Thursday, April 3, 2014

"...sprightly and stimulating..."

Peter Parker has reviewed Voltaire's Vine and Other Philosophies for The Spectator, calling the book "sprightly and stimulating".

In 'Brains with green fingers', Parker gives a deft and clear summary of the book's ideas, and singles out my favourite chapter (Woolf) for particular praise:
The best chapters concern George Orwell and Leonard Woolf, who didn’t just mooch about in gardens but really got their hands dirty. The tubercular Orwell more or less gardened himself to death on Jura, not only because he believed in self-sufficiency as a moral good, but because the hard graft it required was a metaphor for his life’s work as a writer and thinker: ‘He did not want to escape from reality; he wanted to dwell in facts, however painful’. Horticulture ‘is first and foremost a realist’s enterprise’ and therefore reflected Orwell’s literary method. The similarly austere Woolf had learned in Burma how easily untamed nature could swarm destructively over everything, and this provided a metaphor for a world in which meaningless chaos and rational order did constant battle. 
The garden [at Rodmell] was his personal struggle with a conflicted but beloved cosmos. It would not last, and neither would he. But it was worth holding onto, for precisely the reason books were worth reading and writing: a clearer, saner, more honest life. 
Think about that next time you have to do some weeding.
(Image: Cuba Gallery)

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