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The Overstory
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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2018 Booker Shortlist: The Overstory

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message 1: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1843 comments Mod
The Overstory, by Richard Powers


Meike (meikereads) Loved the idea: The real protagonists of this book are trees - living, breathing, communicating, ever-evolving, hard-working, intelligent trees. Okay, there are also people, but the quest they are on is to understand what the trees already know. I found the structure of the narrative very impressive, and the importance of the message cannot be overstated, but to focus on the trees as intelligent organisms instead of objectifying them seems to be the real innovation and appeal of the book.

Here's my review .


message 3: by Neil (last edited Jul 23, 2018 11:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 2039 comments I come to this one with a bias: Richard Powers is my favourite author and I have loved all his previous novels. OK, Operation Wandering Soul was a bit difficult to love, but I seemed to manage it.

This one is not only by Richard Powers but is about trees and conservation, two of my favourite topics. And it is unashamedly pro-trees and pro-conservation. Like me.

Can you guess where this is heading?


MisterHobgoblin Can anyone persuade me that this is qualitatively different to Orfeo?


message 5: by Neil (last edited Jul 24, 2018 12:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 2039 comments Depends what you mean by "different".

It is clearly recognisable as a Richard Powers novel.

But the subject matter is far more political and far more passionate. It is far less technical than Orfeo (which often assumes knowledge of classical music and some areas of science) and where there is science it is explained more carefully.

I'm probably both the right and the wrong person to answer your question though. Right because I have read all his books. Wrong because they all feel qualitatively different to me.


MisterHobgoblin Thanks - what I struggled with in Orfeo was the technical stuff on classical music that I knew nothing about and cared about even less.


message 7: by Tommi (last edited Jul 24, 2018 12:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tommi | 539 comments My early favorite from the longlist (a 5-star read) and solid Booker material.

Powers must be happy about the nomination, given his comments in the LA Review of Books earlier regarding what sort of literary fiction (private and domestic) is usually considered great:
There’s a paradox here. While the challenge to our continued existence on Earth has never been greater or clearer, literary fiction seems to be retrenching into an obsession with the challenges of private hopes, fears, and desires. Granted, those challenges lie at the heart of everything we try to do, but a retreat into belles-lettres when human activity is unraveling the climate, exhausting the soil, and killing off 40 percent of the world’s other species is simply reactionary solipsism.

Here’s my full review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Neil | 2039 comments MisterHobgoblin wrote: "Thanks - what I struggled with in Orfeo was the technical stuff on classical music that I knew nothing about and cared about even less."

The Overstory is about trees. Powers often writes about difficult topics and connects two or three of them together in complicated ways. Not here. It's about trees. Full stop. I think Powers recognises that some of his books are very technical and in this case, where he seems passionately concerned to make sure his message is understood, he takes more time to ensure the science is explained.


message 9: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1016 comments I suggested my environmental scientist daughter not read it, as she would only get annoyed. On the other hand, I am delighted that it has been long-listed and that more people who are not environmental scientists (or actuaries) will now read it.


message 10: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
I am very much looking forward to catching up with this one.


message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10041 comments If anything I would say it errs in the opposite direction of pseudo-science. The soundbite is more important than the detail and deliberately so as this is a book that aims to grab hearts and so change minds. e.g. one of the main characters 'Plant Patty' writes a popular science book that centres around the phrase 'giving trees':

"The reading public needs such a phrase to make the miracle a little more vivid, visible. It’s something she learned long ago, from her father: people see better what looks like them. Giving trees is something any generous person can understand and love. And with those two words, Patricia Westerford seals her own fate and changes the future. Even the future of trees."


message 12: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1016 comments Paul wrote: "If anything I would say it errs in the opposite direction of pseudo-science. The soundbite is more important than the detail and deliberately so as this is a book that aims to grab hearts and so change minds."
That is exactly why I want 'the reading public' to read it and why I advised daughter not to. (Both daughters hate pseudo-science with a passion which makes mine look like a polite, middle-class 'tut'.)


message 13: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 2039 comments Given that Powers has previously demonstrated spectacular scientific knowledge in several different fields, you have to think the pseudo-science is a deliberate choice here. I think Powers is desperate to communicate a message and to make sure it is understood. I have read all his very technical and intellectual stuff, but this change didn’t put me off.


