Staff Pick

Macfarlane’s new book is profound in all senses of the word. In it he explores the “deep time” of caves, glaciers, and burial chambers as well as reflecting on the meaning of our most ancient myths and primal dreams. It’s no accident that the title rhymes with Wonderland: here are wonders galore, from the magnificent geological formations of limestone and karst to the earliest human art in Lascaux and Chauvet to the myriad surprises waiting in the Paris catacombs. Here also is the wonder of Macfarlane’s prose; rhythmic, dramatic, and fluent in the rich vocabulary of geology, glaciology, and their emotional analogs, Macfarlane is spellbinding as he describes the look, feel, and sound of extreme cold; the amazing variety of blues in a Greenland glacier; and the remarkable life cycle of stone, which, seen in deep time, “folds as strata, gouts as lava, floats as plates, shifts as shingles.” But if the underland is where we store “that which we love and wish to save,” it’s also where we hope to unburden ourselves of “that which we fear.” Macfarlane found as many nightmares as wonders in his travels; his accounts of underground avalanches and impossibly narrow stone gorges are chilling. But the greater dangers he uncovered—from anthrax spores released by melting permafrost to tons of radioactive nuclear waste—also threaten those of us who stay safely on the surface. Grappling with these and other symptoms of the Anthropocene, Macfarlane bumps up against the very limits of language. “The idea of the Anthropocene repeatedly strikes us dumb,” he admits. But by linking our destabilized present and uncertain, post-human future to our roots in the deepest past, be believes we might be able to find “a language of grief and…a language of hope” that will help us survive.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780393242140
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 4th, 2019

Staff Pick

Writers are sometimes divided into putter-iners and taker-outers. Scanlan may belong to a new category: the re-arranger. Billed as fiction, her book is truly sui generis, though it may be closer to haiku or to the revealed poetry of erasure than to prose of any genre. Based on the diary of a woman who, at the age of eighty-nine, started recording spare notes about weather, friends’ health, puzzles, and other everyday activities, Scanlan’s book is a collection of separate paragraphs drawn from the original entries, each rarely covering even half a page. Grouped by season, they telescope what were presumably the last five years of the diarist’s life. Starting with “Happy New Year. Brr. Brr. Brr” and ending with “Sun shining then rainy but clearing,” Scanlan’s version gives us a distinctive voice and, soon, a personality and story—or rather—story lines. We get names, events, and sensory details, but the impact lies in the oral rhythms and juxtapositions rather than in explicit narrative. Many entries are beautiful and surprisingly moving, such as one memorable summer day when the writer “took drive thru timber, turned and come back. Found condemned bridge & didn’t cross it.”

Aug 9 - Fog Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780374106874
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: MCD - June 4th, 2019

Staff Pick

Equal parts family memoir and natural history, Renkl’s collection of lyrical vignettes is a true hybrid; as much a product of “piney woods and…birdsong and running creeks” as she is of several Alabama-bred generations, Renkl gracefully and often tellingly alternates stories of great grand--, grand- and parents with accounts of the bluebirds, cedar waxwings, monarch caterpillars, and orb weaver spiders in her Nashville yard. Recounted with vivid details and deep affection, these stories celebrate Renkl’s connections to people and nature but also acknowledge that “the cycle of life might as well be called the cycle of death.” Loss is a constant presence here—loss by illness, accident, age, depression, miscarriage, pesticide, and rat snake. But Renkl’s grief is so intimately tied to love that her fine observations—of her mother’s sudden, startling end, her father’s long last breaths, the shocking disappearance of nestlings—make the pain bearable. And as Renkl admits early in this beautiful book, “I am no scientist, but the flipside of ignorance is astonishment, and I am good at astonishment.” She sure is.

 

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781571313782
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Milkweed Editions - July 9th, 2019

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