Trees and books
“On the last day of the world / I would want to plant a tree,” W. S. Merwin wrote. Speak for the Trees, Boston, founded in 2018, understands the powerful and multifaceted role that trees play in matters of public health, in environmental justice, and in forestalling the effects of climate change, not just in forests, but in neighborhoods and city streets. They work to increase and maintain the urban forest of Boston by planting trees, keeping inventories of neighborhood trees, and protecting area trees from development, focusing especially on under-served and under-canopied neighborhoods. In honor of the trees that go into the making of books, Brookline Booksmith has teamed up with Speak for the Trees, and for the rest of the month, customers can donate to the organization when they check out. The collaboration rose out of Covid, Booksmith co-owner Lisa Gozashti explained, when the store asked how they could deepen their connection to the community. “How can we interweave and create something that has more ballast for the people who live here?” Gozashti said. “There’s a beautiful felicity when we realize how connected we are.” For more information visit treeboston.org.
A rockin’ novel
Clea Simon knows how to capture the texture of the rock club — its heat, sex, power, energy, and danger, too. Her propulsive new thriller, “Hold Me Down” (Polis), centers around Gal, the wild-once lead singer of a reunited band playing a show to honor the band’s late drummer, and Gal’s best friend. A man in the crowd with a familiar face is murdered outside the club, and the mystery that unfolds demands Gal look into her friend’s past, and the darker corners of her own. In electric prose, Simon conjures the rock-and-roll world, its drink, drugs, and band-dynamics, and the twin seductresses of excess and success, as she makes a penetrating portrait of friendship. She writes of what it is to look back on the past, with nostalgia, grief, longing, regret, and the ongoing process of losing control, and getting it back. “As she took control, the rave up became a grind. Not the best tempo, Gal had to admit, but at least it was hers again — her song, her band. And she played it for all it was worth, straddling the mic stand, caterwauling the lyrics. ‘Gotta make it new.’” Simon will read and discuss the book Thursday, October 28 at 7 pm in virtual event with Harvard Bookstore. To register, visit harvard.com/events.
Writers explore the many facets of Henry David Thoreau in a rich new anthology. “Now Comes Good Sailing” edited by Andrew Blauner (Princeton) takes its title from what are thought to be some of the last words Thoreau spoke before his death, and, from a variety of perspectives, looks at “Thoreau the observer, the romantic, the influencer, the artist, the avid ice-skater, the activist and the extoller of nature,” Blauner writes. James Marcus examines Thoreau’s relationship to Emerson and Emerson’s wife, offering a “sense of friendship as a spiritual undertaking, a fusion of kindred souls.” Rafia Zakaria, “a brown immigrant woman wading into American history and writing about an American icon,” spends time in the home where Thoreau was born, and wonders, “Was Thoreau’s solitude the same as mine?” And Kristen Case admits, “Like many, I disliked him at first.” The anthology also includes essays by Pico Iyer, Mona Simpson, A. O. Scott, Amor Towles, Tatiana Schlossberg, Lauren Groff, Jordan Salama, and Megan Marshall, among others.
“Little Pharma” by Laura Kolbe (University of Pittsburgh)
“Dreaming of You” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (Astra House)
“Essays Two” by Lydia Davis (FSG)
Pick of the Week
Jim O’Connell at the Brown University Bookstore in Providence, Rhode Island, recommends “Hopscotch” by Julio Cortazar (Pantheon): “Two, maybe even three, novels, in one book, this ‘counter-novel’ moves between Paris and Buenos Aires, between first person, third person and stream-of-consciousness, and even between a straight read through, a ‘hopscotching’ method laid out by the author, and a possible self-guided tour across the pages. Enjoy, wear comfortable slippers.”