Novels about gardens

Kirsty from The Literary Sisters recently reposted one of their pieces with the title Books about Gardens, which I was so taken with that I’m going to do my version, now, at the height of summer.

As the title suggests, I’m going to refer to books I’ve read, with links to any reviews, that have dealt one way or another with gardens in the modern era. I could have included references to gardens in the wider sense — the Middle Eastern concept of the paradise garden, or Thomas Browne’s 1658 overview The Garden of Cyrus, or turf mazes and labyrinths and the wildernesses of landscape gardening — but I’ve chosen to limit myself mostly to fiction, with just a couple of excursions beyond the paling.

Additionally, I note that these are in the main the grand gardens of English country houses or urban mansions rather than the more modest domestic examples of town terraces and the suburbs or examples from abroad. It’s something I need to address in a future post, whether they exist, say, in Mesopotamian mythology, in Chinese culture, the global tradition of public open spaces or Jorge Luis Borges’ short stories.

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Thunk

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Social-distancing and now self-isolating has given me lots of time to think, and so I’ve been doing some thinking.

And having thunk I have had some vague thoughts. Then, having turned them into a hypothesis — I won’t grace it with the label ‘theory’ — I thought I’d share that with you.

I can’t claim it’ll be anything new (because I’ve no doubt that it’s old hat to philosophers) but in view of the C-word that we all know about, and what with social media being awash with information and misinformation in equal measure, I offer this post as a public service.

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Circumlocations

Houses of Parliament with scaffolding and Westminster Bridge, late 20th century (credit: Bikeboy, Geograph http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2975216)

Circumlocution. The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.
— Oxford English Dictionaries

There’s a old adage about how you can tell when a politician’s lying: when their lips move.

Well, that’s quite a cynical take on politics and those who are involved in politicking, but we often have a premonition that this adage has the ring of truth, don’t we? We’ve listened to and watched enough ministerial statements, panel discussions and live interviews to make that judgement; and we don’t always need their explicit body language to confirm it — whether from tone of voice, stumbles over phrases, shifty looks or too much unasked-for detail, these can all give the lie to many public utterances.

And in the era of fake news we cynics note with increasing frequency the evasions, the contradictory tweets, the prevarications and, above all, the smugness that such high-flying lowlife bestow on us with a complete and utter disdain. A recent interview with the British defence secretary on ITV merely underlined such disdain as the interviewee three times gave bland circumlocutions to a frustrated interviewer. Would that more of these cowardly entities that avoid accountability for their decisions and actions could, along with the interview, be similarly ‘terminated’.

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Still exploring the world of ideas through books

WordPress has just reminded me that I began this blog three years ago. Since April 28th 2012 — minus the odd deletion — I’ve apparently published 364 posts, which is approximately one every three days. I’ve tried to stick to my stated mantra of “exploring the world of ideas through books” ever since that first post, reposted here:

Without getting too philosophical, we imbibe many of our ideas about the world around us, our relationships with others and insights into ourselves from what we read, in books, papers, magazines or online. We try to make sense of what we experience by fitting them into expected narratives (like Good versus Evil, or A Just World) or stereotypes (heroes and villains, tyrants and victims, helpers and bystanders) or personal scripts (“I’m on a personal journey” or “I deserve to discard these rags for riches”).

When books introduce or reinforce these memes I think it’s worth reflecting on the message that we’re receiving and the medium through which that message gets to us. It would be nice to think that some of these reviews will explore those ideas and aid those reflections.

Along the way I’ve also felt free to discuss tangential matters, from bookmarks to ghost followers, from poetry spam to threats to libraries and bookshops; and, good readers, many of you have stuck with me through thick and thin. (“Thick” is how I’ve sometimes rather clumsily expressed myself, “thin” is when I’ve not hit that post-every-third-day frequency.)

So, when WordPress wish me Happy Anniversary and thank me for flying with them, I in turn wish that you’ll continue to be as entertained by my commentaries as you often appear to be, and I also thank you for being fellow passengers on my frequent flights of fancy — despite so many being delayed in recent weeks. Bon voyage!

Chris Lovegrove