message 14: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 1713 comments I rated this book # 4 based on what I liked about the book, and an example I would give, using care not to spoil it for others yet, would be a scene taking place high in a tree. There is something that troubled me early in the book that I don't think spoils much and is pertinent to criticism. Was anybody else bothered by the author's choosing to have as a character's background, participation in what is now know as the Stanford Prison Experiment? There were only 24 student participants and they have been well tracked. I couldn't find any information showing one was an activist that justified the author's depiction.


message 15: by Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer (last edited Jul 24, 2018 06:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6599 comments I have not read the book yet but I know this (and a number of similar examples) was one of Paul’s main criticisms of the book in his review.


message 16: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1016 comments The scene in the tree was a high point in both senses.

I assumed that including the Stanford Prison Experiment was a pointer to a later threat of imprisonment.


message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10041 comments Sam yes agreed with Stamford. Also oddly the way he presents it the reader could think this was purely fictional. For anyone who has the physical copy (I read an early ARC) were there any references, acknowledgements, further reading etc?

Definitely one of the more thought provoking and stimulating books I read this year even if some of the stimulation was sheer annoyance, and so worthy of a shortlist place for that alone I think even if it was only a 3 star read for me.


message 18: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10041 comments And on the pseudo sciencs I agree it is deliberate as per quite I gave. The book gives a fascinating insight into the tactics of environmental activists, the ways they incite violence (but against themselves) and use populist tactics such as simple slogans. I was reminded of the suffragettes in the UK 100 years ago.

The hot book of the summer in left-wing circles is For a Left Populism by Chantal Mouffe, part of a general 'reclaiming populism' trend.

Of course one problem with populism even environmental populism is that it always involve demonising someone even if it is not immigrants, the poor etc - "bankers" most commonly.

And bizarrely here one of the targets is that most respected of profession (I may be biased) actuaries.


Alysson Oliveira | 86 comments Paul wrote: "Sam yes agreed with Stamford. Also oddly the way he presents it the reader could think this was purely fictional. For anyone who has the physical copy (I read an early ARC) were there any reference..."

I've read a hardback copy. There is nothing after the narrative is over. Not even acknowledgments to friends and family.


Jonathan Pool Some books read very lightly and some don’t. The Overstory is not a light read and it felt like a long 500 pages worth.
I enjoyed the book very much, though the message could have been conveyed in 300 pages, I thought.
The natural world, and the notion of time transcending the short stay on this planet by Homo sapiens, comes across very well. The plot driven elements of the story are a bit more hit and miss.

I think The Overstory has every chance of making the shortlist, and I think it has the Booker flavour, which I take to mean the combination of some beautiful, lush language, and a storyline that encourages the more occasional reader to persevere at those points that require a slow, contemplative, reflection.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 733 comments I like this book. I was sorry to see it end. While not as avid a fan as Neil (I have only read 4 of Powers' books but do have another 4 on my TBR shelf), I have enjoyed every one that I've read. I don't always understand them completely, e.g., the music in Orfeo (I did get the science in that one), but I enjoyed them immensely. My review is here -- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....


message 22: by Robert (last edited Jul 31, 2018 02:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert | 2181 comments Just finished reading the first chapter and it was glorious!! I think this will be a favourite. I also am a fan of nature so this resonates with me. Weirdly enough I was reminded of Don Delillio's Underworld. I also have a hunch that the photos will play a bigger part in the narrative.

I noticed that the word Roots (part 1) - is at the bottom of the page, while the word Trunk (part 2) is in the middle of the page, while crown and seeds are at the top.

I like little details!


Meike (meikereads) Love to hear that, Robert!!


message 24: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
I am tempted to save this one until last, to finish the longlist on a high.


But_i_thought_ (but_i_thought) | 150 comments This was my first Powers book, and I was mesmerized from start to finish (review here).

The author seemed to be capturing actual historical events and further research confirms this to be true. For example, the character of Patricia Westerford is based in part on Peter Wohlleben, who wrote the bestselling The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World (the illustrated version is coming out in September this year), as well as the research of Suzanne Simard (excellent TED videos available). The eco-activists are based on groups like the radical Earth Liberation Front (view spoiler). I had hoped different resolutions for some of the characters, but since this is loosely based on real events, I better understand the author's intentions.

