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Desire for beauty, sustenance, and intoxication - a meditation on plants and man,,
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This review is from: The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-eye View of the World (Paperback)
This is the second book by Michael Pollan that I've read within a week (the excellent In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating: An Eater's Manifesto being the other)
He has the most magical, open mind; the ability to take the everyday and look at it like a true artist - thus forcing the reader to look anew at his/her own everyday.
Here, he looks at four plant species whose development and spread has been closely linked with Homo sapiens - the apple, the tulip, the cannabis plant and the potato, and considers the evolutionary advantage from the plant perspective. The book uncovers history, folk-law, economics, politics and much more.
Pollan delivers much fascinating information and has the lightest and most passionately engaged of writing styles. He is a wonderful raconteur. I read this book with a wider and wider smile, thoroughly delighted and enchanted.
This book reminded me in many ways of Anatomy of a Rose: The Secret Life of Flowers by Sharman Apt Russell. Both authors have the ability to be fascinatingly informative whilst simultanously managing charm, entertainment, profound thought and beauty.
Both effortlessly illustrate Blake's:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And A heaven In a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity In the Palm of Your Hand
And eternity in an hour
They are writers who can take the mundane, and open it to deep meaning, philosophical complexity and education
A small factual teaser from the tulip section - the most prized and valuable tulips were those variegated by fine filagrees of crimson patterning upon the primary colour base. But this was caused by the presence of a virus, so over time, plants grown from bulblets broken off from the 'parent' bulb would grow weaker and weaker - so increasing the rarity and fabulous cost of the prized variety. The evolutionary gainer from mans' 'meddling', not the tulip, but the virus, which we disseminated!