Sunday 30 September 2012

Earth Perfect: Nature, Utopia and the Garden by Giesecke - Book Review

Title: Earth Perfect: Nature, Utopia and the Garden
Author: Giesecke & Jacobs (eds.)
Publisher: Black Dog Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
Pages: 302
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Gift

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Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia and the Garden is an eclectic, yet rigorous reflection on the relationship--historical, present and future--between humanity and the garden. Through the lens of Utopian Studies--the interdisciplinary field that encompasses fictions all the way through to actual political projects, and urban ideals; in a nutshell, addressing the human natural drive towards the ideal--Earth Perfect? brings together a selection of inspiring essays, each contributed by foremost writers from the fields of architecture, history of art, classics, cultural studies, farming, geography, horticulture, landscape architecture, law, literature, philosophy, urban planning and the natural sciences.
Through these joined voices, the garden emerges as a site of contestation and a repository for symbolic, spiritual, social, political and ecological meaning. Questions such as: "what is the role of the garden in defining humanity's ideal relationship with nature?" and "how should we garden in the face of catastrophic ecological decline?" are addressed through wideranging case studies, including ancient Roman Gardens in Pompeii, Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, the Gardens of Versailles, organic farming in New England and Bohemia's secret gardens, as well as landscape in contemporary architecture.
Issues relating to the utopian garden are explored thematically rather than chronologically, and organised in six chapters: "Being in nature," "inscribing the garden," "green/house," "The garden politic," "economies of the garden" and "how then shall we garden?." each essay is both individual in scope and part of the wider discourse of the book as a whole, and each is lusciously illustrated, bringing to life the subject with diverse visual material ranging from photography to historical documents, maps and artworks.
(Goodreads Synopsis)

This book was given to me by a friend who has an essay published in it. The idea of looking at gardens as a form of utopia is interesting and I did find several of the essays entertaining and educative.

However, I did find myself skimming one or two of them that were just really dull and written in this verbose manner that did nothing to endear the subject matter to the reader. Clearly these people were only writing for high-level academics, whereas the other some of the authors had written more accessible pieces that were of interest to intellectual and layman alike.

If this is your field of interest, then I would say this book is a worthwhile read, but I would not recommend it for general readers.

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