Reccomended for Book Club – very mixed uptake. See below
Central point – a giant redwood, yes a metaphore. Scathing review in Guardian. We are spoon fed/Mad hat plot. Olive Vendergaff the novels inevitably beautiful pixie dream girl.
Novelist who use environmentalism . Premises for dystopian fantasisies as iin Cormac Mc Carthy’s The Road, or Margaret Attwood’s The Year of the Floor.
4 sections, roots trunk rown and seeds. Roots spreads itself out across eight very different lives, extended short stores each of which hinges in some way on a characters relationship with trees. A book full of ideas.
References out times, the Twin Towers, 2007 crash.
Overstory by Richard Powers
How could The Overstory be considered a book of the year? asks the Guardian. Richard Powers’ novel has its heart in a fine place, but it works by browbeating the reader with lectures and daft melodrama. Why so many listed this as book of the year a book with such flaws. The Overstory is just so undemanding.
Rupert – not enough mushrooms in it. The importance of the web of mitochondria hardly mentioned. Rupert quotes. To be human is to confuse a satisfying story. Few bits too long, like all US books. Neely seemed peripheral. Weird direction at the end, the listeners. There is a tree in every purpose under heaven. Angry at rage of destruction. Impressed with the silent therapy then thinking about it, impossible.
Peggy – at first glance it did not speak to me. Although I appreciated the headings, found the characters laboured. American habit of making a good point but not knowing when to stop. By the time of the Trunk felt very clunky. Could have done with a good edit. Two quotes.
452 We ignore the benefit of trees, the landslide.
Phillip – was looking forward to it, but ultimately disappointed. No plot or believable likeable characters. Sick of poetic writing by the end. Agree with Steven. So much irrelevant, which distracted. Clunky. Ending weak and confusing. Huge disappointment.
Bill – started off enjoying. Needed to be cut. The end artificial. Clunky. Although he learned a lot about trees. Sense of wonder at longevity and capacity for regneration. Particularly liked Plant Pattie, whose academic integrity was knocked. Reminded of driving across Vancouver Island cathedral of pines.
Maggie – normally it’s me who says it needs a good edit, but not this time. The beginning like a series of short stories. Awe and wonder of the natural world. Beautiful language. 393 Dougie. Identity a theme, found the name changing a bit naff. Reminded of Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kinsolver.
Jo – started not enjoying. Good short stories but as went on, pleasantly surprised. The monolythic scale. Beautiful language. Learned a lot about trees and the destruction of the redwoods. Even after finishing found it a reflective book. Even liked Neely, the gatherer of information. The end worked. Plenty to think about. Neely if we will destroy our natural world.
Chris – started but put down. Bunch of short stories. Reminded him of non fiction. John McPhee https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McPhee
steven taggart: The synopsis seemed very interesting. An analogy of individual histories representing America – the roots, coalescing into the trunk then supporting the foliage. I was looking forward to reading it.
However what a disappointment. Verbose would be an understatement. Why use one adjective adverb metaphor, idiom when you can use a plethora of them.
Not to mention hippie, yippie, new ager, old ager and redemptionist . Not forgetting to underline everything with American millennialism to cheer us up.
I was stunned in a bad way with the trope of the westward expansion into the wilderness, no mention of the rape of both the prairie and native americans, followed by the racialism evident in the Bennie Hill style ‘Chinglish’ spoken by the Chinese and freakish description of the south asian immigrant. Misogyny, of the woman biologist all underlined by misanthropy, millennialism underpinned by underlying racialism and even a dash of misandry!.
Overall a bad book written with good intentions, which inadvertently told you a great deal about modern America, its search for individual redemption, individual solutions to environmental degradation, showing us the entrenched resistance by its social, political, and economic malfunctioning in the protection of vested interests.
Steven 2 / Jo 4 / Chris 2 / Peggy 2 / Bill 3 / Maggie 4 / Phillip 2 / Rupert 4 / Rachel 5
28/9 = 3.1
BIOGRAPHY and BOOKS
Richard Powers (born June 18, 1957) is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. His novel The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction. He has also won many other awards over the course of his career, including a MacArthur Fellowship. As of 2018 Powers has published twelve novels and has taught at the University of Illinois and Stanford Universities. He won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Overstory.
Illinois. Aged 11-16 Thailand,
transfer from physics to English
Powers learned computer programming at Illinois as a user of PLATO.
first book, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, which was published by William Morrow in 1985. It comprises three alternating threads. Success of this provoked his move to Netherlands
Prisoner’s Dilemma, a work that juxtaposes Disney and nuclear warfare.
The Gold Bug Variations, a story that ties together genetics, music, and computer science.
Operation Wandering Soul (1993), a finalist for the National Book Award, features a young doctor dealing with the ugly realities of a pediatrics ward.
Galatea 2.2 (1995) is a Pygmalion story, about an artificial intelligence experiment gone awry.
Gain (1998) is a look at the history of a 150-year-old chemical company, interwoven with the story of a woman living near one of its plants and succumbing to ovarian cancer. It won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1999.
Plowing the Dark (2000) is another novel with parallel narratives
The Time of Our Singing (2003) is a story about the musician children of an interracial couple who met at Marian Anderson’s legendary concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Powers displays his knowledge of music and physics in this exploration of race relations and the burdens of talent.
The Echo Maker (2006), won a National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist. The novel tells the story of a young man whose brain is injured in a truck accident. An important character is a consulting neurologist, modeled to some degree on Oliver Sacks and perhaps Gerald Edelman.
Generosity: An Enhancement, 2009. It features a writing instructor named Russell Stone, who encounters one of his students, Thassa, an Algerian woman who is constantly happy. Meanwhile, journalists and scientists hope to exploit Thassa’s joyfulness for financial gain.
Orfeo, 2014. Peter Els, a retired music composition instructor and avant-garde composer, is mistaken for a bio-terrorist after being discovered with a makeshift genetics lab in his house.
The Overstory, 2018, and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize on September 20, 2018 and for the $75,000 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Overstory was the 2019 runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Margaret Atwood Powers is not a painter of miniatures. Of the two extremes of American mannerist style, the minimalist or Shaker chair (Dickinson, Hemingway, Carver) and the maximalist or Gilded Age (Whitman, James, Jonathan Safran Foer), Powers inclines toward the latter. He gets his effects by repetition, by a Goldberg Variation–like elaboration of motifs, by cranking up the volume and pulling out all the stops”.
Richard Powers neatly brings his characters together around a central point – in his case, a giant redwood tree, with Powers writing eloquently about the interdependence of trees, how they help each other to spread and grow, and even warn each other about dangers using “aerosol signals”, one tree easing the way for others. And because the lives of his human characters take up just a few rings on that great tree’s trunk, we also come to a deeper understanding of time.
Don’t fit in
Neelay Mehta, a clumsily rendered Indian-American computer genius, lives an entirely separate life developing a computer game that only really fits in because the game’s structure is mixed in with tenuous metaphors about the “furious green speculations” of trees. Ray Brinkman and Dorothy Cazaly’s story (concerning a divorce that is postponed when Ray has a stroke) also feels at odds with the main narrative. The closest they get to the central protest is sometimes reading about it in newspapers. Powers uses the couple to crowbar in a few ideas about intellectual property and biological evolution, but otherwise they’re a distraction.
As the book becomes dafter,