The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
There is a massive irony in reviewing a book that is a selection of essays reviewing aspects of modern civilisation. John Green is a master of storytelling, and his podcast of the same name - The Anthropocene Reviewed - is the inspiration for the reviews within the book.
Green is a tremendously gifted writer and this comes to the fore early on. Those who have seen any of his YouTube channels on history, literature or other academic endeavours will be familiar with his depth of knowledge and witty cynicism. This also comes through in The Anthropocene Reviewed.
As a fan of the podcast this was a rewarding reading experience. It is a treasure trove of fascinating information about the state of where we are today, with the trivia attribution of a star rating out of a perfect 5. (spoiler: there is definitely more than one full five star rating given.)
Prior to his hugely successful novel writing career, Green was a reviewer of thousands of books. It was this immense knowledge of writing and narration that is brought to the fore in this text when he explores these chosen elements of life - from 17 thousand years old cave drawings, to The QWERTY keyboard, to The Great Gatsby.
In fact, the review of The Great Gatsby is sublime. It is a critique not just of the novel itself, but of the whole knowledge of American literature and, indeed, American history. He quotes Fitzgerald’s view of a review on the classic novel and lamenting that the reviewer ‘just didn’t get it’. Green agrees.
One can’t help but be entranced by the concept of analysing seemingly mundane elements of our life and society and then attributing some kind of rating system that Green employs. A lot of the information that Green explores comes about through anecdotal information. His life being the main driver of a lot of the chapters of the text - for example his own love for Diet Dr Pepper. In this way, it has a sort of memoir feel to it but with an original spin.
The non-fiction content of the text is what keeps the interest, but it is the narrative wizardry that makes the content relevant. He spends a bit of time talking about the smell of spring rain at one point, and the inability of technology to artificially create it. This sort of insight is what keeps you reading.
It is John Green’s testament to modern society. His love letter to the world around him is complete with poignant heartbreaking moments, and a love for all this natural and technological alike. In keeping with the tradition established by the text, The Anthropocene Reviewed is given five stars.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Penguin, RRP $37.00