Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Memoir Abstract--Would You read This?

Below is a brief description of my book, so far at around 270 pages. I hope it's done by January, or February at the latest, as I'll need to "defend" it for my PhD soon after. I'm almost done with school! Happy thoughts....


Morning Glory: A Story of Family and Culture in the Garden

My book manuscript is part memoir, part cultural exploration on the history of gardening, and part environmental treatise. At the core of the book is my time spent growing up gardening with my mother, how this has lead to us being closer in adulthood, and culminated in my discovery of the lineage of fear, distrust, and forced solitude within my family that I innately exhibit. This darker side of my mom’s family—of poverty, religious fundamentalism, and an abusive stepfather—is paralleled with an exploration of global culture in the natural world, specifically, through gardening.

By looking at our attitudes toward nature, manifested by its exploitation, manipulation, and our artistic interpretation of it, I compare this outward struggle with our humanity to an inward struggle with violence, loss, confusion, self-doubt, isolation, and longing. Through the lens of global religions, philosophies, and cultural histories in gardens, as well as poetry and seminal ecological works, Morning Glory shows the fine line we walk as mediators, and how our violence toward the environment comes from the same root as our violence toward ourselves and each other.

Many nature writers and critics suggest we need to recreate or find a metaphor that links culture to the natural world, that the answer to our ecological and social crises is to get more culture into our relation to the earth; through the personal story of my family and the exploration of garden history, this book does that.

14 comments:

themanicgardener said...

I find this utterly fascinating, but a couple key ideas still elude me. Take the beginning of the second paragraph. It's hard for me to see "artistic interpretation" of nature as part of "this outward struggle." And I guess I don't get "this outward struggle with our humanity." It seems to me that any struggle with our humanity is inward, though it may have outward manifestations. Maybe I'm being simplistic, but I did expect a comparison between our outward struggle with nature and our inward struggle with ourselves. Art would be some form of mediation between the two. Sorry to go on at such length--

I do like, and believe, the idea that violence towards the environment has the same roots as our "violence towards ourselves and each other"-- and I love how you add that "towards ourselves."

This sounds like an amazing project. What other cultures do you look at? Might you mention some here? It sounds as if you've already got a publisher?!! Most theses languish for years while the authors try to complete that second step. Congratulations! When does the book come out?
--Kate

nancybond said...

I think your topic is fascinating and your brief abstract would certainly pique my interest enough to read further. Best of luck with your defense, Benjamin -- my best friend recently received her PhD in Greek Classics from Brown. I know how hard you've worked for this. Keep us updated. :)

James said...

Maybe it's the academic in me, but the second paragraph seems clear to me. Artistic expression seems external, the collective struggle with our humanity (that's my parsing)that this exemplifies is paralleled in the personal struggles in the second half of the comparison. Not a good sentence on my part, but the original reads clearly.

My only quibble? Change "seminal" to "germinal." We could snipe over the feminist interpretation, but I just think the latter is particularly evocative in the setting.

Sounds like a fantastic book!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kate--Oh yes, art as mediator. I do not have a publisher, ha! In my dreams. I think with a first book, the book must come first, don't you know. Other cultures? English, French, certain Native American ones, Indian, Chines, Japanese, Australian, South American, Italian....
Nancy--Greek Classics from Brown? Though I am so burned out it's not even funny, I can't imagine how burned out and exhausted your friend must be! Thanks for your thoughts.
James--Yes, I knew that "S" word would be trouble, and not just from a feminist perspective, but a warped one like mine. I LOVE your one word substitution! WOnderful! I love how one word can mean so much in a sentence or line of poetry. Yes!

Frances said...

I am not an academic, but would love to read this book from your description.

Frances
http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I echo Frances... but must say that since I'm already a fan of your writing here, I'm clearly very biased.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Interesting and combines two interests of mine gardening and memoir. As you are writing about environmental and other social structural concepts such as poverty etc... I see the barriers between inward and outward struggles as rather continuous and would enjoy them by messed around with a little. In order words, not having the solid barriers that we often employ when making dichotomous statements. I am especially intrigued by the conflict that might exist between old world / family history gardening / eating practises and the striving for finding a new way (both environmentally and individually).

At any rate, looking forward to more.

Gail said...

Benjamin, I knew immediately that this book would resonate with several of my psychotherapy clients. All gardeners and all struggling with the 'lineage' they inherited. I want to read it, too!

Good luck!

Gail

Benjamin Vogt said...

Frances--If you are not an academic, then you are my ideal audience, if not main audience! :)
Kim--What writing? Shoot, I try not to put much of my own up here: probably a combo of modesty and fear of having work stolen.
Ottawa--Yeah, soild boundaries of dichotomies gets us into trouble--the unfeeling, detached, unconnected kind. And so we kill the world and ourselves. Thanks for your thoughts.
Gail--Well I must be on to something, then. Thanks to everyone's thoughts and encouragement!

Layanee said...

It sounds like a very interesting read. Each of us has a unique fingerprint. We are who we are because of and in spite of our experiences and life influences. I am in the same camp as Blackswamp Girl. Biased!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Layanee--Biased = 20% discount if the book's published. Just print this comment. Comment's value is 1/100th of a cent and not redeemable. Comment offer expires day before book launch. Void where prohibited (continental United States).

Kylee said...

What Kim said! Layanee, too!

And if you get it published, I'm requesting an advance copy so I can review it on my web site. :-D

Layanee said...

Hey, I could review on radio? LOL but willing....What do you mean 'if published'? Of course it will be published. Believe!

Philip Bewley said...

Yes, I would love to read more!
What you are suggesting is very thoughtful and I want find out more of your thoughts on the personal and the world/environment.