Nathaniel Rich and Chris Jennings discuss George Stewart's pioneering and prescient eco-novel, Storm (NYRB Classics).
Originally published in 1941, Stewart's novel was praised by the likes of Wallace Stegner, who wrote of Storm: “Weather is here for the first time given the importance in fiction that it has in fact. . . . It is impossible to forget, anywhere in the novel, the impending weight of that mighty movement of the air. . . . Stewart with admirable ingenuity and sure craftsmanship has let us look for a moment at the mortar that holds a civilization together. A good many of his readers will never again . . . note a cloud without remembering at least momentarily that the air, not the earth, is our mortal home.”
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A thrilling, innovative novel about the interplay between nature and humankind by the author of Names on the Land.
With Storm, first published in 1941, George R. Stewart invented a new genre of fiction: the eco-novel. California has been plunged into drought throughout the summer and fall when a ship reports an unusual barometric reading from the far western Pacific. In San Francisco, a junior meteorologist in the Weather Bureau takes note of the anomaly and plots “an incipient little whorl” on the weather map, a developing storm, he suspects, that he privately dubs Maria. Stewart’s novel tracks Maria’s progress to and beyond the shores of the United States through the eyes of meteorologists, linemen, snowplow operators, a general, a couple of decamping lovebirds, and an unlucky owl, and the storm, surging and ebbing, will bring long-needed rain, flooded roads, deep snows, accidents, and death. Storm is an epic account of humanity’s relationship to and dependence on the natural world.
About George Stewart and the event participants
George R. Stewart (1895–1980) was born in Pennsylvania and educated at Princeton. He received his PhD in English literature from Columbia in 1922 and joined the English faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1924. He was a sociologist, toponymist, and founding member of the American Name Society, and the author of more than twenty books, including the highly successful novel Earth Abides and several works of American history. In addition to Storm, NYRB Classics publishes his study of American place names, Names on the Land.
Nathaniel Rich is the author of Second Nature; Losing Earth, a finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Award and a winner of awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Institute of Physicists; and the novels King Zeno, Odds Against Tomorrow, and The Mayor’s Tongue.
Chris Jennings grew up in New York City. He graduated from Deep Springs College and Wesleyan University. He is the author of Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism. He lives in Northern California with his family.