Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Richard Powers' The Overstory

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,027

    Default Richard Powers' The Overstory

    I've brought this up before, but I've been reading around it for a while (haven't managed to pick up a copy and read the full thing yet) and that alone has made quite the impression. I also know someone who's currently reading it and it's put them on their arse with regard to how they view climate action and humanity's relationship with the natural world.

    I don't think he's necessarily saying anything that new, but the fact that a "serious" writer like Powers has turned his eye to this sort of thing has a lot of value, imo, particularly at this time. As he says in the book, “the best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story”.

    http://www.richardpowers.net/the-overstory/

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to version For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,027

    Default

    “We found that trees could communicate, over the air and through their roots. Common sense hooted us down. We found that trees take care of each other. Collective science dismissed the idea. Outsiders discovered how seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly. Outsiders discovered that trees sense the presence of other nearby life. That a tree learns to save water. That trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks. “Here’s a little outsider information, and you can wait for it to be confirmed. A forest knows things. They wire themselves up underground. There are brains down there, ones our own brains aren’t shaped to see. Root plasticity, solving problems and making decisions. Fungal synapses. What else do you want to call it? Link enough trees together, and a forest grows aware.”

    - - -

    “But people have no idea what time is. They think it’s a line, spinning out from three seconds behind them, then vanishing just as fast into the three seconds of fog just ahead. They can’t see that time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.”

    - - -

    “We’ve learned a little about a few of them, in isolation. But nothing is less isolated or more social than a tree.”

    - - -

    “Life will cook; the seas will rise. The planet’s lungs will be ripped out. And the law will let this happen, because harm was never imminent enough. Imminent, at the speed of people, is too late. The law must judge imminent at the speed of trees.”

  4. The Following User Says Thank You to version For This Useful Post:


  5. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,027

    Default

    Richard Powers: On writing 'The Overstory': 'We've yet to figure out how to live here, in this world,' says Richard Powers, author of the powerful novel 'The Overstory.' Writing it, he says, 'quite literally changed my life, starting with where and how I live.' - https://www.yaleclimateconnections.o...the-overstory/

    The period from the late 1980s to the early 2000s was a remarkable and revolutionary moment. America woke up to the fact that 95 percent of its supposedly inexhaustible forests had been cut, and that the last five percent were slated to be felled. People who were not activists and who had never fought in public for anything were moved to put themselves in often violent situations to stand up for the rights of things that many others considered a God-given resource. The few remaining pockets of uncut forest in the Northwest are a testimony to this confrontation.

    Sadly, the larger and longer historical meaning of this period is more ambiguous. A belief in human exceptionalism and human dominance dies hard. Donald Trump, Ryan Zinke, and Scott Pruitt are spokesman for those who feel that the environmentalist victories of the last quarter century, as limited as they were, need to be rolled back. And they are rolling them back with a vengeance. In the last year, this administration has undone much of the environmental protection that it took half a century of concerted political will to create.

    We have yet to figure out how to live here, in this world.


    - - -

    The causes of our estrangement from our “local habitation” may run even deeper than our runaway mobility. There’s something in the leveling tsunami of commodity individualism that works hard to make all places interchangeable. At the same time, we are migrating farther and farther into digital, virtual place. The stories we tell about ourselves are becoming increasingly place-independent. (The next time you read a piece of literary fiction, ask yourself how important it is to know where the story takes place.)

    Something in us wants to rationalize place, to master and manage it, to make all the vegetation grow in straight lines. Few people know their homes well enough to say whether the specific trees and plants surrounding them are natives or invasive. Think how far we’ve come from those times when an intimate knowledge of the local plant life was a matter of life and death. Acquiring tree consciousness, a precondition for learning how to live here on Earth, means learning what things grow and thrive here, independently of us. As Wendell Berry suggests in his poem, “In A Country Once Forested,” the soil remembers, even under the concrete. In certain very real, biological terms, that is literally true.


    - - -

    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.

    Paradoxically, our drive to build machines that perform billions of calculations a second has enabled us, for the first time, to begin to model events on scales of time far outside our own and to translate and visualize the changes that take place in ecosystems at the speed of trees. That’s why Silicon Valley also plays an important a role in The Overstory. If there’s any hope of human survival, it probably lies in our “descendants” teaching us to see, if not to feel, the scales of time our “ancestors” operate in.

  6. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to version For This Useful Post:


  7. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Kingston
    Posts
    1,310

    Default

    About a third of the way through. It's very good, the characters and sweep of history are well executed. Readable and relatable. But... not entirely credible.

  8. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,027

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HMGovt View Post
    But... not entirely credible.
    How so?

  9. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Kingston
    Posts
    1,310

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    How so?
    Actual tree spirits manifesting as GPS at one point.
    Cannot knock the writing though - he entirely avoids falling into that usual American English homespun style (when describing a character's history and experiences, for example) that reads so terribly on this side of the Atlantic.
    Last edited by HMGovt; 20-03-2019 at 03:17 PM.

  10. The Following User Says Thank You to HMGovt For This Useful Post:


  11. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,027

    Default

    I think it's still supposed to be very much fiction, it just has very real concerns.

    “the best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story”

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •