Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

10

He wonders: What makes the bark twist and swirl so, in a tree so straight and wide? Could it be the spinning of the Earth? Is it trying to get the attention of men? Seven hundred years before, a chestnut in Sicily two hundred feet around sheltered a Spanish queen and her hundred mounted knights from a raging storm. That tree will outlive, by a hundred years and more, the man who has never heard of it.

“Do you remember?” Jørgen asks the woman who holds his hand. “Prospect Hill? How we ate that night!” He nods toward the leafy limbs, the land beyond. “I gave you that. And you gave me—all of this! This country. My life. My freedom.” But the woman who holds his hand is not his wife. Vi has died five years ago, of infected lungs.

“Sleep now,” his granddaughter tells him, and lays his hand back on his spent chest. “We’ll all be just downstairs.”

—p.10 NICHOLAS HOEL (5) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

He wonders: What makes the bark twist and swirl so, in a tree so straight and wide? Could it be the spinning of the Earth? Is it trying to get the attention of men? Seven hundred years before, a chestnut in Sicily two hundred feet around sheltered a Spanish queen and her hundred mounted knights from a raging storm. That tree will outlive, by a hundred years and more, the man who has never heard of it.

“Do you remember?” Jørgen asks the woman who holds his hand. “Prospect Hill? How we ate that night!” He nods toward the leafy limbs, the land beyond. “I gave you that. And you gave me—all of this! This country. My life. My freedom.” But the woman who holds his hand is not his wife. Vi has died five years ago, of infected lungs.

“Sleep now,” his granddaughter tells him, and lays his hand back on his spent chest. “We’ll all be just downstairs.”

—p.10 NICHOLAS HOEL (5) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
14

IF GOD HAD A BROWNIE, He might shoot another animated short subject: blight hovering a moment before plunging down the Appalachians into the heart of chestnut country. The chestnuts up North were majestic. But the southern trees are gods. They form near-pure stands for miles on end. In the Carolinas, boles older than America grow ten feet wide and a hundred and twenty feet tall. Whole forests of them flower in rolling clouds of white. Scores of mountain communities are built from the beautiful, straight-grained wood. A single tree might yield as many as fourteen thousand planks. The stocks of food that fall shin-deep feed entire counties, every year a mast year.

Now the gods are dying, all of them. The full force of human ingenuity can’t stop the disaster breaking over the continent. The blight runs along ridgelines, killing off peak after peak. A person perched on an overlook above the southern mountains can watch the trunks change to gray-white skeletons in a rippling wave. Loggers race through a dozen states to cut down whatever the fungus hasn’t reached. The nascent Forest Service encourages them. Use the wood, at least, before it’s ruined. And in that salvage mission, men kill any tree that might contain the secret of resistance.

A five-year-old in Tennessee who sees the first orange spots appear in her magic woods will have nothing left to show her own children except pictures. They’ll never see the ripe, full habit of the tree, never know the sight and sound and smell of their mother’s childhood. Millions of dead stumps sprout suckers that struggle on, year after year, before dying of an infection that, preserved in these stubborn shoots, will never disappear. By 1940, the fungus takes everything, all the way out to the farthest stands in southern Illinois. Four billion trees in the native range vanish into myth. Aside from a few secret pockets of resistance, the only chestnuts left are those that pioneers took far away, to states beyond the reach of the drifting spores.

NOOOOO

—p.14 NICHOLAS HOEL (5) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

IF GOD HAD A BROWNIE, He might shoot another animated short subject: blight hovering a moment before plunging down the Appalachians into the heart of chestnut country. The chestnuts up North were majestic. But the southern trees are gods. They form near-pure stands for miles on end. In the Carolinas, boles older than America grow ten feet wide and a hundred and twenty feet tall. Whole forests of them flower in rolling clouds of white. Scores of mountain communities are built from the beautiful, straight-grained wood. A single tree might yield as many as fourteen thousand planks. The stocks of food that fall shin-deep feed entire counties, every year a mast year.

