Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oaks and Books

A radio item this morning spoke of a new bacteria threatening English oak trees. That would be a tragedy. It was a sad sight driving around the English countryside after the elms were killed off by a fungal infection. The still-standing dead trees littered the landcaope, a striking exampkle of the fragility of the ecosystem.

I’ve finished reading ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ Barbara Kingsolver’s book co-authored with her partner and daughter. For a year, 2007, the family spent a year living as close to the land as they could. They spent a year on a family farm in Virginia attempting to live only off foods that were in season.

They contrast this with the ecological costs of food from factory farms, transporting it around the country and preserving it. They claim Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into their refrigerators as into their cars. Watching pictures of the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from an uncapped deep sea well reinforces their message.

I found the book rather disappointing. Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ I consider one of the finest novels of the later 20th century. But the prose in this memoir-cum-polemic seems rather flat. It’s a worthy book. I don’t disagree with its conclusions or observations but ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ which I read last year made the same points more succinctly.

My poetry reading at present is Allen Curnow’s ‘Selected Poems 1940-1989’. He is our master. The cover has a reproduction of a 19th century rowing crew boating past a thick kahikatea stand on the bank. A very Kiwi scene as oaks are a very English one. Those trees of ours were cut down to make butter boxes. At least the English trees were used to build stout ships.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' and along with some of Stephanie Alexander's books, it has inspired me to get gardening with my girls. But I agree that was a little flat in places. I have re-read 'The Poisonwood Bible' a few times; it's a wonderful book. And I found her most recent book, 'Lacuna", compelling. Some of the images are still haunting me. I will give it a few more months, and then re-read it.