The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing / ISBN 9780691220550 / 331-page paperback from Princeton UP
"Highly original. . . . This book brilliantly turns the commerce and ecology of this most rare mushroom into a modern parable of post-industrial survival and environmental renewal."--Peter D Smith, The Guardian
"There’s a double meaning to Tsing's title. The mushroom is at the end of the known world because it’s hard to find, a secret tucked deep in the forest. But she’s also hinting at the end of the world as we know it, given our instinct for extracting as much from the earth as we can. Humanity has never seemed so finely calibrated and rationalized: the seamless journey of a very expensive mushroom from nature to a dinner plate tells this story."--Hua Hsu, New Yorker
What a rare mushroom can teach us about sustaining life on a fragile planet
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.
By investigating one of the world's most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.
Hunt for mushrooms on 50 Watts Books