Books: Brush Cat

On trees, the wood economy, and the most dangerous job in America.

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Dead trees go into everything from your toilet paper to your McDonald’s milk shake (thickened with wood flour!). As Jack McEnany writes in Brush Cat, it all starts “with some guy trudging into the woods with a chainsaw.” That guy has an increasingly tough job: Climate change has shortened the New England timber season from six months to four, the housing crash has caused the price of lumber to plummet, and logging is America’s deadliest occupation, more dangerous than even deep-sea fishing.

Set in the northern woods of New Hampshire, where McEnany has lived for 20 years, Brush Cat is a sympathetic look at the challenges facing this dying American industry. The book is “mainly about people”: loggers, mill owners, waitresses at breakfast joints, and a host of others who enable us to use wood and paper, well, like they grow on trees. McEnany’s respect for his subjects is reflected in his amusing prose (“Bob used his saw with the authority of a Benihana chef”) and his earnest attempt to follow a logger who agrees to have a “yutz like me with him in the woods” only “for as long as we can stand each other.”

Loggers’ skills are less in demand now than ever. Not that we’re cutting down fewer trees; it’s just that fewer Americans are wielding the saws. Machines are doing more of the harvesting, and much of our wood now comes from Siberia and Southeast Asia. In the US, what was once big business is now a novelty. McEnany asks the owner of a mill town turned theme park in Berlin, New Hampshire, about logging’s transformation from the state’s No. 1 industry to a tourist attraction. “The mill is gone,” he says wistfully, but “the memory isn’t.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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