Overall, I'd be very surprised if this book doesn't make the shortlist.


message 26: by Stan (last edited Aug 04, 2018 06:09PM) (new)

Stan | 2 comments I enjoyed this one.

(view spoiler)


message 27: by Robert (last edited Aug 04, 2018 10:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert | 2181 comments I'm halfway through and I still think it's amazing. At this point I like the Neely storyline.


message 28: by Robert (last edited Aug 06, 2018 10:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert | 2181 comments Finished it and here's the review:

https://deucekindred.wordpress.com/20...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6599 comments A topic I found interesting, but have seen little comment on is the subject of suicide.

Of the 8 characters whose individual stories start the novel: one’s father commits suicide; another contemplates it but is dissuaded by voices at the last moment; another makes an enfeebled attempt in hospital observed by a second character; another is thankful that the opportunity does not present itself in prison and of course the book culminates with a lecture planned to end in suicide as advice on the best thing than a human can do to save the environment, before taking a late and different course.

I saw two angles to this - firstly a view that the current obsession with consumption and new flirtations with climate change denial and rolling back environmental protections is itself a form of suicide; and secondly a counsel of hope against despair and that humans still have a role to play in serving the planet (what role does life want humans to play is of course the aim of the new Artificial intelligence established at the book’s end).

For any one interested in the topic I would recommend Jared Diamond’s Collapse which is an excellent guide to societal suicide due to excessive growth outstripping resources and environmental degradation (including deforestation).


message 30: by Eric (new) - rated it 2 stars

Eric | 257 comments This one is slow going for me. With 300 pages to go, which at this pace will take me 10 more days, I'm not sure how much Powers has left to tell me.


message 31: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 1713 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "A topic I found interesting, but have seen little comment on is the subject of suicide.

Of the 8 characters whose individual stories start the novel: one’s father commits suicide; another contemp..."


Very good topic! I'm reserving my thoughts till more are finished with the book, but hope there is discussion on this when and if the book shortlists. I think both of your thoughts are correct especially concerning social responsibility. There may also have been an attempt at consciousness raising to the increasing U.S. suicide rates.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6599 comments The other heme I found intersecting was the concept of different timescales and in particular the link to Artificial intelligence; something which I think was vital to the very conception of this book which arose I believe when the author was based near Silicon Valley but walking amongst ancient trees.

The theme is first captured in a science fiction story that one character loved as a youngster (and later part remembers as an adult, forgetting the ending).

Aliens land on earth. They’re little runts, as alien races go. But they metabolise like there’s no tomorrow. They zip around like swarms of gnats, too fast to see - so fast that Earth seconds seem to them like tears. To them, humans are nothing but sculptures of immobile meat. The foreigners try to communicate, but there’s no reply. Finding no signs of intelligent life, they tuck unto the frozen statues and start curing them like so much jerky, for the long ride home.


The parallels with humans and trees are clear and later (in a related story) a character visiting an airport is drawn to the movements of birds rather than the static scene of departure boards - a symbol of how humankind is hardwired to focus in movement/change.

Then as the first mentioned character starts to creates the artificial worlds in his MMORPGs and eventually diverges in his aims from those playing the games, and those around him in his old firm and, at the book’s end starts to use artificial intelligence for different purposes than those his game has been hijacked by, we see the dichotomy that Powers is exploring, one he has explained in early interviews.

Cultural transmission is orders of magnitude faster than genetic transmission, and digital transmission has accelerated the speed of culture a hundredfold or more. We may soon seem, to our artificial intelligence offspring, as motionless and insentient as trees seem to us. And here we live, trying to make a home between our predecessors and our descendants. Will we double down on the great migration into symbol space, our decampment into Facebook and Instagram and Netflix and World of Warcraft, the road that we have already traveled so far down? Or will Big Data and Deep Learning allow us to grasp and rejoin the staggeringly complex processes of the living world? The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they’re inseparable aspects of the new ecology of digital life.



