The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination Hardcover – Jan 26 2016
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Mabey’s book lets us see plants as subjects rather than objects, arrayed in all their colors, performing miraculous tricks, dances and acrobatics. . . . [His] lyrical prose enlivens the history of botanical understanding . . . [and] many readers will reel out of Mr. Mabey’s stimulating cabaret with their view of the plant world—the living world we all share—enriched beyond measure. — Jenny Uglow (Wall Street Journal)
A powerful shock to those of us who thought that plants can’t think. . . . Interesting and entertaining. — Amy Stewart (Washington Post)
A gorgeous and engaging book. . . . There are so many delights to be found in Cabaret—from the hunt for the elusive Amazonian moonflower, to the wonder of self-rejuvenating yews that defy efforts to determine their age, to the sprouting of an extinct Judean palm from a 2,000-year-old excavated seed—and Mabey keeps us enthralled from first to last. — Jennifer Bort Yacovissi (Washington Independent Review of Books)
A delightfully accessible work of scholarship…. Mabey’s sensitive approach not only succeeds in giving these incredibly vital beings their just place in the story of life. It reminds us that, as we stare in the maw of large-scale environmental change, we can learn the right lessons from our relationship with plants and draw inspiration from their incredible resilience. — Booklist, Starred review
The greatest writer on nature alive…. [Mabey] fuses botany, art and literature into a prose which is interrogative, pungent, and urgently alive. — Evening Standard (UK)
Wonderfully thought-provoking…. Of all his 30-plus books, this is surely among his finest, an eclectic world-roaming collection of stories …lacing color, intimacy and emotional texture around the scaffold of hard facts. — Spectator (UK)
This is the nature-writing equivalent of fine dining—rich, full of different tastes, lasting and satisfying. A treat not to miss…. Go, buy it, and feast. Botany rocks! — Dominic Couzens (BBC (UK))
Written with a typically Mabeyish mixture of wit, knowledge and intellectual power, The Cabaret of Plants . . . left me challenged and delighted—and seeing the world a little differently. — Robert Macfarlane
About the Author
Richard Mabey is the author of Food for Free, Flora Britannica, and Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants, among other books. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has narrated popular BBC television and radio series and written for the Guardian and Granta. He lives in Norfolk, England.
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even though the Author is British it would be of interest to other readers as well. Highly recommended. One need not be an anglophile to enjoy it, but it helps !
One gripe: that 40,000 years in the title is a bit of a stretch. There is a little about representations of plants, or rather the lack of representation, in ancient cave art; there's more about the Neolithic revolution of domesticating plants, and of the classical era. Most however is the last few centuries.
Here are some things that interested me. He discusses trees and branches, as plants and as metaphor, such as family tree, tree of life, decision tree. Chapter 3 looks at trees with charisma, such as famed churchyard yews and the Fortingall Yew. Chapter 4 looks at the baobab in terms of evolution, some of its odder uses (graves, sacred space, water collection). Chapter 5 examines the sequoia in the same way. Chapter 6 looks at bristlecone pines and other old trees. Chapter 7 muses on cycads--muses is an appropriate word in this book--and Chapter 8 discusses oaks. Chapter 10 looks at "the vegetable lamb," that is cotton, and some persistent myths that once circulated. Chapter 12 discusses ginseng, and also explores the once-common doctrine of signatures. Chapter 13 looks at "the vegetable mudfish," samphire, which mystifies Americans. Chapter 14 looks at "Newton's Apple."
There's more. There's a lot of incidental information, which will fascinate some readers and perhaps bore others. Example: the worldwide orchid trade is worth almost ten billion dollars a year. There's some discussion of what and how plants can sense and communicate.
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