Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright

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Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Paul Harrop
Reviewed by Paul Harrop
Summary: A broad, but not weighty review of the place of water in our lives. An offbeat but learned antidote to predictions of drought and war.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099512288

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Whatever you expect from a book about water, Take Me to the Source probably won't provide it. Neither a whimsical aquatic travelogue, nor a polemic about the economics of water, it still manages to produce unexpected insights into the element which is so vital, yet so often taken for granted.

Such statements are clichés of course. In fact, it's hard to say anything about water which isn't a cliché. Rupert Wright clearly set out to avoid re-stating the more common ones without ignoring them, and does so in an appealingly idiosyncratic way.

So his approach is often tangential, even perverse at times. Yes, we do hear how much of the human body is made up of water. We're told how water is vital for life, yet can be deadly. But Wright takes pains to approach such facts from an unexpected angle. He also tackles glib claims about future wars being fought for water rather than oil. However, his response is to argue against the received wisdom, and not for the obvious reasons.

He'll potter about with a water diviner in the garden of his place in the south of France. Next he's down in the vast tunnel being built to supply New York's water. He talks to academics, aid workers, political protestors and sculptors; he reviews the literature of the subject and touches upon water's artistic, religious and musical manifestations, its geology, physics and chemistry. Each chapter finishes with a short fictional piece touching upon water, whether it's being fished from, or given birth into.

Covering all this in less than 300 pages, Take Me to the Source is a brief but bracing dip into a vast subject, a miscellany which makes no grand claims to be definitive, which is broad without sacrificing depth and which is refreshingly free of baggage and preconceptions. If it has a political agenda, it is to state those truths which never seem to be learned, like the folly of handing out monopolies to private companies.

The disadvantage of this diversity is that the book can lack focus. You sometimes wonder what his point is, but it slowly dawns that, in its understated way, the book is showing you that things can never be that simple: water is too complex.

Wright clearly knows his stuff but is reluctant to display his credentials, he hints about his work as an adviser and journalist but never sets out anything as formal as a CV. And a bibliography or at least some suggestions for further reading would have been helpful.

But such formalities may be too didactic for the spirit of the book. It takes care not to overwhelm or preach to the reader, as would be possible given the scores of possible ways of dealing with the subject.

The lasting impression is of water refracting and reflecting human activity like light, tangible yet slippery, omnipresent yet often invisible. No wonder Philip Larkin wrote (in a poem called 'Water,' sadly not one of those mentioned in this book): If I were called in/ To construct a religion/ I would make use of water.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might enjoy this book which has a similar approach to its subject.

Buy Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright at Amazon.com.


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