussed by Hetty Saunders (Vimeo)

My House Of Sky – crowd-funding page


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