Georgics on My Mind


With avidity and pleasure I’ve been reading American Georgics: Writings on Farming, Culture, and the Land, a collection of excerpts in the American agrarian tradition edited by Edwin C. Hagenstein, Sara M. Gregg, and Brian Donahue, and published this week by Yale University Press. The editors supply informative introductions to a rich and bountiful and challenging harvest of writings by John Taylor of Caroline, Wendell Berry, Father Luigi Ligutti, George Henry “Vote Yourself a Farm” Evans, Louisa May Alcott, Ignatius Donnelly, George Perkins Marsh, Willa Cather, Ralph Borsodi, Louis Bromfield, Allen Tate, Andrew Lytle, Wes Jackson (who also wrote the foreword), Hayden Carruth…a dazzling lineup. For a shot of verjuice the great H.L. Mencken is here, too, and while he credits the agrarians of I’ll Take My Stand with “a certain kind of intelligence” and calls them “patriots in the best sense,” he can’t resist tossing off those often unfair but almost always funny Menckenisms (the “young professors” of agrarianism, he writes, “have made the fatal discovery that it is much easier to concoct Utopias than it is to polish the car or wipe the baby’s nose”). Tardily celebrate Arbor Day (to hell with the corporate bore that is Earth Day) by ordering a copy from your local bookseller.

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