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Indiespensable

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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, July 4th, 2001


 

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan

A review by Adrienne Miller

The narrative device: the history of four plants-the apple, the tulip, the potato and cannabis. The story: the symbiotic relationship between humans and plants. The question: Who's the boss of whom here?

This book about the evolutionary dance between humans and plants is so effervescent that it positively sparkles. The Botany of Desire is part memoir ("in my garden right now it is high summer, the middle of July, and the place is so crowded with flowers, is so busy and multifarious, that it feels more like a city street than a quiet corner of the countryside"), and part history lesson. Each of these four rather earthbound plants represents a very human desire (the apple: sweetness, the tulip: beauty, the potato: control, cannabis: intoxication). Plants figured out a long time ago that we want what they have. Who knew how sinisterly smart (evolutionarily speaking) they were? Why, Pollan posits, do we consider flowers beautiful? Because it's in the flower's best interest to keep the humans happy. A lovely book that succeeds in attaining that most elusive of states: grace.


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