message 33: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
At the halfway point I can see myself giving this one five stars and it might even top my list. I was fine with the simplification - some of Powers' earlier books have gone a little too far into technical detail for my taste (not Orfeo, but I already knew quite a lot about the music before reading that). I agree with Neil that The Time of Our Singing may be his best book - it is certainly my favourite of the four others I have read.


message 34: by Antonomasia (new) - added it

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "For any one interested in the topic I would recommend Jared Diamond’s Collapse which is an excellent guide to societal suicide due to excessive growth outstripping resources and environmental degradation (including deforestation). "

In my time away from GR I've realised that it contains far more depth of knowledge and analysis on complex fiction than other bits of the internet - but it can be a different story with non-fiction. A lot of people give good reviews to 'brainy books which are written by academics stepping well outside their field and actually getting rather a lot of stuff wrong. The broadsheets fall really hard for this stuff and extol these people as polymaths - when there are actually a whole lot of frustrated experts in the various fields that Pinker, Diamond et al have strayed into with less-than-rigorous reading, shaking their heads in despair about the incorrect info and outdated interpretations the general public is being fed. I am not sure whether papers are actually refusing to print debunkings and rigorous reviews of these books by people other than their own columnists, and give them just as much, or more, publicity as they do to their praise of the original - or if the academics are just resigned to it and not trying. At any rate, the nuisance with recommending alternatives to these things is that they tend to be expensive and not available in public libraries, and papers will be in journals that some universities give alumni access to, but many don't.

One of the more up to date alternative to the Jared Diamond isUnderstanding Collapse: Ancient History and Modern Myths by Guy Middleton, but as always happens with academic research, some of it has already been superseded, by the recent findings about the Maya collapse you may have seen in the news.


message 35: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
I finished this last night - here is my review, which I might still add to.

In the end I had rather more mixed feelings than I was expecting at the end of the long second section. By Powers' extraordinary standards, the ending felt a little contrived and disappointing, but the ambition of the book was such that this seemed inevitable. I also started to lose patience with some of the characters, who seemed a little one-dimensional, and I felt that some of his conjectures (the forest's hive mind and the trees' apparent ability to influence human behaviour) were a little too fanciful for my taste. So I am not giving it the full five stars, however important the central message and however impressive the scope and the tree science is.


James Pomar | 90 comments I’ve just finished this. There’s a lot I like about it, but there’s just as much that I didn’t. The morality at the heart of this is unimpeachable, I just wish it was more successful as a novel


MisterHobgoblin Just finished this. I hated Orfeo and came to The Overstory expecting (hoping?) to hate it. But it gripped me from the outset and never let me go - have been snatching reading time at every opportunity. I was in two minds about whether it topped my list or not. It still might, but right now Milkman stays at the top, perhaps for sentimental reasons. I could happily see Richard Powers, Anna Burns or Daisy Johnson take the prize - with four titles still to go. Best Booker year ever?


message 38: by Eric (new) - rated it 2 stars

Eric | 257 comments Eric wrote: "This one is slow going for me. With 300 pages to go, which at this pace will take me 10 more days, I'm not sure how much Powers has left to tell me."

Well me, there was a lot more to tell, I'm just not sure I cared. I enjoyed the middle of the novel, but I found the opening sections a slog by about the middle of his introductions, and by the end I was skimming.

I'm also a bit exhausted being a member of two choirs being preached to as of late (The Overstory and The Mars Room).


message 39: by Isobel (last edited Aug 25, 2018 10:06AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Isobel (isblrthrfrd) | 32 comments I also found this book a slog after the first 150 pages. I loved reading about the trees but found the only character I enjoyed reading about and cared for the entire way through the book was Patricia.

I felt this could have done with a lot more editing - both in terms of length and on a sentence level, where a lot of the writing made me cringe. There was some embarrassing writing about women here - I appreciate this was only a tiny part of the book but it really made me roll my eyes. I've written about this in my review, where I also mentioned some twitter threads by the writer Joanne Harris inspired by a terrible simile included in this book: 'her tits glowing like precious pearls.' The first thread was on similes and the second on writing about breasts.

Posting here as Paul thought they might provoke a good discussion...


