Sunday, April 15, 2018

Richard Powers's New Novel about Trees

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a fascinating interview with Richard Powers concerning his new novel, The Overstory (W.W. Norton, April 2018),  about the sentience of trees.  Here are a few snippets:

The Ents were a real inspiration to me. Slow to anger, slow to act. But when they get going, you’d better be on their side!
The Overstory may present an even greater challenge to the sense of exceptionalism we humans carry around inside us. It’s the story of immense, long-lived creatures whom many people think of as little more than simple automatons, but who, in fact, communicate and synchronize with each other both over the air and through complex underground networks, who trade with and protect and sustain their own and other species. It’s about immensely social beings with memory and agency who migrate and transform the soil and regulate the weather and create a breathable atmosphere. As the great Le Guin put it, the word for world is forest.
When a person says, “I live in the real world,” they generally mean that they live in the artificially created social world, the human-made world that is hurtling toward a brick wall of its own making. This is what I’d ask the critics of the literature of extra-human awe: Which is more childish, na├»ve, romantic, or mystical: the belief that we can get away with making Earth revolve around our personal appetites and fantasies, or the belief that a vast, multi-million-pronged project four and a half billion years old deserves a little reverent humility?

Read the full interview here.