Author in conversation about his spellbinding meditation on rocks and time
Hugh Raffles is joined in conversation by the bookstore’s Stephen Sparks to discuss The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on Lost Time (Pantheon).
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When Hugh Raffles’s two sisters died suddenly within a few weeks of each other, he reached for rocks, stones, and other seemingly solid objects as anchors in a world unmoored, as ways to make sense of these events through stories far larger than his own.
A moving, profound, and affirming meditation, The Book of Unconformities is grounded in stories of stones: Neolithic stone circles, Icelandic lava, mica from a Nazi concentration camp, petrified whale blubber in Svalbard, the marble prized by Manhattan’s Lenape, and a huge Greenlandic meteorite that arrived with six Inuit adventurers in the exuberant but fractious New York City of 1897.
As Raffles follows these fundamental objects, unearthing the events they’ve engendered, he finds them losing their solidity and becoming as capricious, indifferent, and willful as time itself.
“A spellbinding time travelogue . . . Raffles’s dense, associative, essayistic style mirrors geological transformation, compressing and folding chronologies like strata in metamorphic rock . . . Mesmerizing.” —Harpers Magazine
Hugh Raffles is the author of Insectopedia, which was a New York Times Notable Book and received the Orion Book Award and the Ludwik Fleck Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science, and of In Amazonia: A Natural History which received the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. His essays have appeared in Best American Essays, Granta, Orion, and The New York Times, and he is the recipient of the Whiting Award for nonfiction. He lives in New York City and is professor of anthropology at The New School.
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