MisterHobgoblin I think it's fair to say that when Richard Powers gets an idea, he runs with it. The Overstory is a novel about trees. Every other sentence mentions a tree. The main characters each have a signature tree. And most of them converge to protect trees. The structure of the book itself is designed to resemble a tree - each character has a backstory that is a root; the stories converge in the longest section - the trunk; the characters diverge again into the crown; and then in the smallest section they produce the seeds of a future world.

And my goodness the book is long and involved. Most of the eight roots stories (featuring nine characters since two of them share a root - figuratively and literally) are novellas in their own right. We have a retired war veteran; a student; an academic who works out that trees communicate; a computer games designer; an intellectual copyright lawyer; a conceptual artist; a young Chinese American; and a psychologist. It should be a job of work to remember who they all are, but they are so well delineated and re-introduced that it is seldom a problem. Occasionally a couple of the characters blur but for the most part, they are quite distinct.

And most of them play some role in defending America's ancient forest from the logging corporations. They take on the might of business, government, law enforcement agencies and a sceptical wider public. They call into question the wisdom of using non-renewable natural resources; on the one hand it seems churlish not to use the bounties that nature provides; but on the other hand what happens when they are gone? For all the examples through history that Richard Powers calls into play, the one he doesn't reference is Easter Island - the people who cut down all their trees to lever up giant statues, offering no future source of wood to build boats. It's all well and good to assume that something else will turn up, but what if it doesn't?

Where some of the stories intersect, a couple of them don't. The computer games designer and the lawyer seem to have parallel narratives that are engaging, but somehow tangential to the overall novel. And those tangential links come right at the end. It is odd, but it does offer some relief from what would otherwise be some pretty intense eco-warrior battle stories.

The stories are deeply hooking. The strength of the worlds that are created; the complexity of the characters is quite wonderful. There is an overall editorial narrative, but for the most part the eco-message is done through the characters and the story. Many books fall into the trap of telling, not showing. The Overstory shows.

For me, the full power of the novel came through by the end of the Trunk section. The pressure built and built; we reached a glorious and terrible crescendo. After that, the timelines started to stretch and it felt as though the pressure had been let off. That doesn't mean the story didn't continue to develop - it did - but some of the passion that had driven the characters in their eco-crusade had gone. At first this felt like a disappointment, an anti-climax. But a few days after finishing the novel, it feels like a real strength. It shows the ageing and the decay which, as the book illustrates with trees, is what nourishes other species and future generations.

I came to The Overstory with no great love of Richard Powers (I struggled through Orfeo); and no great sympathy for tree-huggers. I surprised myself by loving the novel; being persuaded by the message; and getting ever so emotionally attached to some of the characters. The Booker Prize has its critics, but if it can get me to read novels of this quality - against my natural instincts - then it is a wonderful thing.


message 41: by Robert (last edited Aug 26, 2018 05:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert | 2181 comments Interview with Richard Powers- the guy identified the oak tree he is sitting under!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwZC5...


WndyJW | 5960 comments I finished this afternoon. I liked it, I thought the message was very important, but I think it was too long. I don’t know what should be cut, I just know I was done before the book was.
I understand Powers was telling two stories: that of the 9 characters and their relationship with trees, and the story of the timber wars; it was definitely an ambitious book.

Most of the characters and their stories were interesting, but not all, and not interesting enough to justify the length of their individual stories in this context. Was it necessary to explore a marriage in the middle of all this? The family story around the Hoel Chestnut worked for me, but Ray and Dorothy were a distraction. Perhaps I missed the message in their story though.

I also wonder if it helps the important message Powers was trying to convey that these characters were all injured in some way. Plant Patty and her partner were introverts, but otherwise normal people. The others were lost souls in some way. Does one need to be struggling or out of step with humanity to get this message? I guess that explains how the 5 were ripe for radicalization and violence, but shouldn’t people who have family, friends, and jobs also notice and care about trees and forests and the planet? It almost seems to take away from the expectation that people who are not loners or odd in some way will wake up to Power’s plea to make changes.

I agree with those who felt the story peaked midway and took too long wrapping up. Again, other than the Brinkmans, I don’t know what I would cut.

