THE BOOK OF UNCONFORMITIES

From the author of the acclaimed Insectopedia, a powerful exploration of loss, endurance, and the absences that permeate the present.

A New York Times Editor’s Choice
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020
A Literary Hub Favorite Book of 2020

The Book of Unconformities is grounded in stories of stones: Neolithic stone circles, Icelandic lava, mica from a Nazi concentration camp, petrified whale blubber in Svalbard, the marble prized by Manhattan’s Lenape, and a huge Greenlandic meteorite that arrived with six Inuit adventurers in the exuberant but fractious New York City of 1897.

A spellbinding time travelogue… Raffles’s dense, associative, essayistic style mirrors geological transformation, compressing and folding chronologies like strata in metamorphic rock.

 

Julian Lucas, Harper’s Magazine

The Book of Unconformities is so rich in erudition and prose-poetry that I read it like a glutton, tearing off big bites of lost time until I was sated.

 

Robert M. Thorson, The Wall Street Journal

Raffles is serenely indifferent to the imperatives and ordinary satisfactions of conventional storytelling. Character, coherence, a legible and meaningful structure—these are not his concerns. The organization of the book feels profoundly random. There are no attempts to suture together the various stories, no attempts to enact something “learned” by the author. The photographs accompanying the text are dim and blotchy, and Raffles favors slabs of prose unbroken by punctuation. I intend all this as praise.

 

Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

In a high-voltage jolt of insight, Mr. Raffles converts what might seem a dry scientific concept into a potent literary metaphor to help anyone whose sense of time has been fractured by loss.

 

Robert M. Thorson, The Wall Street Journal

Raffles, an anthropologist, fashions a set of narratives that blur boundaries and disciplines through digression and exquisitely long sentences that render the world, as in W.G. Sebald’s novels, simultaneously clarified and enshrouded. I hope more people come to this book. It is a masterpiece.

 

Stephen Sparks, Literary Hub

The text shimmers with rangy curiosity, precise pictorial descriptions, well-narrated history, a sympathetic eye for the natural world, and a deft, light scholarly touch. The mood is as unpredictable as next week’s weather, as Raffles remains keenly attuned to the politics and personalities that move the action along.

 

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

A work of poetic science, a smashing together of the human and the natural world, of cultures separated by time. Just as a geologic unconformity, this is erudite and artistic.

 

Library Journal

As panoptical and sparkling as the crystals contained in many of the author’s objects of study.

 

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

A feat of immense academic labour that never feels laboured…. The Book of Unconformities resists cataloguing as a methodology and resists being catalogued.

 

Dan Dixon, Australian Book Review

jacket 1