Green Reads

Callout21 is hosting an excerpt of my novel, Descriptions of Heaven.

One of the themes in Descriptions of Heaven is that of the environment and humanity’s relationship to it. There is a worldwide drought, and the New Bedford Lake, which is the main setting for the novel, is located in an area of the country that still gets rain regularly, though the main character, Robert, makes mentions of recent droughts even there.

Does Descriptions of Heaven focus on the environment? Well, yes. It in fact does. In many ways it is the point, asking us to wonder what is next for our world and how we grieve what we have lost and will lose. If you’ve read the book and missed this message, that’s okay. That’s why we have criticism: eco-criticism and eco-critical theory. Theory and critical reading are what help us to make sense of the books we read. Looking at Descriptions of Heaven through an eco-critical lens will help you see how the environment and ecological concerns express themselves through the story.  Not noticing certain aspects or not reading a book from a particular angle is okay; it simply invites re-reading. And, to be honest, the environmental message is simply one valid way of approaching this short novel.

If it is true that this novel is ecologically-concerned but it’s possible to read this book without realizing it, then it must be asked: Is it a green read? Is it eco-fiction? quotes criteria from Jim Dwyer’s book Where the Wild Things Are: A Field Guide to Eco-Fiction that I can only agree with.

  • The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history.
  • The human history is not understood to be the only legitimate interest.
  • Human accountability to the environment is part of the text’s ethical orientation.
  • Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or a given is at least implicit in the text. (1995, 6)

I believe a close reading of Descriptions of Heaven will reveal that it does meet this criteria. If it is subtle in expressing this criteria, that is only because it is intended to be essential to the text, and as an essential thing it is not easily distinguished or abstracted from the rest (though it is possible).

Check out the excerpt from Descriptions of Heaven and the other books on

How art has and is finding ways to tell the story of mankind in relation to its environment is essential to our own understanding of our individual selves in relation to the natural world in our own modern era. These green reads are a huge part of that body of art and therefore a huge part of our understanding of us in the world.