Now the gods are dying, all of them. The full force of human ingenuity can’t stop the disaster breaking over the continent. The blight runs along ridgelines, killing off peak after peak. A person perched on an overlook above the southern mountains can watch the trunks change to gray-white skeletons in a rippling wave. Loggers race through a dozen states to cut down whatever the fungus hasn’t reached. The nascent Forest Service encourages them. Use the wood, at least, before it’s ruined. And in that salvage mission, men kill any tree that might contain the secret of resistance.

A five-year-old in Tennessee who sees the first orange spots appear in her magic woods will have nothing left to show her own children except pictures. They’ll never see the ripe, full habit of the tree, never know the sight and sound and smell of their mother’s childhood. Millions of dead stumps sprout suckers that struggle on, year after year, before dying of an infection that, preserved in these stubborn shoots, will never disappear. By 1940, the fungus takes everything, all the way out to the farthest stands in southern Illinois. Four billion trees in the native range vanish into myth. Aside from a few secret pockets of resistance, the only chestnuts left are those that pioneers took far away, to states beyond the reach of the drifting spores.

NOOOOO

—p.14 NICHOLAS HOEL (5) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
41

IN THE FALL, with his wife in the basement studying Latin, Winston Ma, once Ma Sih Hsuin to everyone who knew him, sits under the crumbling mulberry and, with Verdi’s Macbeth blasting out the bedroom window, puts a Smith & Wesson 686 with hardwood grips up to his temple and spreads the workings of his infinite being across the flagstones of the backyard. He leaves no note except a calligraphic copy of Wang Wei’s twelve-hundred-year-old poem left unfurled on parchment across the desk in his study:

An old man, I want
only peace.
The things of this world
mean nothing.
I know no good way
to live and I can’t
stop getting lost in my
thoughts, my ancient forests.
The wind that waves the pines
loosens my belt.
The mountain moon lights me
as I play my lute.
You ask: how does a man rise or fall in this life?
The fisherman’s song flows deep under the river.

Mimi is in SFO, on her way to Seattle for a site inspection. She’s mock-shopping the concourse when out of the cacophony of gate calls and public service announcements her name blares out. Something cold grabs at her scalp. Before the people at the customer service desk even hand her the phone, she knows. And all the way home to Illinois she thinks: How do I recognize this already? Why does this all feel so much like remembering?

—p.41 MIMI MA (24) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

IN THE FALL, with his wife in the basement studying Latin, Winston Ma, once Ma Sih Hsuin to everyone who knew him, sits under the crumbling mulberry and, with Verdi’s Macbeth blasting out the bedroom window, puts a Smith & Wesson 686 with hardwood grips up to his temple and spreads the workings of his infinite being across the flagstones of the backyard. He leaves no note except a calligraphic copy of Wang Wei’s twelve-hundred-year-old poem left unfurled on parchment across the desk in his study:

An old man, I want
only peace.
The things of this world
mean nothing.
I know no good way
to live and I can’t
stop getting lost in my
thoughts, my ancient forests.
The wind that waves the pines
loosens my belt.
The mountain moon lights me
as I play my lute.
You ask: how does a man rise or fall in this life?
The fisherman’s song flows deep under the river.

Mimi is in SFO, on her way to Seattle for a site inspection. She’s mock-shopping the concourse when out of the cacophony of gate calls and public service announcements her name blares out. Something cold grabs at her scalp. Before the people at the customer service desk even hand her the phone, she knows. And all the way home to Illinois she thinks: How do I recognize this already? Why does this all feel so much like remembering?

—p.41 MIMI MA (24) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
58

A JOKE OFFER from a friend—Three bucks if you do my algebra—and he finds himself with easy pocket money. So easy, in fact, that he starts to advertise. Assignments completed in any subject except foreign languages, at any desired quality, as fast as you need them. It takes a while to find the right price point, but when he does, the clients fall in line. He experiments with volume discounts and pay-ahead plans. Soon he’s the proprietor of a successful small business. His parents are relieved to see him doing homework again, for hours each night. They love that he stops bugging them for cash. It’s like win-win-win. Morning in America, with the free market doing its thing, and Adam goes to bed each night thankful to have been born into an entrepreneurial culture.

