Tuesday, August 02, 2011

American Georgics: Writing on Farming, Culture, and the Land
Edited by Edwin C. Hagenstein, Sara M Gregg & Brian Donahue
Yale University Press

This is a collection of agrarian writing--about farming and the land--in America from its founding as a nation until just about now.  It's of more than historical interest, not only in the general ecological way but in view of the new interest in local self-sustaining communities, including the self-named New Agrarians.  The title comes from Virgil's Georgics, about an ideal rural society.  Not exactly a selling title, except perhaps for scholars and the already initiated.

For the rest of us there are little discoveries, like an example of Louisa May Alcott's satirical writing--at which she excels. There are quite a few otherwise neglected voices here, though I leave it to experts to evaluate the adequacy of this selection.  In a section called "The Machine in the Garden," I would have expected something from the classic work by Leo Marx of that title.  But otherwise this is a handsome, useful volume, with a graceful foreword by Wes Jackson.

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