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The Tree

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  413 ratings  ·  43 reviews
John Fowles (1926–2005) is widely regarded as one of the preeminent English novelists of the twentieth century—his books have sold millions of copies worldwide, been turned into beloved films, and been popularly voted among the 100 greatestnovels of the century.

To a smaller yet no less passionate audience, Fowles is also known for having written The Tree, one of his few wo...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Ecco (first published 1979)
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This book is profoundly beautiful. I bought my own copy of this in paperback after reading a library copy. That alone should tell you how much this book moved me - I don't like to hold on to books, but this one is an exception. This book will travel with me and I will read it over and over.

While the entire essay is not more than 100 pages (in the 30th anniversary reprint edition), there are three sections: the first contrasts Fowles and his father and their views on nature, order, and chaos. Th...more
This is the 30th anniversary edition of John Fowles legendary essay about trees. Or rather, what trees mean in a greater sense than just the biological. At first, I expected this to be similar to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring-both were written decades ago. However, this slim text is more of a set of questions rather than answers. In fact, despite the title, it could be said that trees are just the smallest portion of his purpose.

"Do we feel that unless we create evidence-photographs, journal ent...more
The essay is a marvelous and thought-provoking meditation on man;s relationship to nature. Despite our attempts to frame nature through art or circumvallate it in a cloistered garden, it remains wild, chaotic, dangerous, and useless. It retains an otherness that defies our abilities to impose human order upon it. It is the ability of the wilderness to stand beyond our understanding, to defy our attempts at categorization, to elude our control that makes it so important. The witness of the wilder...more
"Art and nature are siblings, branches of one tree; and nowhere more than in the continuing inexplicability of many of their processes and above all those of creation and of effect on their respective audiences. Our approach to art, as to nature, has become increasingly scientized (and dreadfully serious) during this last century."

And so on. Art is just as beautiful and unpredictable as nature is, and every try to learn how to do it or to examine it is just as futile as the labels put on species...more
I don’t know how to explain this book. It is a simple book, it is not a simple book, and it can speak for itself. I have never read anything else by John Fowles, and I don’t know when I will, but now I have read this. My brain is fried. This book, this tiny little volume, this tiny little essay, was everything I expected and more, and even more after that. It blew my mind.
I saw this book and bought it, though I have 80-something books I need to read. I saw the title and grabbed it, smiled when I...more
Carl Brush
It would be a violation of The Tree to do much analysis of John Fowles’ wonderful paean to the natural world. The unpruned, unespalliered, untended, natural world. Let the man speak for himself on the subject.

"It [the uncultivated copse] can be known and entered only by each, and in its now; not by you through me, by any you through any me; only by you through yourself, or me through myself. We still have this to learn: the inalienable otherness of each, human and non-human, which may seem the p...more
Steve Turtell
I didn't ever think I'd find a suitable explanation for the feeling I have about trees—but I have, and it's in this magical book.

"The artist's experience here is only a special—unusually prolonged and self-conscious—case of the universal individual one. The return to the green chaos, the deep forest and refuge of the unconscious is a nightly phenomenon, and one that psychiatrists—and torturers—tell us is essential to the human mind. Without it, it disintegrates and goes mad. If I cherish trees...more
You never know quite where you are with John Fowles: either he is opening one plot trapdoor after another beneath your feet (The Magus), or he is messing with your willing suspension of disbelief (The French Lieutenant's Woman), or he is doing something else that throws some other assumption of yours into question. And this little book is no different. He has written a book about nature and art that, without ever quite saying so explicitly, asserts that any review or critical assessment of his b...more
Robert Strandquist
Written in 1979, this 90 page essay on the nature of nature related to the nature of humans and how these two interact ranges from ethereal to opaque, from idiosyncratic to universal. For me the most compelling section was the final, more personal one where Fowles relates a re-visit to Wistman's Wood, a unique and haunting section within a larger forest. It reminded me of William Wordsworth's poetic revist to "Tintern Abbey" where he not only recalls seeing the waterfall but after 25 years he re...more
"John Fowles (1926–2005) is widely regarded as one of the preeminent English novelists of the twentieth century—his books have sold millions of copies worldwide, been turned into beloved films, and been popularly voted among the 100 greatest novels of the century. To a smaller yet no less passionate audience, Fowles is also known for having written The Tree, one of his few works of nonfiction. First published a generation ago, it is a provocative meditation on the connection between the natural...more
every great novelist, one might say, earns the right to do a memoirish/personal philosophy non-fiction piece, and if that worked spectacularly for J.G. Ballard, a b-list scribbler of apocalyptic sci-fi pieces until his thinly-disguised autobiographical Empire of the Sun, then of course for John Fowles, who had already had three blockbuster literary fiction works under his belt by 1969, naturally the 'cry of the heart' philosophy piece will naturally elicit a more divisive reception. One might sa...more
This is a remarkable book with valuable insight into art, nature and humanity, more philosophy than nature writing, explicitly so. Fowles has a great deal to offer about the relationship between people and nature and between our art and reality. Much of what he says is challenging in a productive way, and I will be returning to this book repeatedly in years to come.
A treatise on how trees (and nature in general) should be considered one with humanity, instead of separate entities from us, because their existence is similar to how we create art--whether it's writing a novel, building edifices, or painting a canvas. Didn't quite see it that way, so I just rated it 3 stars.
'No religion is the only religion, no church the true church; and natural religion, rooted in love of nature, is no exception. But in all the long-cultivated and economically exploited lands of the world our woodlands are the last fragments of comparatively unadulterated nature, and so the most accessible outward correlatives and providers of the relationship, the feeling, the knowledge that we are in danger of losing; the last green churches and chapels outside the walled civilization and cultu...more
What a great read if you are at all captivated by the mystery and power of the natural world. Fowles describes the indescribable natural world in beautiful prose, while embracing the paradox of trying to do so with mere words.

