The Nature Book | Critical Book Review

In his ambitious work, The Nature Book, Tom Comitta takes readers on a daring journey through a literary collage of the natural world, stitched together from 300 canonical English texts. This review delves into the strengths and nuances of Comitta’s creation.

A Vibrant Literary Collage

Comitta’s approach is not your typical Burroughsian collage novel; instead, it resembles a YouTube supercut. The text is neatly categorized into four sections: The Four Seasons, The Deep Blue Sea, The Void, and The Endless Summer. Drawing from an array of authors, from Dickens to McCarthy, Comitta skillfully weaves a tapestry of language that is both reflective and tension-laden.

Nature’s Turmoil

Within the pages of The Nature Book, the natural world is not a tranquil backdrop. Storms rage, lightning strikes, and pheasants meet untimely ends. Comitta skillfully captures the inherent fear in nature, depicting the river’s babble as a “liquid throat waiting for the world to end” and a beaver seeking escape from an otter.

Apocalyptic Undertones

The novel’s language leans toward the apocalyptic, with references to the end of the world recurring throughout. Yet, amid this darkness, there are also beginnings—a river reminiscent of the earliest days of the world and the riotous vegetation. The epic scope of the novel spans from the depths of the ocean to the outer reaches of the universe, from creation to apocalypse.

Comitta’s Skillful Artistry

While the thematic focus and expansive scope of The Nature Book are commendable, it is Comitta’s adept handling of scenes and language that elevates the novel. Crafted from pilfered words, his unique voice emerges, complete with varied sentence lengths and seamless transitions between vivid descriptions and action.

Masterful Scene Composition

Comitta’s ability to zoom in and out of scenes, whether focusing on a frigate bird or sweeping over majestic mountains, is reminiscent of a tone poem. His language, akin to Philip Glass’s soundtrack to Reggio’s Quatsi trilogy, accompanies and propels the sweeping scenes, creating a mesmerizing reading experience.

Journey Through Time and Space

The Nature Book seamlessly transitions through time and space, exploring forests, ocean depths, jungles, deserts, and even outer space. Readers are invited to lose themselves in the rich tapestry of descriptions, experiencing the vastness of the external landscape.

Shifting Internal Landscapes

With no characters to represent the internal landscape, Comitta challenges readers to become the characters themselves. He asks them to observe, as Barry Lopez suggests, “the line and color of the land” and let their internal landscape shift and change in response to the vivid portrayal of the exterior world.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, and ISBN

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Coffee House PressLiterary Fiction / Nature272 pages978-1566896634

In his ambitious work, The Nature Book, Tom Comitta takes readers on a daring journey through a literary collage of the natural world, stitched together from 300 canonical English texts. This review delves into the strengths and nuances of Comitta’s creation. A Vibrant Literary Collage Comitta’s approach is not your typical Burroughsian collage novel; instead,…