This is one of those frequently used terms that’s often misunderstood. Literally has nothing to do with literature. I’m sure the “lit” part comes from some Greek or Latin root word but is not a literal interpretation of the expression “literally.” Figuratively speaking.
Speaking literally means that what you are saying is true. It’s not an analogy or something that’s similar to something else. If you say “That is literally what happened” you are saying this is not an exaggeration or some other kind of relationship to the whatever it was.
It’s what happened. Really. No kidding. It’s the news. Maybe it’s the news roundup. It is true.
Remember true? Literally is true, just like I said it.
I don’t know how many copies I have owned of this book. Or how many times I’ve read it. I know it has been often. I first read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it yet and eventually, kept extra copies, just in case. Which meant that I had to read it again. So I bought another copy.
A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which has a great introduction by Connie Willis. Since I can’t give that one away, I still have a few paperbacks waiting for whoever becomes the next person I meet who hasn’t read it. Yet. Or who need to read it again 😀
After this reblog, you’ll find my review of the book. It’s probably my fifth review since I started this blog. Periodically, I really need to reread this book. I’m addicted.
The story isn’t exactly antediluvian — but then again, perhaps it is. In its own way.
According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts. Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum.
The novel was published on October 7, 1949. It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate. One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.” With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling. Never dull, however.
Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work. But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.” The language was one thing. Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book. He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English. He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.
The book has had enormous influence. Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,” Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works. It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask. There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel.
It was also the first winner of the “fantasy novel” award. It generated a whole genre of post-apocalyptic writing and another entire generation of disaster books — and sadly, movies. Connie Willis, who reads the introduction says it hugely influenced her work on many levels.
The novel has never been out of print –no thanks to its original publisher. Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s. Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.
The Hermes edition sold well. Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.
Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October. He is a Hero of the novel. Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary. So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.
And read the novel again. (You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it.) As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem.
His wildly popular ecological novels, Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking. Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence. That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword. By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition, Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one. It comes with a custom box to protect the classic. Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.
When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 50 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.
Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stuck with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. This is especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.
Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.
Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post-apocalyptic science fiction. Above all, it is a book of rebuilding, renewal, and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.
Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.
You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails almost immediately when people are gone. It doesn’t matter what you used to have — except electricity.
It turns out, whatever super high tech stuff you have in your tech-pile of devices if you don’t have power, you have nothing. It’s just rubble.
The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds balance.
The animals return. Old animals and new animals. Dogs and cats remain and the only absolutely lost creature turns out to be the human louse. Not too many people went to the funeral of those three species.
Most diseases of the old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religion, outdated social structures and cultural norms are discarded or merely slip away. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice. The color line becomes extinct.
There is much that needs doing in this brand new world, but there’s an infinite amount of future in which to do it.
The earth will be repopulated. Gently and peacefully. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before but lacks its former demons.
The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just about 70 years and the book is still not merely relevant, but hopeful. By my standards, optimistic.
The last time I read it was just following its re-release. Now, I’m reading it again. Even after all these years, it kept me up until dawn. I haven’t read the night away in several years and it wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t let the story go.
Eight years has given me time to be surprised by the book again. Surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years. How enormously his belief structure adapts to new realities. How much of the detritus of the previous world he eventually allows to disappear. How open his mind becomes.
It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.
Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but not enough and right now, we are going backward faster than we ever moved forward.
The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.
The world ends, a reborn world begins. Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart —The EARTH ABIDES Project. Please check it out!
It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries. I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.
I have a spare copy, just in case.
Notes on language (Hebrew) and its use:
Many people (including Connie Willis) think the name “Ish” is related to some ancient native American with a similar name or some mythical creature from some legend. However, if you read the original commentary from the Stewart home blog, you’ll realize as Stewart was writing this book, he was studying Hebrew. He wanted to retranslate the bible. Yes, he WAS an academic — the best kind.
His two primary founders were a man and a woman, called “ISH” — in Hebrew pronounced “eesh,” meaning manand “EMMA.” in Hebrew pronounced “eema.” It means mother.
Ish and Emma are the founding parents of the world to come. Their names are not an obscure reference to other books or myths. They are standard Hebrew and anyone who speaks the language — even a little bit — will get it.
Well, the theme is ROOFS (or rooves if you prefer). Your roof can be;
A – any type, any condition, any size, and in any location. B – it could be a shot across rooftops, of one roof like today or even a macro C – you might prefer to spend some time under the eaves and in the attic, or enjoy the view from above as Brian has already done today.
