Rob Nixon: Rachel Carson's PrescienceRoundup: Talking About History
Fifty years ago, on September 27, 1962, Houghton Mifflin published Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, among the 20th century's most influential books. To honor the anniversary, the University of Cape Town invited me to lead an interdisciplinary forum this past June on Carson's environmental legacy.
Spurred by the prospect of this event, I set myself a happy task. I would read all of Carson in sequence: her ocean trilogy, Silent Spring, her essays, her collected letters. I have long loved her work—she is a writer, like James Baldwin, whom I savor for the inventive cadences of voice, someone who exhibits syntactic as well as social courage. I have taught Silent Spring often, but have gotten to know her other work only in a piecemeal, random way. I laid out a reading plan: I would start with her essay "Undersea" (published in The Atlantic Monthly, in 1937, when Carson was 30) and head toward her celebrated letter on transience and migrating monarch butterflies, written shortly before her death, at 55, in April 1964.
The young Carson and I set off from Madison, Wis. traveling in tandem across three continents, through O'Hare, Heathrow, and Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo airports, on to a wintry, mist-shrouded Cape Town, by which stage her life—and her life's work—were almost complete. Naïvely, I'd thought I'd be rereading Carson, forgetting that "rereading" is invariably a misnomer. When we return to an author after a long absence, that return is colored by who we have become. I grew up beside—and inside—the Indian Ocean, so when I first encountered Carson's marine trilogy, my connection was visceral and unfiltered....
comments powered by Disqus
- Antigua and Barbuda Asks Harvard University for Slavery Reparations
- Historian: Nixon DID contest the 1960 election
- Killer took selfie after stabbing historian over rare ‘Wind in the Willows’ book
- VW fires corporate historian who drew attention to wartime ties to Nazis
- Trump Recording Narrows Divide on Sexual Assault
- Garry Wills says there’s one human test we can use to decide who’s the better candidate: Trump or Clinton
- Get to Know the Semifinalists for the National Book Award
- Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma — is the subject of a biography
- Historian Eric Foner: Trump is Logical Conclusion of What the GOP Has Been Doing for Decades
- Ken Burns developing 'The Gene' based on Mukherjee's bestseller