He’s quick and conscientious. Every assignment is ready by deadline. Soon he has built the most reliable and respected cheating franchise at Harding High. The business makes him almost popular. He socks away most of the cash. There’s nothing he can spend it on that gives him more pleasure than looking at the balance accumulating in his passbook savings account and calculating dollars per duped educator.

Demanding work does requires sacrifice, however. He’s forced to learn all kinds of interesting things that shouldn’t interest him.

—p.58 ADAM APPICH (47) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

A JOKE OFFER from a friend—Three bucks if you do my algebra—and he finds himself with easy pocket money. So easy, in fact, that he starts to advertise. Assignments completed in any subject except foreign languages, at any desired quality, as fast as you need them. It takes a while to find the right price point, but when he does, the clients fall in line. He experiments with volume discounts and pay-ahead plans. Soon he’s the proprietor of a successful small business. His parents are relieved to see him doing homework again, for hours each night. They love that he stops bugging them for cash. It’s like win-win-win. Morning in America, with the free market doing its thing, and Adam goes to bed each night thankful to have been born into an entrepreneurial culture.

He’s quick and conscientious. Every assignment is ready by deadline. Soon he has built the most reliable and respected cheating franchise at Harding High. The business makes him almost popular. He socks away most of the cash. There’s nothing he can spend it on that gives him more pleasure than looking at the balance accumulating in his passbook savings account and calculating dollars per duped educator.

Demanding work does requires sacrifice, however. He’s forced to learn all kinds of interesting things that shouldn’t interest him.

—p.58 ADAM APPICH (47) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
58

AT HOLYOKE, Mimi is a LUG: lesbian until graduation. It’s the same at half of the other Seven Sisters colleges, rounded up. Scissors and paste, they call it. Fun, sinning, healthy, shameful, sweet—great practice for something. Life, say. Whatever happens after school.

She reads nineteenth-century American poetry and drinks afternoon tea in South Hadley for three semesters. It beats Wheaton. But one April day she’s reading Abbott’s Flatland for a sophomore survey called Transcendence, when she reaches the part where the narrator, A. Square, gets lifted out of his plane into the expanses of Spaceland. Truth comes over her like a revelation: The only thing worth believing in is measurement. She must become an engineer, like her daddy before her. It’s not even a choice. She’s an engineer already, and always has been. And as with Abbott’s Square, the minute she comes back to Flatland, her Holyoke friends want to lock her up.

She transfers to Berkeley. Best place for ceramic engineering she can find. The place is a staggering time warp. Future masters of the universe study alongside unrepentant revolutionaries who believe the Golden Age of Human Potential peaked ten years before.

She thrives, reborn Mimi, looking like a diminutive Kazakh carrying a programmable calculator, and, in the estimation of many, the cutest thing ever to mouth the Hall-Petch equation. She savors the eerie Stepford Wives climate. She sits in the eucalyptus grove, the trees that explode in the dry heat, solving problem sets and watching the protesters with their placards full of all-caps slogans. The better the weather, the more irate the demands.

The month before graduation, she dons a killer interview suit—sleek, gray, professional, inexorable as a NoCal earthquake. She interviews with eight campus reps and gets three offers. She takes a job as a casting process supervisor for a molding outfit in Portland, because it offers the most chance to travel. They send her to Korea. She falls in love with the country. In four months, she learns more Korean than she knows Chinese.

—p.58 ADAM APPICH (47) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

AT HOLYOKE, Mimi is a LUG: lesbian until graduation. It’s the same at half of the other Seven Sisters colleges, rounded up. Scissors and paste, they call it. Fun, sinning, healthy, shameful, sweet—great practice for something. Life, say. Whatever happens after school.

She reads nineteenth-century American poetry and drinks afternoon tea in South Hadley for three semesters. It beats Wheaton. But one April day she’s reading Abbott’s Flatland for a sophomore survey called Transcendence, when she reaches the part where the narrator, A. Square, gets lifted out of his plane into the expanses of Spaceland. Truth comes over her like a revelation: The only thing worth believing in is measurement. She must become an engineer, like her daddy before her. It’s not even a choice. She’s an engineer already, and always has been. And as with Abbott’s Square, the minute she comes back to Flatland, her Holyoke friends want to lock her up.

