- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (May 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393058875
- ISBN-13: 978-0393058871
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 154 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
The felling of a celebrated giant golden spruce tree in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands takes on a potent symbolism in this probing study of an unprecedented act of eco-vandalism. First-time author Vaillant, who originally wrote about the death of the spruce for the New Yorker, profiles the culprit, an ex-logger turned messianic environmentalist who toppled the famous tree—the only one of its kind—to protest the destruction of British Columbia's old-growth forest, then soon vanished mysteriously. Vaillant also explores the culture and history of the Haida Indians who revered the tree, and of the logging industry that often expresses an elegiac awe for the ancient trees it is busily clear-cutting. Writing in a vigorous, evocative style, Vaillant portrays the Pacific Northwest as a region of conflict and violence, from the battles between Europeans and Indians over the 18th-century sea otter trade to the hard-bitten, macho milieu of the logging camps, where grisly death is an occupational hazard. It is also, in his telling, a land of virtually infinite natural resources overmatched by an even greater human rapaciousness. Through this archetypal story of "people fail[ing] to see the forest for the tree," Vaillant paints a haunting portrait of man's vexed relationship with nature. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* This powerful and vexing man-versus-nature tale is set in an extraordinary place, Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands, and features two legendary individuals: a uniquely golden 300-year-old Sitka spruce and Grant Hadwin, a logger turned champion of old-growth forests who ultimately destroys what he loves. With a firm grasp of every confounding aspect of this suspenseful and disturbing story and a flair for creating arresting allegories and metaphors, Vaillant conveys a wealth of complex biological, cultural, historical, and economic information within an incisive interpretation of the essential role trees have played in human civilization. Breathtaking evocations of this oceanic realm of giant trees and epic rains give way to a homage to its ghosts, for this is the sight of a holocaust, where the creative and dauntless Haida were nearly decimated by Europeans who also clear-cut the mighty forests. It is this legacy of greed and loss that rendered the immense golden spruce, a miraculous survivor, sacred, and that drove Hadwin to cut it down. This tragic tale goes right to the heart of the conflicts among loggers, native rights activists, and environmentalists, and induces us to more deeply consider the consequences of our habits of destruction. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
One of the plots deals with the history of logging in the northwest, specifically in Alaska where the Haida Indians live. The Haida live in a very remote area of Alaska, difficult to get to and accessible only by air or boat. On the islands they call home, there is an amazing tree - a Golden Spruce. The Haida have incorporated this tree into their spirituality.
The book also deals with the history of this tree. Because of its color, it is an obvious mutation. How it came to be, how it survived, and how it is now replicated is a theme of this book.
The most striking plot that weaves in and out of the whole book is the story of a man named Hadwin, an extreme athlete also known for his eccentricity and confrontational manner. Hadwin has destroyed this tree and disappeared. Supposedly he drowned in the turbulent Alaskan waters. However, because of his ability to survive the most extreme conditions, there are many who think he faked his death and still lives.
My only difficulty with this fascinating book is the portrayal of Hadwin. As a clinical social worker, I am very familiar with serious and chronic mental illness. What the author portrays as a variant of the norm is actually something far more serious. Anyone who has to stuff cotton in their ears to keep the voices at bay suffers from auditory hallucinations. Hadwin has a history of hallucinations, paranoia and varied delusions. To discuss him as an eccentric or quirky type of guy is to do injustice to the fact that this man is very, very ill.
All in all, I found this book to be a fascinating page-turner, one I highly recommend.