I am happy that I have gone back and started reading Pollan’s books from the beginning. I indented the pun because it is meaningful, all of the seeds of his future writing are in this book. This is where he starts writing books about nature and our cultural relationship with food and eventually the food industry. We are introduced to his wife Judith and their home. I believe key ingredients in Michael Pollan’s successful recipe for writing are the details of his biography and lived experience writing the book. Traditional documentary films always pretend the camera crew is just some invisible omnipresent eye. With Michael Pollan, we are always clear that there is a subject exploring an object. In fact, the subject/object relationship is perhaps the real story.
As a first book, it is quite good but still rough around the edges compared to the later works. He has not yet found his 4/4 rhythm which is a staple of his later books. His literary voice is still developing and there are some rhetorical choices that seem off. It’s a bit like listening to your favorite band just before they really find their sound. But as I said all the seeds for his future work are here. There is even a moment towards the end where he knows there is something missing in the garden. It doesn’t look right. He solves the problem in a different way than I had expected, but even this solution really sets the stage for his next book.