Underground : A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet
by Hunt, Will

The first book by an urban adventurer, spelunker and photographer explores the history, science, architecture and mythology of the subterranean landscape to evaluate humanity's relationship with the underground, from sacred caves and hidden catacombs to abandoned mines and subway systems.

Will Hunt’s writing, photography, and audio storytelling have appeared in The Economist, The Paris Review Daily, Discover, The Atavist Magazine, and Outside, among other places. A recipient of grants and fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the MacDowell Colony, he is currently a visiting scholar at the NYU Institute for Public Knowledge. Underground is his first book.

Since the birth of human civilization, caves and underground chambers have aroused fascination and terror in anyone stumbling across them. The nonfiction debut of avowed underworld enthusiast Hunt explores the mythology and mixed emotions provoked by these mysterious, hidden recesses while providing a fascinating if sometimes unsettling travelogue of his many dimly lit explorations. Hunt's passion for tunnels, caves, and abandoned mines took him to long-shuttered New York subway stations inhabited by homeless "mole people," the labyrinthine, bone-littered catacombs beneath Paris, and an Australian ochre mine, among other rarely seen subterranean spaces. Interwoven throughout his adventures are stories of such pioneers as the nineteenth-century French photographer, Felix Nadar, whose striking prints of the Paris sewer system transformed it into a tourist attraction, and Ohioan John Symmes, whose efforts to lead an expedition to the earth's core inspired Jules Verne. Hunt's rich descriptions of dark and forbidden subterranean landscapes will raise goose bumps while offering a unique history of a culturally and scientifically important netherworld most people barely know exists. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

An unusual and intriguing travel book, into the world beneath the world we know.In his debut, Hunt begins modestly before revealing larger ambitions. His obsession with the underground started with an abandoned train tunnel he explored as a teenager, and his fascination would ultimately lead him through underground passageways of Paris and New York City, Aboriginal mines of Australia, and other wondrous places. His early experiences, he writes, "seized me with a ferocity that turned my entire imagination inside-out, fundamentally altering the way I thought about myself, and my place in the greater architecture of the world." The author casts himself among the "urban explorers" of the world below street level and "the Mole People, the homeless men and women who lived in hidden nooks and vaults." His earliest guide to this secret world was a photographer he describes as "a dashing and brilliant and possibly deranged individual." As Hunt reveals the scientific, historic, literar y, psychological, spiritual, and metaphorical qualities of his exploration, it begins to seem less idiosyncratic than universal, a pull that has persisted throughout civilization and a mystery that has yet to be solved. The underground may represent hell to some, but it has also provided spiritual solace for centuries. Pilgrims have felt themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves, and they have left human sacrifices to cruel gods and created graffiti, paintings, or elaborate sculptures that so few would ever see. They have mined the underground for earthly riches, and they have all but lost their minds to its sensory deprivation. Without belaboring the point, Hunt alludes to conjecture that all of life might have started underground, that it retains a revelatory diversity, and that the level below the Earth could be a womb as well as a tomb. Ultimately, he compellingly examines "how much of our existence remains in mystery, how much of reality continues t o elude us, and how much deeper our world runs beyond what we know." A vivid illumination of the dark and an effective evocation of its profound mystery. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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