cover image A Salad Only the Devil Would Eat: The Joys of Ugly Nature

A Salad Only the Devil Would Eat: The Joys of Ugly Nature

Charles Hood. Heyday, $16 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59714-545-9

“I have come to prefer ugly nature best,” writes poet and natural historian Hood (Wild LA) in this eccentric collection on Earth’s oddities. The meaning of “ugly nature” is most apparent in “I Heart Ugly Nature,” about living in Palmdale, Calif., a desert area of “few palms and no dales.” Still, he delights in the “spindly” creosote bushes, “slim, tan” kit foxes, and young Joshua trees living in a “field of broken bikes.” “A Small, Humble Addiction” celebrates the magnificence of British field guides compared to their paltry American counterparts, and “Two Thousand Palm Trees” tells the tale of the arrival of palm trees in L.A. (they were brought from Mexico in the 19th century to provide fronds for Palm Sunday). “Cochineal and the Color Red” describes a parasite that infests prickly pears, leaving it looking as if “spackled with crusty toothpaste.” When scraped off and dried, the substance creates a dye that Hood calls “the red that out-reds everything else.” The collection ends up being more about the nature of Hood than a deep dive into the natural world itself: it’s full of his ruminations on his relationship with the wild, especially how, during lonely periods, he finds solace there. Still, green-minded readers will appreciate the author’s ability to find meaning in nature’s quirky side. (Nov.)