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The Mushroom at the End of the World

On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins
Narrated by: Susan Ericksen
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, World Affairs
4.5 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

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Summary

Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world - and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made?

A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.

©2015 Princeton University Press (P)2017 Tantor

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THINKING WITHOUT A BOX

So it is never-ending and withou t boundaries. A journey full of surprising branches. Just love it. Thanks.

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The Mushroom at the End of the World

A compelling multi-species account of themes around mushroom picking, with a strong development of themes of procerity and personhood under neoliberalism and the new forms of scholarly formulations endorses by people like Haraway. Totally banging book.

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Too much waffle

I gave up on this book. I really wanted to like it, and there are some interesting facts. But the author has interspersed these with so much unsubstantiated opinion and chatter that by the time she is talking about something cool again I’ve drifted off. Shame, because the idea interested me

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A beautiful, rich and fascinating book.

A great 'read" and extremely well researched. Full of complex and brilliant ideas. I'm ready to start it all over again.

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phenomenal

great in every aspect- very enlightening and wholesome. interspecies survival in capitalist precarity explored though layering of chapters and different aspects amd points of view

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  • G B.
  • 19-08-19

so much to tell about a mushroom

First of all I should say that this kind of anthropological, ethnographic combined with biological, environmental research is quite new to me.
Tsing takes you through the complete value chain of the Matsutake mushroom and uncovers as far as I can remember two kinds of stories about capitalism that are intertwined.

The mushroom was a delicacy in Japan because it was so rare and only grows in certain pine forests. However, due to human intervention in the forests of Oregon, the mushroom started to flourish. This is where southeast Asian migrants (war refugees) started to make a living from this mushroom, picking them on common land and selling them in the 'open ticket' market in Vancouver. This is what she calls 'salvage accumulation', whereby common resources are turned into private profits.

At the same time she tries to take these scenarios as examples for living in precarity. She goes into great detail in how the mushroom is foraged and traded and what the customs and beliefs of the migrant as well as the white pickers and sellers are. She draws parallels in between the mushroom itself and how it only grows in a ravaged landscape and how people (could) live. She analyses how the mushroom makes its journey from spore to fruiting body of the mycelium, picked and sold, until once it's on its way in a crate it has become a 'full capitalist commodity', whereafter it becomes entwined again in cultural practices of giving and ceremony and the non-capitalist values that encompasses.

Because her book branches out into so many detailed accounts of these different aspects of the mushroom, it's sometimes hard to keep track of the point she's trying to make. I started listening not knowing what I would hear exactly and perhaps a sort of map, chart or legend (book summary) would have helped. It's only after finishing that I start to see the web and links that she has been spinning.
The narrator does a really good job and takes you into the story. I did however, start listening at 1.3 times the speed to keep myself more engaged.

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  • Richard B.
  • 16-07-19

Tsing is brilliant

As in other ethnographies I've read, there were a few parts that were a little too drawn out for me, but Tsing's writing made even those pretty good.

Ericksen's narration was as lively as Tsing's prose, and she pronounced with ease the names in various languages. It was a pleasure to listen to. love that books like these are made available as audiobooks. Thanks, Tantor Media!

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  • Huong
  • 11-04-19

Had to make her talk faster

It’s a heavy text book, but with the slow reading, I couldn’t see the big picture and the concept Tsing was highlighting. As for the writing itself, I wish she would go in depth more with technogical terms, and stop saying “i imagine”- redundancies...?maybe just my taste...? Yet, I don’t mind rereading and listening to this again though. Super interesting topic.

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  • Sasha Acker
  • 05-12-19

my favorite book ever

Capitalism, mushrooms, geopolitical history, human behavior. I couldn't ask for a better book. it is very entertaining and educational.

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  • Bryce
  • 31-10-19

Great read for economists and naturalists alike

This has become one of my most highly recommended books to the point I convinced my brother in law whom is a literary professor at CU Boulder to add it to one of his courses. Fungi is a connector and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing uses this wondrous mushroom to connect vastly different worlds and economies by following the lines in the soil. Read this book and share it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-04-19

tears apart capitalism. no nature

was hoping to learn a bit about mushrooms, not hear about how bad my political system is

1 person found this helpful