She transfers to Berkeley. Best place for ceramic engineering she can find. The place is a staggering time warp. Future masters of the universe study alongside unrepentant revolutionaries who believe the Golden Age of Human Potential peaked ten years before.

She thrives, reborn Mimi, looking like a diminutive Kazakh carrying a programmable calculator, and, in the estimation of many, the cutest thing ever to mouth the Hall-Petch equation. She savors the eerie Stepford Wives climate. She sits in the eucalyptus grove, the trees that explode in the dry heat, solving problem sets and watching the protesters with their placards full of all-caps slogans. The better the weather, the more irate the demands.

The month before graduation, she dons a killer interview suit—sleek, gray, professional, inexorable as a NoCal earthquake. She interviews with eight campus reps and gets three offers. She takes a job as a casting process supervisor for a molding outfit in Portland, because it offers the most chance to travel. They send her to Korea. She falls in love with the country. In four months, she learns more Korean than she knows Chinese.

—p.58 ADAM APPICH (47) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
103

The itching is insane. Every spot above his waist is unreachable fire. When he drops back down to earth again, his mother is there, curled up in the chair next to his bed. A change in his breathing wakes her from her sleep. His father is there, too, somehow. Neelay worries; what will his employers say when they discover he’s not at work?

His mother says, “You came down out of a tree.”

He can’t connect the dots. “Fell?”

“Yes,” she argues. “That’s what you did.”

“Why are my legs in tubes? Is that to keep me from breaking things?”

Her finger wags in the air, then touches her lips. “Everything will be fine.”

His mother doesn’t say such things.

The nurses ease him by degrees off the pain drip. Anguish sets in as the drugs dry up. People come to see him. His father’s boss. His mother’s card-playing friends. They smile like they’re doing calisthenics. Their comfort scares the crap out of him.

“You’ve been through a lot,” the doctor says. But Neelay has been through nothing. His body, perhaps. His avatar. But he? Nothing important in the code has changed.

The doctor is kind, with a tremor when his hand drops to his side, and eyes that fix on a blank spot high up on the walls. Neelay asks, “Can you take the vise-things off my legs?”

The doctor nods, but not in agreement. “You have some mending to do.”

“It’s bugging me, not to be able to move them.”

“You concentrate on healing. Then we’ll talk about what happens next.”

“Can you at least take off the boots? I can’t even wriggle my toes.”

Then he understands. He’s not yet twelve. He has lived for years in a place of his own devising. The thought of countless good things passing out of his life doesn’t quite occur to him. He still has that other place, the heaven in embryo.

But his mother and father: they fall apart. Awful hours set in, days of disbelief and desperate bargaining that he won’t remember. There will be years of supernatural solutions, alternative practices, and miracle cures. For a long time, his parents’ love will make his sentence worse, until they finally put their faith in moksha and accept that their son is a cripple.

—p.103 NEELAY MEHTA (91) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The itching is insane. Every spot above his waist is unreachable fire. When he drops back down to earth again, his mother is there, curled up in the chair next to his bed. A change in his breathing wakes her from her sleep. His father is there, too, somehow. Neelay worries; what will his employers say when they discover he’s not at work?

His mother says, “You came down out of a tree.”

He can’t connect the dots. “Fell?”

“Yes,” she argues. “That’s what you did.”

“Why are my legs in tubes? Is that to keep me from breaking things?”

Her finger wags in the air, then touches her lips. “Everything will be fine.”

His mother doesn’t say such things.

The nurses ease him by degrees off the pain drip. Anguish sets in as the drugs dry up. People come to see him. His father’s boss. His mother’s card-playing friends. They smile like they’re doing calisthenics. Their comfort scares the crap out of him.

“You’ve been through a lot,” the doctor says. But Neelay has been through nothing. His body, perhaps. His avatar. But he? Nothing important in the code has changed.

The doctor is kind, with a tremor when his hand drops to his side, and eyes that fix on a blank spot high up on the walls. Neelay asks, “Can you take the vise-things off my legs?”

The doctor nods, but not in agreement. “You have some mending to do.”

“It’s bugging me, not to be able to move them.”

“You concentrate on healing. Then we’ll talk about what happens next.”

