Erosion

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

I'm a huge Terry Tempest Williams fan, so I was really excited that she has a new book out. This book of essays and poems, while beautifully written as always, felt a little less cohesive than some of her previous books - they bounce around quite a bit. Williams seems hopeful in some of these - she talks about the successes of the Endangered Species Act, for example - but the specter of both climate change and the Trump administration loom large. Ultimately it was stressful to read, but honestly I'm always stressed about the environment and climate, so that might not be a true reflection of this book. Her interview with Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist she's written about previously, was tough to read - he talks about how we've gone too far and the most dire consequences of climate change are now inevitable. But it was also thoughtful and inspiring - Tim and Terry discuss what is needed to break people free from complacency, what individuals can accomplish, and what we, as a culture, are willing to put up with. (Spoiler alert: a lot. See also gun violence.) I also really enjoyed the essay in which she and her students traveled around Wyoming listening to people's stories. As always with Williams's work, this is an important, necessary read.
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I truly appreciated this essays. They are beautiful, personal, and reverent. I recommend this read.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this arc.
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"If the world is torn to pieces, I want to see what story I can find in fragmentation."

Renowned nature writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams' latest comprises essays written between 2012 and 2019, "a seven-year cycle exploring the idea of erosion; the erosion of land; the erosion of home; the erosion of self; the erosion of the body and the body politic." Using this concept of erosion in various contexts, she tells stories from locales ranging from the Arctic to Rwanda, as well as (guardedly) introspective ones of her own life, relationships, and family. Everything is tied to a focus on the natural world and our responsibilities to it, drawing meaningful connections to the earth and its dire current state.

"Our undoing is also the making of our becoming."

In addition to a lot of anger, grief, and explorations of changing concepts of identity and place, the main theme creating a common thread throughout these pieces is that we're destroying the earth, but there's hope. Erosion does still leave something in its place. She argues that we can embrace erosion as the heralding of something new, of what's coming after, even if getting there in the first place wasn't the ideal option. Williams is realistic but presses the urgency of the current moment, and her lyrical writing underscores this.

Although I knew of her, I haven't read anything of hers before this. Having read it, I understand her vaunted reputation: she's an exceptionally skilled, deeply moving writer. So many of her sentences are so beautifully written yet impacting, and I reread individual lines that were almost mesmerizing. Still, this may not be the best book to serve as an introduction to her work. I always had a slight sense that I didn't know her background, although she assumes a certain immediate intimacy with the reader and gives such a strong sense of her values that maybe it was just my impression.

As these were collected over seven years and not necessarily intended for publication together, there is a significant overlap in topics and themes, particularly around some major points. Since climate change is the biggest topic, its frequency is understandable, but Williams makes her most salient points repeatedly so it can feel a bit much. Her arguments were strong enough once. Reading them over again only felt redundant.

For example, Williams was understandably incensed by Donald Trump's reversal of the protection President Obama gave in 2016 to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The story around it is told in one form or another several times. Trump controversially reduced its size, massively so, and fighting this particular act of erosion is a major cause for Williams. It's undoubtedly an important one, but the repetition didn't add anything, especially when she's done so much other interesting work in areas of nature and wildlife preservation.

She draws from the political often, having become "obsessed" with politics after Trump's election and the erosions to wildlife protection and nature conservation she sensed coming. It's a powerful side of her activism, and has its surprisingly hopeful elements, like when she reminds that Republican Richard Nixon was the one to sign the Endangered Species Act into law (its diminishing current state is another thing). But there's still hope.

There's one extremely personal essay addressing her brother's suicide, and her previous relationship to him. Her strength as a personal essayist is near-overwhelming, that story is one that will stay with me, as heartwrenching as it is. She writes as hauntingly of her personal griefs and regrets as she does about those in the wider world.

You know how the New York Times has been asking authors if they could force Trump to read one book, what would it be? I think I'd pick this one. Yes, I know it's an impossible dream because it has no pictures and he's incapable of abstract thinking or appreciating the power and meaning in words that aren't his own name crowning a building in 10-foot tall gold letters, but nevertheless. The knowledge, urgency, and gift for storytelling Williams brings to these essays are undeniably stirring. 3.5/5

Some favorite lines:

"We need not lose hope, we just need to locate where it dwells."

