You know those authors and books you are “familiar with” but have never really read? Pssst . . . .that is my relationship with Michael Pollan and most of his work. But thanks to the fine people at NPR and Book TV as well as his bookstore signings on YouTube I’ve always felt fairly conversant in “Pollanynesian.” But this week I am going native! Michael Pollan has a new book coming out and I want to feel reasonably versed in his major works so I am starting with The Botany of Desire.
My first impression is really structural. Remember how I said if I had to teach a course on the memoir I would use Wild as an instructive example. Well, this would be my instructive example of how to write a really compelling well structured tight nonfiction book. It’s a smart compelling read.
I have one quibble. I think he might be wrong about the term “hard cider” which he says is a 20th-century term. I offer this because I just finished that book on Louisa May Alcott which contains the following bit from her personal journals:
“Another turn at “ Moods,” which I remodelled. From the 2d to the 25th I sat writing, with a run at dusk; could not sleep, and for three days was so full of it I could not stop to get up. Mother made me a green silk cap with a red bow, to match the old green and red party wrap, which I wore as a “ glory cloak.” Thus arrayed I sat in groves of manuscripts, “ living for immortality,” as May said. Mother wandered in and out with cordial cups of tea, worried because I could n’t eat. Father thought it fine, and brought his reddest apples and hardest cider for my Pegasus to feed upon. All sorts of fun was going on; but I didn’t care if the world returned to chaos if I and my inkstand only “lit” in the same place.”