LONDON (Reuters) - As another frenetic working year winds down, two books out now offer urban wage-slaves a fantasy of swapping the relentless rhythm of commuter trains for a life of self-sufficiency governed by the seasons.
First up is “Cabin Porn” edited by Zach Klein, a U.S. technology entrepreneur who co-founded video-sharing website Vimeo in 2004.
Subtitled “Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere”, Klein’s introduction to the book describes how he and a group of friends built an off-the-grid, no-plumbing, no-electricity, community of wooden cabins in a forest in upstate New York.
The group wanted to be “somewhere we could be less preoccupied with our professions and more reliant on each other” as we practise new skills”, he writes.
Soon after founding the community, Klein launched a website, cabinporn.com, which he says has had 10 million visitors since 2009. His publishers, Particular Books, say the global site gets most traffic “by far” from Britain, where around 80 percent of the population live in urban areas.
“Cabin Porn” - the book - is full of photographs of isolated hideaways all over the world, some in snowy landscapes, with glowing lights and fires promising refuge.
Which is where the second book comes in. No winter cabin fantasy is going to last long if the fire goes out.
“Norwegian Wood: Chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way” by Lars Mytting is on its seventh reprint in English and is in the British bestseller charts with nearly 32,000 sales since the translation was published in October.
The book has sold 160,000 in Norway since 2011 and, says Mytting, portrays a “real community where things are a bit slower”.
Managing a wood plot is usually for the next generation’s benefit, he writes, and drying firewood cannot be hurried.
“The time it takes is the time it takes.”
“Norwegian Wood”, published by Maclehose Press, includes exhaustive detail of woodpile construction, chainsaw performance and the heating value of various trees, interspersed with sharp observations about life.
It begins with Ottar, an old man in ill health who has barely been out all winter. He takes delivery of a huge pile of logs, which over a month he stacks, at the same time seeming to recover strength.
“The thing about this old man was that he could have bought the firewood somewhere else but he wanted to tell his body that we are getting ready for one more year,” Mytting told Reuters.
Readying firewood for winter represents a dream of self-sufficiency that appeals especially to city dwellers, he said.
“It tickles something very satisfying inside us because it’s the old satisfaction that the caveman had.”
And, he said, splitting logs with an axe is a terrific stress-buster, not least because it is dangerous.
“Just that simple detail that you have to take care and do it with precision cleans up a lot of the stress from urban life,” he said.
Inspired? Recycling the Christmas tree could be the just the start.
Editing by Michael Roddy and Jeremy Gaunt