“The Overstory” by Richard Powers at the new Arnold Arboretum
“What you make of a miracle tree should be at least as good as what you cut down,” Richard Powers wrote in his 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Overstory.” At least something miraculous has been created by artist Diane Samuels. Samuels created a 160-foot scroll, the entirety of “The Overstory” written in small print across rich expanses of texture and color, and is now on display at the Arnold Arboretum. Some sections approximate the appearance of bark: striped, active, alive. Tiny streaks spread across the fascia like mycelia, sub-threads of soil that bind life to life; Leaves feature in the back of the scroll. Samuels uses woodblock prints, drawings, and words on layers of paper and silk. Mulberry paper is used for the prints on the reverse side in a nod to the mulberry tree grown by the father of one of the main characters in the book. The scroll’s height from end to end is that of a small coast redwood, one of the featured trees in Powers’ book. “I went to the Red Woods,” Samuels said in an interview. “I stood before the giant and watched the little spots that we compare to trees.” “The Overstory by Richard Powers” will be on display at the Arboretum until January 30th. For more information, visit arboretum. harvard.edu.
“Ancient Lives” from Yale University Press
“Ancient Lives,” a new series from Yale University Press, examines “thinkers, writers, kings, queens, conquerors, and politicians” from across the ancient world, delves into their humanity and creates autobiographical portraits with psychological depth and insight. The series launches with Francine Broz’ Cleopatra: Her History, Her Legend, released earlier this month, in which she considers “what it means to our understanding of Cleopatra to have her own story — her history — often told by writers with a political agenda, before by authors who distrust her motives, by historians who have been skeptical of her public and private behavior, and by historians who, frankly, believe her to be a liar.” The prose looks at the works of Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Shaw, as well as more recent representations of the Egyptian queen in film, art, and theatre, to create an accurate portrait of a powerful woman with enduring charm. The series also includes Emma Southon on Agrippina the Elder, James Romm on Demetrius, Sarah Ruden on Vergil, Toby Wilkinson on Ramesses the Great, and Peter Stothard on Horace, among others. Prose will be at a virtual panel with Stothard and Romm on Tuesday, November 29, at 5 p.m. To register visit oblongbooks.com/event. And for more information about the series, visit yalebooks.yale.edu.
Seasonal Children’s Book Celebration in Concord
The Concord Museum is filled with Christmas trees, thirty-four in all, each one decorated with ornaments inspired by beloved children’s books as part of the 27th annual “Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature,” which runs through January 2. Books include “Imagine a Wolf: What Do You See?” by Lucky Platt; “If I Build a House” by Chris Van Dusen; “Memory Jars” by Vera Brosgol; “Million Trees” by Christine Baloch; “The Puffin Keeper” by Michael Morbogo, illustrations by Benny Davies; and “The Lost Words” by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris. Award-winning author and naturalist C. Montgomery has been named this year’s Honorary Chair, and is part of a list of honorees that includes Tommy DiPaola, Gregory Maguire, and Jane Yolen, among others. Montgomery will appear as part of an “Afternoon with Authors and Illustrators” event that will be held next Sunday, December 4, from 1-3 p.m. She will be joined by Janie Ho, Sean Fields, Lucky Platt, Suzanne Edward Richmond, Linda Bott Sweeney, Melissa Stewart and Maggie Van Galen. For more information and a complete list of books, visit concordmuseum.org.
“How Far Does Light Go: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures” by Sabrina Imbler (little brown)
“animal life” By Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated from Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon (black cat)
Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Cathy Acker. by Jason McBride (Simon & Schuster)
Pick the week
Yu-Mei Balasingamchow of Papercuts in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts recommends Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” (exhibition/saga): “A completely magical sci-fi that makes you think and feel. They immerse you in deep technological worlds, yet are always grounded.” In matters of the human heart. Some stories are immersed in mythology, others transport us through time and space to explore the meaning of consciousness and the self. All in a tender, sweet voice. I loved reading it, and I still love re-reading it.”