What are the genres of The Overstory?

The Overstory by Richard Powers in many ways defies genre classification. Powers would most likely be considered a postmodernist writer, and the book does have some of the hallmarks of that school. Thematically, the book is very interested in science and nature.

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The Overstory is a 2018 novel by the American writer Richard Powers, whose other books include The Echo Makers and Galatea 2.0. The book was highly acclaimed and won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells medal, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker prize. Slotting this sprawling book into a genre is no easy task. In many ways, it can be considered a post-genre novel. If one were pressed, one could call Powers a postmodernist writer. He has a highly developed and distinctive writing style, he is interested in meta-narratives, and the book is dense and in dialogue with other texts.

His interest and investment in big narratives, something that can be found in both modernist and postmodernist novels, can be seen in the title, which refers both to story in the classic sense and to part of the forest. His narrative connects nine main characters and takes place over many years and in various geographical locations. This large scale that he is working on puts him in the company of writers like Pynchon and DeLillo. All of the characters are connected by nature, specifically trees, and it is tempting to call it a nature or environmental novel. This is not an exact genre, but nature and the way people are connected to it is a major theme. Science has figured in other of his books, so that could also be a possible genre. Perhaps a scientific/environmental novel? Powers's work is considered to be highly intellectual, and the novel is long and ambitious, another defining feature of modernism and postmodernism. However, in its belief in narrative and in the interwoven stories of the characters, it has something in common with the big nineteenth-century novels of Dickens and others.

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