Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesday: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

Elizabeth Gilbert's writing career has been defined by Eat, Pray, Love.  That memoir about Gilbert's travelogue into the Self has dominated her other books like a skyscraper, leaving the rest of them in shadow.  But let us never forget that her roots lie in fiction.  Her first book, the short story collection Pilgrims, was a finalist for the PEN/ Hemingway Award and was followed three years later by a novel, Stern Men.  And so—not to bash E, P, L by any means—it was with a relieved cheer that I watched the trailer for her next book, The Signature of All Things, a novel coming our way in October.   Spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, The Signature of All Things is a sweeping epic of the Whittaker family in Philadelphia, particularly Alma whose research into botany takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution.  As the publisher's synopsis tells us, "Alma falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical.  Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life."  In the trailer, Gilbert takes us on a tour of The Woodlands, an 18th-century mansion on the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia—a setting which she says provided her with the kind of inspiration to immerse herself into Alma's world.  The novel also had its start in a 1783 leatherbound edition of Captain Cook's Voyages.  "It was through my fascination with those botanical explorers and illustrators that my book was born," Gilbert confides.  Interspersed with Gilbert's talking-head shots and views of the mansion are closeups of a lush forest floor.  It's as beautifully filmed as any National Geographic documentary—fern porn, if you will.  All the while, there's this symphonic music crescendo-ing in the background, building to a fever pitch of excitement.  This is one of the most effective book trailers I've seen in a long time.  It's like a phalanx of trumpeters lining the halls of a castle, raising horns to their lips and blasting a fanfare as we walk through a set of heavy doors into the throne room.  All hail Queen Elizabeth!

1 comment:

  1. An enjoyable novel about women, sexual frustration, and plants. And much more than that but those seemed to be the recurring themes. I hadn't read any fiction by Elizabeth Gilbert before but it's well-written and engaging. I particularly liked the biology and plant lore woven throughout the book and Alma's story kept pulling me along.