Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Everything in the forest is the forest

How will we understand ourselves differently because of what we are learning about/from trees? Richard Powers has one of his characters discover it in a northwestern forest:


The Overstory: A Novel (Norton, 2018), 144

(Yet "we" have a problem, like the Anthropocene so White one. Powers introduces eight characters in his first 150 pages: Nicholas Hoel, Mimi Ma, Adam Appich, Ray Brinkman and Dorothy Cazaly, Douglas Pavlicek, Neelay Mehta, Patricia Westerford and Olivia Vandergriff. Mimi is the daughter of a Chinese refugee scholar, Mehta the child of two Indians. Everyone else is white. (Everyone is apparently straight, though Powers lets Westerford have a brief moment with another woman, before, years later, folding her into comfortable heterosexuality - even as she's discovered the queerness of nature!) This is a settler colonist's novel about America (the Hoels are actual settlers), claiming kinship with ancient trees but barely noticing the Native peoples of the land, or the African Americans who have worked it longer than almost all his characters' families gave been here. Incomplete fusion of human roots! What's that saying about seeing the forest for the trees?)

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