Time-Literate: Marcia Bjornerud on TIMEFULNESS and James Joyce’s ULYSSES

February 17th, 2019

To deny our place in time is to imperil our perspective, says Marcia Bjornerud, professor of geology and author of Timefulness. This time on Open Stacks, we expand our view of the Seminary Co-op, with new looks at the Front Table, James Joyce’s time-intensive staff favorite Ulysses, and Bjornerud’s poly-temporal thinking and reading to support the claim that, contrary to current trains of thought, time is on our side. 

On November 27, 2018, geologist and environmentalist Marcia Bjornerud (right) discussed Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World along with a fellow Lawrence University professor, Monica Rico (left). Our episode features this conversation that explores the perspective that geology gives to understanding Earth's timescale as well as Bjornerud's shameless appreciation of rocks.

More recently, Marcia Bjornerud spoke with Colin about the books that informed her work and a few she is currently reading. Stay tuned for that conversation in the episode, or have a look at her selected bibliography, including many other titles, below. 

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 billion Years, From Stardust to a Living Planet, by Robert Hazen - Hazen, a prominent mineralogist, argues compellingly that the rocks and minerals in Earth’s crust have evolved over time as Life has altered the chemistry of the planet’s air and water.

On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin - Although it’s heavy going in places (it’s OK to skip the long passages on pigeon breeding!), Origin of Species is ultimately a journey deep into Darwin’s versatile mind. Labyrinthine passages through thick underbrush alternate with lyrical exclamations from panoramic overlooks.

The Two-Mile Time Machine, by Richard Alley - Alley, a leading climatologist, explains how high-resolution records of climate over the past 800,000 years can be retrieved from the natural archives of glacial ice.

Independent People, by Haldor Laxness - A slow, dense book about Bjartur, a stubborn sheep farmer in Iceland. Its deliberate pace and patient study of the landscape give the reader a sense of Time as the earth experiences it.

Tracks and Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich - Two books in a loosely connected series about four Ojibwe/Anishanabe families in North Dakota in the 20th century. Playing out over decades, their stories are microcosms of larger American narrative, told through people with deep roots in a place that outsiders would consider blank and empty of history.

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, by Amitav Ghosh - Novelist Ghosh argues that western literature has not yet found a way to address compellingly the framing issue of our time: climate change. He challenges fellow writers to expand the scope of serious fiction beyond conventional stories of individuals to larger narratives about the collective, with Nature as an active protagonist.

Story of My Boyhood and Youth, by John Muir - Muir’s account of his early childhood in Scotland and adolescent years in frontier Wisconsin sheds light on the foundations of his environmental understanding – and is often laugh-out-loud hilarious.

A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, by Aldo Leopold - Another classic work of environmental thinking with roots in Wisconsin, A Sand County Almanac is a study in how every place, even an abandoned depression-era farm, is a window into the cosmos.

A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock, by Evelyn Fox Keller - Fox Keller’s biography of maverick botanist and geneticist Barbara McClintock is a revelatory narrative of the joy that comes with deep scientific understanding of the natural world.

Speaking of time, Co-op director, Jeff Deutsch, has taken on the lengthy endeavor to read James Joyce's Ulysses on three separate occasions. If his memories and meditations on Joyce's work have inspired you to open up Ulysses for yourself for the first (or nth) time, stop by either of our stores. We have more than a shelf's worth of copies as well as Jeff's recommended guides––plus a few booksellers eager to discuss the "ridiculously enjoyable, joyful, exuberant, life-embracing, language-embracing, hilarious book."

What's a book that took you a long time to read, many times to understand, or even gave you a new insight into time itself? Send us an email with any other comments or questions at podcast@semcoop.com.

Below, you can find all the books we featured in this episode, including the featured titles that Alena shared. Explore our Front Table 
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