On her complicated history with Utah's Mormon community, which led to her resignation from the University of Utah: "If birds had a voice, so did I."

"The afterlife we imagine exists in our minds. Perhaps that is enough. If it isn't we turn to religion."

"Once I stared at a burrowing owl on the edge of Great Salt Lake and was given a curse of a phrase: 'If I can learn to love death, I can begin to find refuge in change.'"
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https://bookriot.com/2019/10/04/best-essay-collections-2019/

This volume collects essays written between 2016 and 2018 covering the topic she has always written so beautifully about: the natural world. The essays focus on the concept of erosion, including the erosion of land and of the self. They are her response to the often-overwhelming challenges we face in the political and the natural world.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Sarah Crichton Books for sending me a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Erosion: Essays of Undoing, is a collection of environmental essays written by the author between 2012 and 2019. I was first drawn to this book because of the concept, which sounded promising: the essays were to explore “the concept of erosion: of the land, of the self, of belief, of fear”. I was also looking forward to reading pro-environment work on current issues. Unfortunately, I found the over 300 page collection to be very disappointing and it took me two months to finish (an abysmally slow rate for me).

First, though, let’s start with what I enjoyed most from Erosion. Of the 32 essays (not including the preface), I really enjoyed only 3. Paper, Rock, Scissors was my favorite essay: it was lyrical and compelling and made me realize just how much the other essays were lacking. A Public Bench Made of White Bark Pine was a beautiful short poem that I will continue to return to, and The Park of the Future was a fascinating short speculative piece on what Canyonlands National Park might look like in 2155. While I immensely enjoyed this third essay, it really didn’t seem to fit the rest of the collection.

However, as environmental essays go, this book isn’t riveting. I think Erosion covers too many topics in too short a space; I would have enjoyed spending more time on fewer issues and ensuring each essay complemented the others. In The Council of Pronghorn Tempest takes the time to explain how words matter, but fails to follow her own advice throughout Erosion. The synopsis promised a look “at the current state of American politics: the dire social and environmental implications of recent choices to gut Bears Ears National Monument, sacred lands to Native People of the American Southwest, and undermine the Endangered Species Act. She testifies that climate change is not an abstraction, citing the drought outside her door and at times, within herself.” but I had difficulty finding material to take away.

Overall, I’m sad with how underwhelming I found this book. Erosion releases October 8th; thank you again to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the privilege of reviewing an ARC.
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Erosion is thoughtfully written. So much so, in fact, that as others have written, it requires slowing down and savoring the words. It's not easy. But it is rewarding.
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Terry Tempest Williams is always a treasure, and this newest collection of essays is an excellent example of her ability to join the past with a clear vision of the most precious gifts of the present.
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"We are eroding and evolving, all at once."

Terry Tempest Williams tackles the theme of erosion and undoing throughout these essays - examining topics of public lands, family, career, belief. There is an underlying tension between connectedness and grief that I've experienced in her writing before.

I'm posting this a few days after finishing and I just keep thinking about her losing her job at the University of Utah after she and her husband tried protecting some land by forming a trust and bidding on the lease. She herself is an institution, living in Utah, teaching writing, and her own undoing included moving across the country at last part of the year just to make a living.

