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The Overstory by Richard Powers

Aug 1, 2020 12:08:31 PM / by Tim McCarthy


Editor’s note:  Two reasons to avoid this book, kindly referenced by my friend, Joe Gibson: a. you’re looking for recreational reading (I had to strain to stay on track) or b. you’re not much for Thoreau-type literature that combines style and point of view.  Powers creates seven fabled characters then weaves them into a long and stylish commentary about trees and nature’s relationship to humanity.  The extreme arc of his characters, from western farmers to silicon valley gamers, along with the depth of his understanding and research on botany and human history, both lost me and captivated me. Everything in this book is a stretch, but one in my view worth taking.


Excerpt:  “There are no individuals.  There aren’t even separate species.  Everything in the forest is the forest.  Competition is not separable from endless flavors of cooperation. Trees fight no more than do the leaves on a single tree.  It seems that most of nature isn’t red in tooth and claw, after all.   For one, those species at the base of the living pyramid have neither teeth nor talons.  But if trees share their storehouses, then every drop of red must float on a sea of green.”


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Tim McCarthy

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