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The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers

The Overstory: A Novel (2018)

by Richard Powers

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Richard Powers's latest novel begins with several chapters that read like short stories in which a person's connection to a specific kind of tree is explored. This part of the novel is excellent. From there, Powers widens the story and the various characters interact in different ways as each one reaches the conclusion that saving the trees is important. But the action they end up taking has deadly results.

This is a big book, both in scope and in size. The environmental issues Powers addresses are urgent and important. And a theme of this novel is how the only thing that can change minds is a good story. This is pointed out more than once, in increasingly ham-fisted ways. Unfortunately, this is not that story.

This story is bloated and overwrought. There isn't a nuance or a speck of humor to be found. And we'll leave Powers's skill at portraying women alone except to say that one woman is described using the words of a One Direction song.

I regret the hours spent reading this novel. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Mar 12, 2019 |
As a clarion call to save the environment and a love song to trees, I thought this novel was brilliant. But as a work of art, it had some limits. One of my Goodreads friends, Trudie, perfectly summed up my feeling while reading the book: "My reading experience of The Overstory often felt like a forced march of The Appalachian Trail while being read poetry." Add 'beautiful' to 'poetry' and there you have it. There was just way too much of a good thing. It's a testament to the great writing and story that I didn't consider giving up, but I was exhausted when it was all over. This is my first Richard Powers and it won't be my last, but I'll need a long rest before picking up my next one.

( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
It is truly a masterpiece - nothing I could say would do it justice. It has to be read more than once to get even a small percentage of the subtlety, the sweep, the drama. It's an amazing book. ( )
  anitatally | Feb 28, 2019 |
The only thing that really counts is hoarding a little bit more.

There's a strange thread running through this novel. It concerns a psychologist and his work on cognitive blindness. The theme is hammered home repeatedly with resounding force and frequency: we can't identify with plants, thus we aren't able to recognize their integral position in ecology. Yeah, well, maybe that's why my focus suffered throughout this 500 page novel.

Powers remains one of the most divisive figures in my reading life. Thus I wasn't surprised in the least by a narrative about trees had to touch wood at the Seattle/WTO, the World Trade Center and Occupy! It isn't the ecology but the response to human devastation thereof. I didn't sense a passion in this novel, unlike the reverence for music epistemology which garland his other works, The Overstory's embrace of environmentalism appeared almost perfunctory. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
A difficult book to engage in with its seemingly disconnected short stories but once the narrative begins to coalesce into an observable whole with an overarching purpose of crusading tree environmentalism then the reader is drawn in. The vital message, if we could but see it, is that by preserving trees, we are preserving ourselves. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Feb 12, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
“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. "
added by elenchus | editlithub.com, Kevin Berger (Apr 23, 2018)
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.
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For Aida.
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First there was nothing.
To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs. No: life is mobilized on a vastly larger scale, and the world is failing precisely because no novel can make the contest for the world seem as compelling as the struggles between a few lost people.
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A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest.

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