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The Overstory (2018)

by Richard Powers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,8531852,618 (4.08)404
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.… (more)
  1. 41
    Barkskins by Annie Proulx (GerrysBookshelf)
  2. 20
    Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: A book by the scientist who inspired the Powers character "Patricia Westerford."
  3. 31
    The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods by Julia Hill (Gwendydd)
    Gwendydd: One of the main characters of Overstory is loosely based on the life of Julia Butterfly Hill.
  4. 10
    The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Cecrow)
  5. 10
    Greenwood by Michael Christie (OscarWilde87)
  6. 11
    The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant (Gwendydd)
    Gwendydd: These books both talk a lot about the giant trees of the west coast, logging, and anti-logging activists.
  7. 01
    The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff (Sandwich76)
  8. 01
    River of Gods by Ian McDonald (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: The forest in Powers' book takes on the organizing and animating function of the river in McDonald's. Both of these novels also have a regard for artificial intelligence that de-centers it from the human perspective.
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» See also 404 mentions

English (180)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (184)
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
A sad, troubling, but wonderful book. ( )
  hhornblower | Aug 6, 2022 |
Beautifully written, great interweaving stories. Highly enjoyable and would read other books by this author in a heartbeat. ( )
  kimreadthis | Jul 3, 2022 |
Thrilling beginning, disappointing end. ( )
  quavmo | Jun 26, 2022 |
DNF-stories of people and their trees. Interesting but did not keep my interest. I moved on to something else as there are too many books to waste time on something I did not enjoy. ( )
  wincheryl | Jun 20, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 180 (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.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Powers, Richardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allié, ManfredÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bierstadt, AlbertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chauvin, SergeTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaffney, EvanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guevara, Teresa Lanero Ladrón deTraductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kempf-Allié, GabrieleÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lanero, TeresaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noorman, JelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quinn, MarysarahDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vighi, LiciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Earth may be alive: not as the ancients saw her--a sentient Goddess with a purpose and foresight--but alive like a tree. A tree that quietly exists, never moving except to sway in the wind, yet endlessly conversing with the sunlight and soil. Using sunlight and water and nutrient minerals to grow and change. But all done so imperceptibly, that to me an old oak tree on the green is the same as it was when I was a child.
--James Lovelock
Tree . . . he watching you. You look at tree, he listen to you. He got no finger, he can't speak. But that leaf . . . he pumping, growing, growing in the night. While you sleeping you dream something. Tree and grass same thing.
--Bill Neidjie
Dedication
For Aida.
First words
First there was nothing.
Quotations
To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs.
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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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