cover image Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism, and Rebellion in the Garden

Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism, and Rebellion in the Garden

George McKay. Frances Lincoln (PGW, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-7112-3030-9

Even before Voltaire advised that we escape the complexity and tumult of life by cultivating the garden, it had been thought of as place of refuge and gardening as a purely private activity. In this social history, British cultural critic George McKay (Circular Breathing) argues persuasively that gardening is not an ideology-free zone. Both the progressive left and the reactionary right have used the garden as a means to political ends. In the current age, when facile thinking and cynical marketing make it is easy to confuse organic produce with moral virtue, it is valuable to be reminded by McKay that the Nazi regime promoted organic farming as a means to stimulating dangerous German nativism. McKay also provides a richly detailed guide to how politics have shaped utopian garden cities, public memorial gardens, community allotments, and guerrilla gardening. Unfortunately, most of the book is focused on Britain, making it less appealing to American readers, and is too often spoiled by the turbid writing style that seems to characterize much academic cultural criticism. 80 b&w illus. (May)