Saturday, July 2, 2016

Our summer reading

John took this photo of me outside our favourite bookstore, Hager Books, where we used up a gift card from my brother Brian and his wife Wendy on Thursday.  
If I was not a tree-hugger who mourns the chopping of almost any tree, I would probably not have chosen to use a book gift-card on Annie Proulx's new novel Barkskins.  Judging from reviews of the book, I will struggle with parts of it, but what appeals to me is Proulx's belief in the value of nature, the sense that we can't destroy our natural world without bad things coming to clobber us.

The story begins with two penniless young Frenchmen arriving in Canada (New France) as woodcutters in 1693. One is a crafty character who becomes rich selling off the forest; the other marries a Mi'kmaw woman and struggles to survive.

The story follows their descendants over the next 300 years, but as Proulx says in a New Yorker interview, the chief characters in her book are the "great now-lost forests of the world." The humans exist to carry the story of how "we have cut and destroyed the wooden world." The forest is not infinite, as the newcomers were told, and treating it as if it were has helped create the climate-change disaster we face today.

Obviously, Proulx's book will not be jolly summer reading. For that, John and I turned to murder. We hope a collection of country-house mysteries called Murder at The Manor will nicely leaven the tale about the destruction of our world.

In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit....Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.-  Lynn White, Jr. (Quotation at beginning of Barkskins)

1 comment:

  1. I loved The Shipping News and just learned she wrote "Brokeback Mountain." We saw the movie and not quite sure how I missed she wrote it. I can't wait to read it. And light summer reading is certainly in order.