I also was handed a better set of tools for understanding areas of immense complexity in my life. As if I stood before the truly perplexing with some sense of resignation, only to find his words layed out on pressed wood pulp and pounded into the door of a heretofore inadm...more
Thoughtful but not really as deep as advertised
Written almost 30 years ago, this essay is so poignant and present about separation of mankind from natural world.

"To see the woods and forest merely scientifically, economically, topographically or aesthetically - not to understand that their greatest utility lies not in the facts derivable from them, or in their timber and fruit, or their landscape charm, or their utility as subject matter for the artist - proves the gathering speed with which we are retreating into outer space from all other...more
Though I admire the basic premises of this meditation on nature and creativity, I found it a difficult book to enjoy. Perhaps the threads were a bit too tangled for me. Perhaps there were too many words I didn't know. Though there were moments of great resonance for me, which made me want very much to like the book, somehow I found the author/narrator a bit less than sympathetic. I wish that I were advanced enough to understand his thoughts more deeply, but I yam what I yam.
Araminta Matthews
Brilliant take on the connection between nature, our historical domination (or attempts) and thus discrediting of nature, and flaws with the scientific method as evidenced by nature. It reminded me how I always hate landscapes (preferring portraiture), and made me realize I'm a little sad about that. Then again, if Fowles is right, then the reason is because I know no "picture" (or set of words) can ever capture nature. She's too wild, after all.
im a bohunk, so naturally a cheapskate. i bought this book after reading the lib copy.
a mediation and praise song of science, nature, trees and people.

*Been busy building an opac, so just making placeholders for books I’ve read in march and april 2014. This is the opac though.

A short and lovely little book about the nature of nature, and how we lose something anytime we try to capture it, whether in a photo, a poem or a small garden in our backyard. The original essay came in an illustrated book with color photographs. The library didn't have that copy, but I'd very much like to see it.
I recieved an ARC of the 30th anniversary reprinting of this book through Shelf Awareness. I'd never read John Fowles before, and while I can see why he's considered to be a writer of substance, I disagreed with his standpoint on nature vs. science. I'm hoping I can relate better to some of his other books.
Wish I had read this when I was writing my thesis on environmental aesthetics. Really fits Emily Brady's notion of environmental aesthetics, but in a more poetic, less fussy way. That is, that science, and even art, can't begin to comprehend the wild, the mystery of nature, nor can it comprehend the wild within us.
Tom Jones
This is a short book but it took me a while to finish it as the reading is intense. The gist of the book is excellent: that nature is of value in an of itself - and by trying to describe nature we loose sight of it. True nature has to be experienced. The writing is great - almost like poetry.
Rob McFarren
Brilliant little memoir by the author and his relationship with nature as the basis of much of his other fiction writing. Classic, compelling, stirs me toward the wild and wondrous woods through which I am want to wonder.
I wish this book delivered on the promise of its cover - "delightful and varied," "entertaining," "transforms the abstract into the highly tangible." It does offer an intriguing premise and thoughtful argument, but way too convoluted for my pleasure reading palate.
Buckle Button Zip
Ninety-one pages of mind-stretching philosophy, some about nature and some about the nature of man. He explores the wildness of nature and man's folly in trying to tame it, name it and own it. This novel and its themes could keep a person occupied for hours or years.
Paul Blaney
Terrifically well-written, and exquisitely accompanied by photos of sundry trees, this is what you might call a meditation on the relationship between modern humans and nature, in particular nature of the arboreal variety. Very good on creativity too.
Fowles' Naturalist views are vividly articulated in this non-fiction essay about the earth, the environment and the literary metaphor throughout his fiction about the relationship between human beings and their environment.
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John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town located about 40 miles from London in the county of Essex, England. He recalls the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional. Of his childhood, Fowles says "I have tried to escape ever since."

Fowles attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys...more
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