“Can you at least take off the boots? I can’t even wriggle my toes.”

Then he understands. He’s not yet twelve. He has lived for years in a place of his own devising. The thought of countless good things passing out of his life doesn’t quite occur to him. He still has that other place, the heaven in embryo.

But his mother and father: they fall apart. Awful hours set in, days of disbelief and desperate bargaining that he won’t remember. There will be years of supernatural solutions, alternative practices, and miracle cures. For a long time, his parents’ love will make his sentence worse, until they finally put their faith in moksha and accept that their son is a cripple.

—p.103 NEELAY MEHTA (91) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
107

AT FIRST, the point of coding is to give everything away. Pure philanthropy. He’ll find a marvelous seed program in the public domain. Then he’ll flesh it out, add new features, switch on his 1,200-baud modem, dial in to a local bulletin board, and upload the source for anyone who wants to grow it some more. Soon his creatures propagate on hosts across the planet. Every day people around the globe add new species to the repositories. It’s the Cambrian Explosion all over again, only a billion times faster.

Neelay gives away his first masterpiece, a turn-based romp where you play a Japanese movie monster eating its way across the world’s metropolises. Hundreds of people in a dozen countries grab it, even at forty-five minutes per download. So what if playing it does to your free time what the monsters do to Tokyo? His second game—conquistadores ravaging the virgin Americas—is another freeware hit. A Usenet group forms just to trade game strategies. The program generates a new, geologically realistic New World each time you play. It turns any grocery store bag boy into stout Cortez.

His games spawn imitations. The more people steal from him, the better Neelay feels about his chair-bound life. The more he gives away, the more he has. From his vantage, stranded in his wheelchair in a basement lab, whole new continents swing into view. The gift economy—free duplication of well-shaped commands—promises to solve scarcity at last and cure the hunger at the heart’s core. The name Neelay Mehta grows mini-legendary among the pioneers. People thank him on dial-up boards and in game news groups. College kids talk about him in chat rooms as if he’s some Tolkien character. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a beached, elongated freak, unable to move without machines.

But by his eighteenth birthday, paradise is sprouting fences. Former philanthropists of free code start taking out copyrights and making actual coin. They even have the nerve to form private companies. Granted, they’re still just peddling floppy discs in baggies, but it’s clear how things will go. The commons are getting enclosed. The gift culture will be throttled in the cradle.

Neelay blasts the betrayal at each week’s meeting of the Home-Rolled Club. He spends his free time re-creating one of the most famous commercial offerings, improving on it, then releasing the clone into the public domain. Infringement? Maybe. But every one of the so-called copyrighted properties relies on decades of prior unpaid art. For a year, Neelay plays Robin Hood, camped out in the anarchic forest with his merry men, under a massive oak older than the deed to the land it grows on.

—p.107 NEELAY MEHTA (91) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

AT FIRST, the point of coding is to give everything away. Pure philanthropy. He’ll find a marvelous seed program in the public domain. Then he’ll flesh it out, add new features, switch on his 1,200-baud modem, dial in to a local bulletin board, and upload the source for anyone who wants to grow it some more. Soon his creatures propagate on hosts across the planet. Every day people around the globe add new species to the repositories. It’s the Cambrian Explosion all over again, only a billion times faster.

Neelay gives away his first masterpiece, a turn-based romp where you play a Japanese movie monster eating its way across the world’s metropolises. Hundreds of people in a dozen countries grab it, even at forty-five minutes per download. So what if playing it does to your free time what the monsters do to Tokyo? His second game—conquistadores ravaging the virgin Americas—is another freeware hit. A Usenet group forms just to trade game strategies. The program generates a new, geologically realistic New World each time you play. It turns any grocery store bag boy into stout Cortez.

His games spawn imitations. The more people steal from him, the better Neelay feels about his chair-bound life. The more he gives away, the more he has. From his vantage, stranded in his wheelchair in a basement lab, whole new continents swing into view. The gift economy—free duplication of well-shaped commands—promises to solve scarcity at last and cure the hunger at the heart’s core. The name Neelay Mehta grows mini-legendary among the pioneers. People thank him on dial-up boards and in game news groups. College kids talk about him in chat rooms as if he’s some Tolkien character. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a beached, elongated freak, unable to move without machines.

