“Art and nature are siblings, branches of the one tree.” —John Fowles
Barry Lopez by the McKenzie River near his home. Photograph by David Liittschwager.
Barry Lopez often explores the relationship between landscape and culture in his nonfiction. He wrote the introduction to the The Tree, just published by Ecco Books. Lopez spoke with me from his home in western Oregon.
The way that you described having to put the book down and walk away from it, “its thought was as stimulating as I could stand”—I had that exact experience as I read The Tree.
Well that’s wonderful. I think John was so strongly perceived by people as a literary figure, relatively few wondered where his pattern of thought came from. A somewhat ramulose—do you know what I mean by ramulose? If you look at a tangle of rosebushes and you try to trace with your eye, pick a rose, and go backwards, trying to find where it came from? Well, he had a ramulose mind, and he was captivated psychologically, emotionally, and in a literary way by these kinds of natural complexities. They endlessly entertained him.
Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of my favorite novels. I think of it as a book that is both a romance between humans and a romance between humans and nature.
I think you’re absolutely right.
It sticks with me in this intense way. I connect both love and romance and sex in that book to actual, physical landscapes. I can’t think of another novel like that. But I had never heard of The Tree until recently. It was a revelation to me.
To me too. I’m sitting on the same couch now, in the same room I read that book in thirty years ago, remembering it.
What has changed in those thirty years, both for you—and I know this is too big a question—and in terms of your experience of reading the book? Read More