Greta Thunberg, Noah discussed on The Book Review

The Book Review


It's also, it's also sort of the framework for the plot of the novel. It's interesting when you talk about child friendly as defining what ends up in a children's Bible because the stories, of course, are still fairly terrifying. I remember getting up to keen and able in my own children's Bible and then being like, all right, I think I'm done here with this here. Book of tales. There's a lot of brutality. But there's not the sort of prophetic apocalyptic gore of the book of revelation. But yeah, of course, even the Noah's ark story is extraordinary and apocalyptic in its own way. Of course, it's sort of a happy ending. If you want to read it that way, where animals get saved. And it's a good people get to live on after the flood. Talk a little bit about the children of the title because, as you said, they're not quite children. I mean, they're mostly teenagers, and they seem very sophisticated. Right, so I've never too interested in developmental verisimilitude with characters. They are sort of hybrid child's adults. As teenagers really are, but the kids in this book, all they do use a lot of swears. Harsh in their language and judgmental, but at the same time they're naturally articulate to a certain degree. And I think because in a sense I wanted to respect their voices, I wanted to make them authoritative and sort of straight guys in the book against the chaotic collective of the parents who are who are objectified generally for, I hope humorous effect, but they're sort of unable to manage their families and their lives and the teenagers and a couple of young children who make up the sort of band of roving humans at the center of the story. They are mature in certain ways, essentially this is a book envisioned for adults to read and I don't, and so I don't feel like I need to talk down to either children and teenagers or to those who are reading the book by infantilizing these because we all know how resilient teenagers can be and how selectively brilliant they can be while also having these blind spots. In the book though, they're sort of forced into a situation where they are more responsible and kind of wise than they adults around them. And I'm curious if you see the book as a kind of indictment of this generation of parents. And I guess I have to include myself in that. Yeah, and I include myself, yeah. So there's a generational schism over climate and extinction that's getting more and more visible to the mainstream. And that's partly because of the gestures of activists like Greta Thunberg, who's just a year older than my own daughter. And young people whose time horizon stretches decades beyond the personal lifetime horizons of those of us who are already. Out of our 20s and 30s. Are the ones who will be so profoundly affected by our generations in action on making sure they have a livable future. And this generation is starting to notice and get angry. And I think the rage is long overdue. And I think it's the only rational response to the threats we face. So this novel is about that kind of righteous anger of the young anger over the looming. Emergencies of extinction and runaway climate change. Because I didn't feel it had been written too much about and literary fiction yet. Anger is what we need. We don't need anxiety management. We don't need therapy. Because the future is going to be a fight. You can't fight without anger. So you've brought up a climate change. This is obviously a book very much about climate change. And in our review, the critic refers to your OG status among writers on climate change. How do you feel about being associated with the term environmental writer? Is that the way you think of yourself? Because you've studied environmental science and have worked in conservation. And I never have thought of myself primarily as environmental in my interests and fiction. It's just that now the environment and the natural world. They're very clearly our life supports. And so I've just always, I've actually always disliked the word environment and environmental. I don't think it's it sounds so dry and stodgy and wonky. But really, what we're talking about is the whole of the world that we co evolved with and our physical life support. And so yeah, I do write, I think increasingly over I'll say the past decade or so I have written more directly about these matters because I think their existential and I can't write around them anymore. For a time, I didn't want to directly address these matters of existence because it's difficult to write about them in a way that's not polemic in a way that, frankly, bearable to read. And so for a long time, I sort of held myself apart and only addressed these climate and extinction crises sort of laterally in the writing. But it was sort of an elephant in the room for me. I couldn't not write about it at a certain point anymore. So yeah, I have become preoccupied. With the failure of our culture to change our way of life to protect our future and the future of the other critters that we depend on. While that is a very serious subject, it certainly isn't dry in this book. There's a lot of humor in it. There's your distinctive style and sensibility, which runs throughout your work. And yet, I have to say this, it does seem like each book that you write is a little bit of departure from the previous book, even though that your style runs throughout. I wonder, do you feel like you're constantly challenging yourself and experimenting and forcing yourself to do something new? Because sweet lamb of heaven, for example, was a kind of thriller. This is very much not that. You put it very kindly. I think I just don't like to write the same book twice because I have a short attention span. So I'm unable to sort of replicate previous books. I'm glad that my style seems consistent in some way. I specifically with this book because in the past, I've tended to write books that are more satirical or lampoon like on the one hand and more oriented toward humor and then on the other hand, books that are less so like sweet than of heaven that really are more about ideas and abstraction and are perhaps more earnest. And so with this book, I wanted to try, I explicitly in my mind any way it wanted to try to write a book that was based on ideas and took as its subject. Things about which I'm passionate, but also not have it be humorless. So I really, my project here was to try to make a serious book that also contained humor and of course we get humor generally by objectifying. And so the parents became my victims. In that way. So in the book, of course, there is this flood this disaster impending end times. And here we are. Your book is coming out in the middle of a pandemic. Obviously, that's not something you could have predicted. I'm assuming. Unless you somehow did, how does it feel to have this particular story out in the world at this moment? Well, you know, it is a kind of direct parallel because in the book there are these epic storms and floods in the pandemic. There's disease, but in real life,

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