But by his eighteenth birthday, paradise is sprouting fences. Former philanthropists of free code start taking out copyrights and making actual coin. They even have the nerve to form private companies. Granted, they’re still just peddling floppy discs in baggies, but it’s clear how things will go. The commons are getting enclosed. The gift culture will be throttled in the cradle.

Neelay blasts the betrayal at each week’s meeting of the Home-Rolled Club. He spends his free time re-creating one of the most famous commercial offerings, improving on it, then releasing the clone into the public domain. Infringement? Maybe. But every one of the so-called copyrighted properties relies on decades of prior unpaid art. For a year, Neelay plays Robin Hood, camped out in the anarchic forest with his merry men, under a massive oak older than the deed to the land it grows on.

—p.107 NEELAY MEHTA (91) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
121

But by her second year, the catch becomes clear. In a seminar on forest management, the professor declares that snags and windthrow should be cleaned up from the forest floor and pulped, to improve forest health. That doesn’t seem right. A healthy forest must need dead trees. They’ve been around since the beginning. Birds turn them to use, and small mammals, and more forms of insects lodge and dine on them than science has ever counted. She wants to raise her hand and say, like Ovid, how all life is turning into other things. But she doesn’t have the data. All she has is the intuition of a girl who grew up playing in the forest litter.

Soon, she sees. Something is wrong with the entire field, not just at Purdue, but nationwide. The men in charge of American forestry dream of turning out straight clean uniform grains at maximum speed. They speak of thrifty young forests and decadent old ones, of mean annual increment and economic maturity. She’s sure these men who run the field will have to fall, next year or the year after. And up from the downed trunks of their beliefs will spring rich new undergrowth. That’s where she’ll thrive.

She preaches this covert revolution to her undergrads. “You’ll look back in twenty years, amazed at what every smart person in forestry took to be self-evident truth. It’s the refrain of all good science: ‘How could we not have seen?’”

—p.121 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

But by her second year, the catch becomes clear. In a seminar on forest management, the professor declares that snags and windthrow should be cleaned up from the forest floor and pulped, to improve forest health. That doesn’t seem right. A healthy forest must need dead trees. They’ve been around since the beginning. Birds turn them to use, and small mammals, and more forms of insects lodge and dine on them than science has ever counted. She wants to raise her hand and say, like Ovid, how all life is turning into other things. But she doesn’t have the data. All she has is the intuition of a girl who grew up playing in the forest litter.

Soon, she sees. Something is wrong with the entire field, not just at Purdue, but nationwide. The men in charge of American forestry dream of turning out straight clean uniform grains at maximum speed. They speak of thrifty young forests and decadent old ones, of mean annual increment and economic maturity. She’s sure these men who run the field will have to fall, next year or the year after. And up from the downed trunks of their beliefs will spring rich new undergrowth. That’s where she’ll thrive.

She preaches this covert revolution to her undergrads. “You’ll look back in twenty years, amazed at what every smart person in forestry took to be self-evident truth. It’s the refrain of all good science: ‘How could we not have seen?’”

—p.121 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
128

She sets the table and sits down to a meal that smells like health itself. The beauty of the plan is that no one will know. Every year, amateur mycologists mistake young A. bisporigera for Agaricus silvicola or even Volvariella volvacea. Neither her friends nor family nor former colleagues will think anything but this: she was wrong in her controversial research, and wrong in her choice of fungal fruiting bodies for her dinner. She brings the steaming forkful to her lips.

Something stops her. Signals flood her muscles, finer than any words. Not this. Come with. Fear nothing.

The fork drops back to the plate. She rouses as from sleepwalking. Fork, plate, mushroom feast: everything turns, as she watches, into a fit of madness, lifted. In another heartbeat, she can’t believe what her animal fear was willing to make her do. The opinion of others left her ready to suffer the most agonizing of deaths. She runs the entire meal down the garbage disposal and goes hungry, a hunger more wonderful than any meal.

Her real life starts this night—a long, postmortem bonus round. Nothing in the years to come can do worse than she was ready to do to herself. Human estimation can no longer touch her. She’s free now to experiment. To discover anything.

