Set amid the glimmering lakes and disappearing forests of the early United States, The Forest imagines how a wide variety of Americans experienced their lives. Part truth, part fiction, and featuring both real and invented characters, the book follows painters, poets, enslaved people, farmers, and artisans living and working in a world still made largely of wood. Some of the historical characters—such as Thomas Cole, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fanny Kemble, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nat Turner—are well-known, while others are not. But all are creators of private and grand designs.
The Forest unfolds in brief stories. Each episode reveals an intricate lost world. Characters cross paths or go their own ways, each striving for something different but together forming a pattern of life. For Alexander Nemerov, the forest is a description of American society, the dense and discontinuous woods of nation, the foliating thoughts of different people, each with their separate shade and sun. Through vivid descriptions of the people, sights, smells, and sounds of Jacksonian America, illustrated with paintings, prints, and photographs, The Forest brings American history to life on a human scale.
Listen to Part 1.
Published in association with the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
About the Author
Alexander Nemerov is the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. His many books include Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York and Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine (Princeton).