Trespassing: An Inquiry Into the Private Ownership of Land

John Hanson Mitchell, Author Perseus Books Group $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-201-44214-4
When Mitchell (Walking Towards Walden; Ceremonial Time) challenges such a seemingly fundamental notion as the private ownership of land, one almost expects a Marxist rant or New Age screed. Happily, Mitchell neither scolds nor soothes, offering instead anecdote, history, law and keen naturalist observations in making his case. Here, the editor of Sanctuary magazine has created a work as pleasant as a walk through his beloved New England countryside, rambling around the property ""legally owned"" by a somewhat obscure tribe of Native Americans (documented as far back as the 17th century and through to its subsequent owners). There, land serves--and is served--as a source of the sacred, a bearer of ancestral wisdom and inspiration, an investment in future generations and a present home. Mitchell's travels take in the history of land ownership (which, as he points out, arose on these shores approximately 400 years ago), using revealing character studies of landed gentry, who jealously protect property rights, and of ordinary citizens, who throughout history have fought developers as well as interlopers, such as him, who cross formal property lines to enjoy nature. Such crossing, Mitchell writes, ""is the only way to get to know a place--you have to break through boundaries."" And so he does, but gently. For if he holds little regard for property lines, he certainly respects the history they encompass, and explores that history with style and grace in his engaging, well-organized book. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7382-0146-7
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-61168-719-4
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