Whether you live in a large city or a small town, there are likely to be places of cultural interest, historic sites or local festivals nearby. If you are in Mitchell, South Dakota you can visit the Corn Palace. Stockbridge, Massachusetts has the renowned Norman Rockwell Museum. Hannibal, Missouri has the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, along with the white fence that may (or may not) have been the inspiration for the scene of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence.
In a big city like Chicago, there are many large cultural attractions. The Museum of Science and Industry is located in a building erected for the 1893 World’s Colombian Exhibition. The Art Institute on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago holds many iconic artworks. The “museum campus” on the lakefront contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History, home to Sue, our T-Rex skeleton. Yeah, it’s big. Washington Park on the south side of the city holds the DuSable Museum named after the Haitian fur trader and supposed first permanent settler in the area now known as Chicago. I have been to them all.
It is impossible to get to all the festivals around town. We love a good festival and the summer is filled with them. Ethnicity, pride, food, drink, music are all reasons for festivals. In the third largest USA city, you can not know about all of the attractions, even if you have lived here all of your life. On a recent visit from a friend from out-of-state, we found a few things we have missed in the past.
Before arriving in town he suggested we go to the Chicago Beer Classic at Soldier Field. I had no idea we had a beer classic. With booths set up all around the playing field where the Chicago Bears attempt football, one could go around and get 2-ounce samples from 150 craft beers in a special 2-ounce souvenir glass. These were mostly out of area beers with only a few local brews known to us.
Armed with a booklet of 48 tickets we set off for our samples. I used 15 tickets but since some booths did not bother to collect them, I probably got about 20 samples, not a lot for 3 hours. We interrupted our beer trek to take the behind the scenes tour of Soldier Field. We saw locker rooms and some of the features of the recently renovated stadium. Little more than the original columns exist today.
Our week of local interests included the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, founded in 1857. The original museum collection was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Today it is located in a Lincoln Park building erected in 1999, containing exhibits of nature unique to the Midwest.
One of the most popular features of the museum is the Butterfly Haven. You have to be careful opening the doors to this large atrium style room so that the butterflies and moths do not fly away. We were lucky enough to be there when they released new butterflies and moths to the room, which is a daily occurrence due to their short lifespan. In fact, some of the large moths they release only last about 5 hours. If you sit still, some are likely to land on you.
The Chicago History Museum was also on our hometown tour. This was founded as the Chicago Historical Society in 1856 and like the Nature Museum, it lost its collection in the Great Chicago Fire. The current structure in Lincoln Park was built in 1932 and has been expanded twice.
We found interesting displays including those on Abe Lincoln, the development and recording of Blues in Chicago, and the struggles of diversity throughout our history. I stepped onto an old elevated train car and sat at a school desk and saw that children of color did not always get the same education as others. I saw a mocked up recording studio for Chicago Blues musicians. If you were bold enough, you could walk into a little club room and sing the blues for us, karaoke style.
By the way, I missed the Corn Palace in South Dakota. When I was eight years old, we were on one of those family road trips to see Mount Rushmore. On the way back we went through Mitchell. When we got there I was sleeping in the back seat of the car, so they left me there and my parents and older brother went to check out the palace. Someone should have called Child and Family Services on these people. I think I was scarred for life by missing this attraction.
Many years later I took a friend from France to Hannibal, Missouri. One of the few things he knew about the country was from reading Tom Sawyer. I can not imagine how that translated. I am actually in the picture at the top, but my friend was clearly more interested in capturing Tom Sawyer’s fence than getting me in the picture.
If I ever get to Stockbridge, I am sure I will check out the Norman Rockwell Museum. I have always been fascinated by the detail of his work. I remember seeing them often on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
What are your favorite local spots of interests? What do you have left to explore on your stay-at-home vacation? What could possibly be close to home that you do not even know about…yet?
Posted on A malicious ghost is creeping again over the streets of Europe, it is the spirit of simplified truths and self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole. The nationalist ideologies of the 19th and 20th century are on the verge of a disgusting revival in many countries.
Those responsible politicians – harmlessly named as populists – have initiated a postmodern witch-hunt, the victims of this unproclaimed war today comprise refugees, foreigners or people of different belief and way to live. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields where peace should be.
These ruthless ideologists want to put the clock back, what implies the risk of warming up old already forgotten conflicts. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic, the radical nationalists have lighted blazing fires and stakes everywhere in Europe and elsewhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!