Most of what I’ve been reading lately has nothing (directly) to do with the environment, which always causes me some anxiety. As an environmental anthropologist, I should be reading things about the environment and environmental issues! But then when I look at the literature that’s out there, it’s all very disappointing. I mean, it’s not all optimistic, bright green cheeriness, and there’s a fair amount of doom and gloom, but it’s all about how much we are fucking things up. That’s true, of course, and it’s important to be aware of, but there’s an underlying or unexamined romanticism to it all that makes it, ultimately, all too human – like, if we could just stop fucking things up, everything would be beautiful and happy. I think there’s a general failure to look at the gross, dark, dangerous, monstrous, and terrible aspects of the natural world – to encounter it on its own terms and really grapple with the non-humanity of it all. Like right now I’m reading this book River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon, which is great – it’s funny, and interesting, and well written – but the way the natural world is depicted is as this lovely, peaceful, wonderful space that is just being destroyed by humanity.
I don’t know exactly what I want, but I guess I would know it when I see it. I think the closest thing to it that I’ve read recently is the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. What’s really amazing about that series is that Area X is so not human, and it’s threatening and scary. Also, the bureaucracy, the Southern Reach, is completely entangled with Area X, but not in any kind of deterministic or unilateral way. But it’s fiction, and weird genre fiction at that, so the effect is a bit dulled. What I want to read is a non-fiction Southern Reach trilogy about the uncanny, eerie, and strange aspects of the actual natural world, and its entanglements with the human.
Anyway, just a thought. If you have any suggestions, let me know.