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Elizabeth Gilbert on her new novel, "The Signature of All Things"

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Charting the border between science and spirituality.What led you to explore the subject of botany? My parents gave me a copy of a book that had belonged to my great-grandfather, a beautiful 1783 edition of Captain Cook’s voyages. They gave it to me because when I was about four years old, I had taken a red crayon and I had written my name inside the book in huge letters, totally destroying this very valuable book and somehow claiming that I owned it.It felt like I had left the clue for myself when I was a child, as if to say, “Hey, 36 years later, pay attention to this.” I opened up the book and became fascinated with these botanical explorers.How did you immerse yourself in their world?I went to the South Seas, to French Polynesia, and I also went to the jungle that is the library at Kew Gardens in England. And also to botanical gardens in Amsterdam and New York.You have spoken before about the paranormal and the mystical. Did you find a mystical element in this world of 17th- and 18th-century botanists?The title of the book, The Signature of All Things, is based on a 17th-century …

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