‘The Overstory’ on Scrolls, a new series from Yale University Press, and a celebration of children’s books

Richard Powers’ ‘Cover’ in new exhibition at Arnold Arboretum

In his 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Overstory, Richard Powers writes: “What you make from a tree should at least be as good as you cut it down.” It’s just as magical.” Artist Diane Samuels has created something that’s at least as magical. Samuels produced a 160-foot-long scroll, writing “The Overstory” in its entirety in tiny letters, across a vast expanse of rich texture and color, which is now on display at the Arnold Arboretum. Some parts resemble the appearance of bark: striated, active, alive. Thin lines spread across the scroll like mycelium, the subterranean thread that connects life to life; leaving features on the back of the scroll. Samuels used woodblock prints, drawings and writing on layers of paper and silk. Mulberry paper is used for the print on the back, paying homage to the mulberry tree planted by the father of one of the main characters in the book. The height of the scroll tip-to-tip is the height of a small coastal redwood, one of the typical trees in Powers’ book. “I’ve been to Sequoia,” Samuels said in an interview. “I stood before giants and saw how small we are compared to trees.” “The Overstory by Richard Powers” will be on view at the Arboretum through January 30. For more information, visit arboretum.harvard.edu.

“Ancient Life” from Yale University Press

Yale University Press’ new series “Ancient Lives” looks at the “thinkers, writers, kings, queens, conquerors, and statesmen” of the ancient world, delving into their humanity and creating biographical portraits with psychological depth and insight. The series launched alongside Francine Prose’s “Cleopatra: Her History, Her Myth,” and earlier this month she opined that “what we understand about Cleopatra means that because her story – her history – is often cited by writers The narrative has a political agenda, the author mistrusts her motives, the chroniclers doubt her public and private conduct, and the historian, frankly, considers her a liar.” Essay looks at the works of Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Shaw , and more recently the Queen of Egypt’s representations in film, art and theater, paint a nuanced portrait of a powerful woman with enduring allure. The series also includes Emma Thorson as Agrippina the Elder, James Rom as Demetrius, Sarah Ruden as Virgil, Toby Wilkinson as Ramses the Great and Horace’s Peter Storhard et al. Prose will join Stothard and Romm for a virtual panel this Tuesday, November 29 at 5pm. To register, visit oblongbooks.com/event. For more information on the series, visit yalebooks.yale.edu.

A Seasonal Celebration of Children’s Books in Concord

The Concord Museum is filled with 34 Christmas trees, each adorned with ornaments inspired by beloved children’s books, as part of the 27th annual Family Tree: A Celebration of Children’s Literature, which The event runs until January 2nd. Some of these books include “Imagine a Wolf: What Do You See?” by Lucky Pratt; “If I Built a House” by Chris Van Dusen; “Memory Jar” by Vera Brosgol; “A Million Trees” by Kristen Balouch Tree”; “The Puffin Keeper” by Michael Morpugo, illustrated by Beni Davies; “The Lost Words” by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris . Award-winning author and naturalist Sy Montgomery has been chosen as this year’s honorary chair, with honorees including Tomie dePaola, Gregory Maguire and Jane Yolen, among others. Montgomery will be appearing as part of an “Afternoon for Authors and Illustrators” next Sunday, December 4th from 1-3pm. She will be joined by Jannie Ho, Shawn Fields, Lucky Platt, Susan Edward Richmond, Linda Boot Sweeney, Melissa Stewart and Maggie van Galen. For more information and a full list of books, visit concordmuseum.org.

come out

“How Far Can Light Reach: The Lives of Ten Sea Creatures” by Sabrina Imbler (small, brown)

“Animal Life” By Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon (black cat)

“Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker” by Jason McBride (Simon and Schuster)

Featured this week

Yu-Mei Balasingamchow of Papercuts, Jamaica Plain, MA recommends “The Paper Zoo and Other Stories” by Ken Liu (Gallery/Saga): “Very magical science fiction that makes you think and feel. They immerse you in a world of deep technology, But always rooted in the heart. Some stories delved into mythology, others took us through time and space to explore the meaning of consciousness and self. All told in soft and captivating voices. I loved reading them, and I still love re-reading them.”

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