Shoshana, July 20, 2009 (view all comments by Shoshana)
This gardening memoir is a fine object lesson about how a hobby or passion can become a burden or obsession. Alexander shows the progression from the idea of the garden, the expansion of the idea, the expansion of the expansion, and the realization that joy has become drudgery. Alexander is both humorous and self-deprecating. Those reviewers who focus their criticism on his switch from organic to non-organic pesticides make a useful point about garden practices but miss the focus of this particular narrative, which is, at its heart, about the impossibility of supplanting one system (here, nature) with another. The amendments that make your tomatoes grow also support your weeds. Your tomatoes are eaten by insects, slugs, groundhogs, and deer. Cultivated land is overrun. As Carl Sandburg wrote, "I am the grass; I cover all." Though Alexander does not overtly pursue this idea as an emblem for civilization, he does highlight the theme that gardening, or bridge-painting, or other constructive pursuits must be actively pursued in order to maintain their object. Read with an inspirational garden planning book to enjoy the discrepancy between fantasy and reality; read with Weisman's The World Without Us or Bodanis's The Secret House for further ruminations on, respectively, systems change and Things That Live on and Around You, despite your best efforts.
Jeane, July 11, 2008 (view all comments by Jeane)
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I ate it all up- in just two days. This author turned his hilly backyard into a huge, nearly unmanageable vegetable and flower garden. Trying to grow the most tasty produce, he battles with groundhogs, insect pests, thieving squirrels, etc. It's pretty hilarious. I don't think I would ever use his methods: hiring a landscaper to prepare the plot, setting up a five-thousand voltage electric fence, trying to outright kill any wildlife that wants to munch on his prize heirloom tomatoes. Yet I can sympathize with his frustrations. The crazy thing is that after spending tons of money on his garden, and struggling to get it to grow, he had more food than his family could eat. I really liked his solution.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
ldibacco, April 6, 2007 (view all comments by ldibacco)
I can't wait to send this book along to my gardening friends! Laugh out loud humor and a love of nature make for a wonderful read. If you've ever had a garden, chances are you'll see a little bit of yourself in Mr. Alexander's quest for fresh produce!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Ga
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill -
Who knew that Bill Alexander's simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard would lead him into life-and-death battles with webworms, weeds, and a groundhog named Superchuck? Over the course of his hilarious adventures, Alexander puzzles over why a six-thousand-volt wire doesn't deter deer but nearly kills his tree surgeon; encounters a gardener who bears an eerie resemblance to Christopher Walken; and stumbles across the aphrodisiac effects of pollen when he plays bumble bee to his apple blossoms.
When he decides (just for fun) to calculate how much it cost to grow one of his beloved Brandywine tomatoes, he comes up with a staggering $64. But as any gardener knows, you can't put a price tag on the rewards of homegrown produce, or on the lessons learned along the way.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.