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The Overstory (2018)
de Richard Powers
» 31 més
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No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
I do love a sweeping novel with separate plot lines that gradually intertwine, and the examinations of 90s "ecowarrior" activism in the Pacific Northwest were really fascinating. But the book's ultimate message really didn't sit well with me... Human nature means we're all ultimately doomed? It's ok because the earth itself will survive even if we don't? I'm really not a fan of these fatalistic responses to climate change - it discourages activism/collective responses which can make a difference! The 1987 Montreal Protocol saved the ozone layer! Overall I could just tell that this book was written by a 60-smth-year-old white guy, and I'm over it. ( )
I enjoyed the premise and plotting of this one, but the writing style put me off quite a bit. While a flowery, prose-ish style can work in some stories here it feels overdone, and it comes off as though there's a lack of confidence in the base material.
Also, of course many magical realism novels have non-definitive endings (thinking of something like Kafka on the Shore here), but with a lot of those cases I think they at least leave characters in a place where you feel ready to say goodbye to them. The plot may be left unsolved or with unanswered questions, but the characters have gone through an arc, and you feel sad to leave yet content to see they've changed (not always for the better, of course!). However, in this book, I don't get that sense. It doesn't feel like the right time to leave these characters or move on from where they've been left. One could argue that my connection to them and desire for more time is a sign of a strong bond, and not all stories need to give characters resolution. However, to me, it feels like a failure to wrap things up, leaving me with a sour note when I put down the book.
Overall I feel pretty mixed. The best thing I can say is the premise is interesting enough that it carried me through to reading the whole thing. It's a situation where I wish a different author had come up with the idea (though, I'll note this is the only book by this author I've read, so I'm not sure if this is just their style or they've switched it up for this one).
I am a tree hugger at heart and had sort of avoided The Overstory even though I bought a used copy thinking I would read it for the American Author Challenge. I knew it would be a challenge to read about the deceit and devastation practiced in the name of progress that tried hard to wipe out the Native Americans, the buffalo and the ancient trees, just to name a few. As you can see from the pictures I've posted, I live amongst trees here at the farm, and my husband and I own ten acres of wooded land along a creek where we once considered building a house but may now just preserve it from development as long as we can.
It seemed like a natural follow up to At The Edge of the Orchard so I dove in and it was, as I suspected, devastating for the trees and for the activists who try to save them from humanity while trying to save humanity from themselves. It does not, as you might expect, go well for the trees or the people. Law enforcement was often brutal to the protesters when they refused to yield in ways I won't describe here. Oregon Public Broadcasting has a radio series called Timber Wars produced in 2020 that lays out what they call the biggest environmental fight in the US.
The book is the story of ordinary human beings who encounter trees in ways that change their perspectives on the world. Powers masterfully tells their stories from their childhood through adulthood through the perspective of their journey both to and then with trees at the center. Along the way, we learn the stories of trees in America including references the Johnny Appleseed, chestnut blight and seed saving. It did make a nice companion to At the Edge of the Orchard although trees did not form the centerpiece of Chevalier's novel with its focus on family and relationships. But she describes the huge stump where the westerners held dances and it is surprising to think any giants were left for Powers' characters to save.
There may have been an undercurrent of hope in the book that ultimately the trees had a longer timeline than human beings but it couldn't cut through the sense of grief that permeated the book. I don't want to discourage you from reading it as I think it was the best book I've read this year. I'm following it up with a nonfiction, The Forest Unseen, in which David George Haskell spends a year reporting from a one-meter square patch of the Tennessee mountains.
Yes heart in right place. It's all good, no bad thoughts expressed, but this was the worst book i have read in years. If this is a good example of the modern novel then I am glad i haven't bothered with many of the others. God i hate it when an author turns a noun into a verb. Cloying overwritten treacle.......
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“Literary fiction has largely become co-opted by that belief that meaning is an entirely personal thing,” Powers says. “It’s embraced the idea that life is primarily a struggle of the individual psyche to come to terms with itself. Consequently, it’s become a commodity like a wood chipper, or any other thing that can be rated in terms of utility.” [...]
“I want literature to be something other than it is today,” Powers says. “There was a time when our myths and legends and stories were about something greater than individual well-being. "
Acquiring tree consciousness, a precondition for learning how to live here on Earth, means learning what things grow and thrive here, independently of us.
We are phenomenally bad at experiencing, estimating, and conceiving of time. Our brains are shaped to pay attention to rapid movements against stable backgrounds, and we’re almost blind to the slower, broader background drift. The technologies that we have built to defeat time—writing and recording and photographing and filming—can impair our memory (as Socrates feared) and collapse us even more densely into what psychologists call the “specious present,” which seems to get shorter all the time. Plants’ memory and sense of time is utterly alien to us. It’s almost impossible for a person to wrap her head around the idea that there are bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California that have been slowly dying since before humans invented writing.
An air force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back to life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers - each summoned in different ways by trees - are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest. In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours - vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe. The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity's self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? -- from dust jacket.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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