Thursday, November 29, 2007

Garden Writers And Where They Went To...

Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening (herself one of the better writers in garden blogdom), has a piece on Eleanor Perenyi's classic garden book, Green Thoughts. Kathy points out that it is disappointing that Perenyi never wrote another garden book. I read Green Thoughts some twenty years ago, and also waited for a follow-up, to no avail. Admittedly, Perenyi was 63 when she wrote her garden book, and did have a few other things on her plate (earning a living, writing books on other subjects, perhaps trying to reclaim her husband's former castle in Hungary, which was seized by the communist government).
I would suggest, though, another possibility explaining the lack of a second gardening book: perhaps Perenyi had written about everything in her flower beds the first time around. If you look at the photo of her sitting in her garden on the book's dust jacket, it is easy to imagine that there is a full chapter in her book on nearly every plant in her garden (I may be imagining this, but I'm fairly sure I once saw a picture of her yard taken from the tower of the church seen in the background of the dust jacket photo, and her flower garden was pretty compact; she did also have a vegetable garden). I have a garden that meanders up and down hill, and around the corner, yet there are days when I think this blog could stand one more picture of our cats doing something cute.
I will say, though Eleanor Perenyi's book is certainly one of the classics of American garden writing, she does at times slip into the "cranky gardener" mode of writing, which I'm not fond of... this is a style of garden writing that is pervasive and not easy to avoid in your own writing (God knows, I am the poster boy for this: I start out telling about a lovely little primula blooming by the pond, and end up whining about the weather or something). Still, if you have some time for reading when the snow starts blowing this winter, Eleanor Perneyi's book is a good place to start.
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Although I did not enjoy her book--I foun dit never ending--I do enjoy a lot of Allen Lacy. And I think, too, it's important to extend garden writing to environmental writing, or "nature" / place writing: Allen Lacy, Wendell Berry, Loren Eiseley, Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, Dakota by Kathleen Norris, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, Scott Russell Sanders with Staying Put, anything by Bill Mckibben.(but esp The End of Nature). These all have many lovely rants and lyrical crankiness. Those are my many cents.
Benjamin... She's a long way from my fave. Give me Elizabeth Lawrence or a host of others. How old are you that you read Loren Eiseley?? Just the other day I ran across a couple of his paperbacks on my shelves and considered throwing them out just 'cause I figured the science in them must be awfully dated (I didn't). I used to really like him, but I haven't heard his name mentioned for maybe twenty years.
And, forgive me if I've been whining. (I really haven't... just when I posted. Guess I'd better watch that!)

I've not read Eleanor Perneyi's book. Looks like Benjamin has given me quite a list, though! :-)
Well, if you ever get the hankering to throw them out again, ship them to me and I'll buy the postage! I'm 31, but I suppose I benefit from living in Lincoln and being in grad school. His books don't feel awfully dated to me (though I've read only a few), and even if the science is a bit old his ideas are fresh and stunning and moving. Shoot, one of the folks on my committee actually knew Eiseley personally; and I'm quoting Eiseley in a book I'm writing. He's not dead and buried at all! UNL also just had an Eiseley centennial conference this fall.
Benjamin... I guess this winter I'll try re-reading them; I haven't had one open in, I suppose, twenty years. I remember he was a very poetic writer.

Aw, what's wrong with a little whining in garden writing? :) I found her "cranky gardener" mode rather amusing, even if I didn't always agree.
Hi Don, Benjamin et al,

I came here from Carol's roundup - and must confess I quite like Eleanor Perenyi, having no problem with cranky gardeners as long as they're confined to print or screen - but I had to look up Loren Eiseley.

Now Allen Lacy we can agree on - I have a bunch of his books and like them a lot.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
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