—p.128 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

She sets the table and sits down to a meal that smells like health itself. The beauty of the plan is that no one will know. Every year, amateur mycologists mistake young A. bisporigera for Agaricus silvicola or even Volvariella volvacea. Neither her friends nor family nor former colleagues will think anything but this: she was wrong in her controversial research, and wrong in her choice of fungal fruiting bodies for her dinner. She brings the steaming forkful to her lips.

Something stops her. Signals flood her muscles, finer than any words. Not this. Come with. Fear nothing.

The fork drops back to the plate. She rouses as from sleepwalking. Fork, plate, mushroom feast: everything turns, as she watches, into a fit of madness, lifted. In another heartbeat, she can’t believe what her animal fear was willing to make her do. The opinion of others left her ready to suffer the most agonizing of deaths. She runs the entire meal down the garbage disposal and goes hungry, a hunger more wonderful than any meal.

Her real life starts this night—a long, postmortem bonus round. Nothing in the years to come can do worse than she was ready to do to herself. Human estimation can no longer touch her. She’s free now to experiment. To discover anything.

—p.128 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago
132

She stands in the clearing at the top of the rise, looking out over a shallow gully. Aspens everywhere, and it boggles her mind that not one of them has grown from seed. All through this part of the West, few aspens have done so in ten thousand years. Long ago, the climate changed, and an aspen’s seeds can no longer thrive here. But they propagate by root; they spread. There are aspen colonies up north where the ice sheets were, older than the sheets themselves. The motionless trees are migrating—immortal stands of aspen retreating before the latest two-mile-thick glaciers, then following them back north again. Life will not answer to reason. And meaning is too young a thing to have much power over it. All the drama of the world is gathering underground—massed symphonic choruses that Patricia means to hear before she dies.

She looks out over the draw to guess which way her male, this giant aspen clone, might be headed. He has been roving around the hills and gullies in a ten-millennium search for a female quaking giant to fertilize. Something on the next rise punches her in the chest. Carved out from the heart of the spreading clone, a housing development sits among a ribbon of new roads. Condos, a few days old, cut through several acres of the root system of one of the earth’s most lavish things. Dr. Westerford closes her eyes. She has seen dieback across the West. Aspens are withering. Grazed on by everything with hooves, cut off from rejuvenating fire, whole groves are vanishing. Now she sees a forest, spreading across these mountains since before humans left Africa, giving way to second homes. She sees it in one great glimpse of flashing gold: trees and humans, at war over the land and water and atmosphere. And she can hear, louder than the quaking leaves, which side will lose by winning.

—p.132 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

She stands in the clearing at the top of the rise, looking out over a shallow gully. Aspens everywhere, and it boggles her mind that not one of them has grown from seed. All through this part of the West, few aspens have done so in ten thousand years. Long ago, the climate changed, and an aspen’s seeds can no longer thrive here. But they propagate by root; they spread. There are aspen colonies up north where the ice sheets were, older than the sheets themselves. The motionless trees are migrating—immortal stands of aspen retreating before the latest two-mile-thick glaciers, then following them back north again. Life will not answer to reason. And meaning is too young a thing to have much power over it. All the drama of the world is gathering underground—massed symphonic choruses that Patricia means to hear before she dies.

She looks out over the draw to guess which way her male, this giant aspen clone, might be headed. He has been roving around the hills and gullies in a ten-millennium search for a female quaking giant to fertilize. Something on the next rise punches her in the chest. Carved out from the heart of the spreading clone, a housing development sits among a ribbon of new roads. Condos, a few days old, cut through several acres of the root system of one of the earth’s most lavish things. Dr. Westerford closes her eyes. She has seen dieback across the West. Aspens are withering. Grazed on by everything with hooves, cut off from rejuvenating fire, whole groves are vanishing. Now she sees a forest, spreading across these mountains since before humans left Africa, giving way to second homes. She sees it in one great glimpse of flashing gold: trees and humans, at war over the land and water and atmosphere. And she can hear, louder than the quaking leaves, which side will lose by winning.

—p.132 PATRICIA WESTERFORD (112) by Richard Powers 7 months, 2 weeks ago