Mimi Ma’s ending was, to me, a bit too much in a story that otherwise successfully managed to tread the very thin line between making a serious appeal to wake up to the sacredness of a natural world with complex systems that is worthy of our respect and our care, and becoming a caricature of pantheism that is likely to be scoffed at by evil people like, oh I don’t know...an actuarial or a banker, or people who like other people.

I think this was a 3 star book for me. 3 stars is a good book in my rating system.


message 43: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
I can't help thinking that if this wins, it will be another case of the "right author, wrong book" Booker winner. If we are to have a fourth consecutive male American winner it has to be a really great book, and although I admired the ambition and the intention, I don't think Powers has quite delivered that.


message 44: by Robert (last edited Aug 29, 2018 01:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert | 2181 comments Hugh wrote: "I can't help thinking that if this wins, it will be another case of the "right author, wrong book" Booker winner. If we are to have a fourth consecutive male American winner it has to be a really g..."


Really I would like The Mars Room to win but I'll be happy with The Overstory. If Sabrina wins oh wow! Milkman, though is a contender.

Although I haven't read Snap, I don't think it will be shortlisted.

which leaves Normal People, of which I have no opinion about (and yesterday BD announced that the book is now available and will be shipped soon)

UPDATE

Normal People has been dispatched. Now the waiting game.


Tommi | 539 comments I still think this is the most accomplished book on the longlist, and the only one I gave 5 stars. I was lucky enough to read it before it was listed, without any rush or expectations, so that probably affected my reading experience. So, in my opinion, if the winner is based purely on literary merit, Powers should win. But I see the problem with consecutive male American winners, and am happy to hand the prize to either Burns or Robertson! That is, if Rooney doesn’t change things.


message 46: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10041 comments WndyJW wrote: "a caricature of pantheism that is likely to be scoffed at by evil people like, oh I don’t know...an actuarial or a banker, or people who like other people.."

Well as an actuary and a banker (hopefully the third category as well) then I guess that's me!

Tommi wrote: "I was lucky enough to read it before it was listed, without any rush or expectations, so that probably affected my reading experience"

I also read it pre the longlist but had the opposite experience. Didn't strike me as anything close to Booker winning worthy, and I think Hugh's right author-wrong book thing (or maybe right book for this particular jury) applies.

And the Joanna Harris take down also sums up a lot of the writing. It is only one line in the book but it is a pretty poor one.


MisterHobgoblin Tommi wrote: "So, in my opinion, if the winner is based purely on literary merit, Powers should win."

Here we go again with this indefinable quality of literariness. I really don't know what it means - elsewhere it has been used to mean inaccessible and pretentious - here does it men an worthy?

The Booker Prize is supposed to go to the best novel. How that is defined is up to the panel each year. If they think that The Overstory is the best novel, then it must get the prize. But if they think another novel is better then that must win the prize. FWIW, I think that The Overstory is very, very good - based on engagement, plotting, character, writing. It's damn good fun and makes you think. I wouldn't be sorry if it won, but I do think we need to guard against this nebulous term of "literary".


message 48: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3478 comments Mod
Who said we were judging it on "literariness"? I felt that what let the book down was the lack of focus in the final section, but also that it tried to be too many things to work as a satisfying whole. And I loved the first half. But Powers has written better books - for example The Time of Our Singing, and both Orfeo and The Echo Maker felt more complete.

It is still on my personal shortlist too, but I would much prefer to see a less predictable name win, and would be happy with any of Burns, Johnson, Gunaratne, Rooney and Robertson. I predict at least 3 of these will miss out on the shortlist!


message 49: by Antonomasia (new) - added it

Antonomasia | 2629 comments MisterHobgoblin wrote: "Here we go again with this indefinable quality of literariness. I really don't know what it means - elsewhere it has been used to mean inaccessible and pretentious - here does it men an worthy? "

Even the OED examples show instances where it can be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on context and expectations.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/def...


message 50: by Tommi (last edited Aug 29, 2018 06:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tommi | 539 comments Didn’t mean to sound elitist, hence “in my opinion.” I firmly believe that a significant part of our assessment of a book is dependent on timing, previous personal experiences (in life and and reading), and hormones. Not saying that to save my skin – I’m aware I’m a much younger and less experienced reader than many in this group, as well as a non-native speaker, which might not make me the most reliable combo at all in evaluating books, literariness, or whatever.


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