TW for Trump-led destruction of protected lands, harm to Diné communities, and suicide.
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Erosion comes out on October 8th and I would highly recommend this work. Erosion is a powerful collection of essays. This book was raw, alive, and honest. A trigger warning for this work is a section focused on suicide. The essays highlight so many moral issues intertwined with protecting the Earth. Terry discusses her experience growing up Mormon and the significant changes to her spirituality focused on interconnections with the natural world. Terry discusses the loss of her brother to suicide and about grief, loss, and what the cremation process is truly like. Terry discusses Utah, her home, and discusses how the oil industry has manipulated and taken land with the encouragement and support of local law makers and our current president. She discusses Native Communities and the realities of racism and greed in the destruction of Bear Ears National Monument, and what is defined as home. This is a valuable and timely work I would recommend to all who are feeling angry, hopeless, or defeated in a country where many continue to ignore the realities of climate change and corporate greed. I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley to provide a review and have given my honest feedback.
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I made the mistake, when I first started this book, of trying to read through the essays quickly.  In doing this, I not only missed out on the author's beautiful writing but the message began to feel repetitive.  Once I slowed down, savoring one or two essays in a sitting, I really starting to connect emotionally with the writing.  Two in particular; "The Council of Pronghorn" and her interview with Tim DeChristopher are mesmerizing.  Even read spread out some of the essays still felt redundant, but this is a collection I will be thinking about for months to come.  I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I adore Terry Tempest Williams, and this book belongs on the shelf right next to her masterpiece WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS. It's a classic of our time. Years from now, when I think about what the late 2010s were like, this is one of the books I'll remember. The essays are of varying lengths, and most of them relate to the environment, but she also explores ideas relating to spirituality, old age, and death. Many of the essays are urgent, but we are living in a moment when the environment needs to be treated with urgency. 

One of the great things about this book is that it can be picked up and put down -- you can read one essay at a time with days or even weeks in between without damaging the experience of reading the book. Her writing should be savored. It's so direct yet so beautiful. I think her writing style can speak to a variety of readers, so I hope that this book could connect to a reader who typically doesn't think much about humans' role in protecting the natural world. 

I don't know that TTW ever gets as much buzz as she should, but I hope that this book makes its way into the hearts of as many readers as possible.
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Such a powerful, gorgeous book. Terry Tempest Williams is one of the finest naturalists writing today and I can't wait to share this newest title with our customers and staff.
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True to brand, Terry Tempest Williams delivers signature wisdom about the environment in this group of essays hitting on the current political climate and the urgency of the climate crisis.  Her observations are on point, if sometimes redundant and heavy handed.
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Erosion is a collection of essays by activist Terry Tempest Williams. As implied by the title, Williams focuses on the concept of erosion in politics, climate, public lands, and self. Focusing predominantly on the Trump administration's degradation of public lands in the American southwest for the use of fossil fuel special interests, Williams paints stark portraits of the plight of the Native People and the impact that ignoring climate change will have on future generations. 

The majority of the essays hit on the nose, even if they become a bit repetitive in topic from time to time. The essays shine brightest when Williams is detailing her exploits in activism, such as her and her partner's brilliant purchase of land for the intent of protecting it at an auction where it was being sold for the purpose of fossil fuel drilling. Admittedly, the messaging is a bit heavy handed, but we're at a time when that's becoming the only method that is going to be effective. Perhaps the best illustration of this comes from one of her essays here, a terrifyingly imagined 2155, where a robot worker invites people to step outside, but only briefly, into a land of beauty that has become inhospitable to the majority of species. 

Erosion's collection of thoughts are a good antidote to the Trumpian rhetoric and policy of the times, where national parks are being unprotected and species protection is being challenged, all in the name of the capitalist idol. 

**I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux.**
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Oof- this book is what the withered soul needs. For those of us living under oppressive Trump Era policies, Terry Tempest Williams says what we’re all feeling- with regards to his environmental (non)protection policies. She has had to live closely with them, as a resident of Utah, and an advocate for public and indigenous lands.  Her essays are beautiful, personal, and reverent. She is reverent to herself, her land, and her people in a way that many of us have forgotten, or never learned.
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Terry Tempest Willams essays are angry about the environment the Trump administrations  handling of and disregard for our land.Her writing is lyrical intimate she brings us into her life her world sharing so much including the suicide of her brother..Another book of essays that gives so much to think about thoughts that can inspire activism.This is a literary read a book with essays mixed in with poems another treasure of a read by this extraordinary author.#netgalley #fsg
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This a wake up call and a reconnecting work with nature. Terry’s  analysis is shared with honesty  and deep analysis. He is able to impact the reader and understand how precious and fragile is the life. Sublime!

#NetGalley
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