Quite a moving book. There are the obvious moments of hagiography juxtaposed with some clear-eyed insights into idols and their clay feet. Paul Lee uses his shared history with Alan Chadwick to serve as a scaffolding for his well-worn discourses around 19th century physicalist/vitalist debates. He charts Alan Chadwick’s intellectual heritage from Goethe, through Steiner, to the new age mysticism of 60’s California. He paints a lasting image of great man, a driven man, a man for whom everything and everyone around him must be dragooned into serving the greater good. The book also serves as a useful chronicle of the rise of the organics movement and the local food movement around Alice Water’s iconic Chez Panisse.
Overall, the book is a lasting testament to one of the founding fathers of organics and the new food movement in the American West by an insider, indeed by one of the brethren. And here lies the inherent dichotomy of this book.Their is a fine line that balances the tension between participant and observer. One cannot help but think that Paul Lee blurs this line and perhaps even loses sight of it. Often it appears as two books in one. Alan Chadwick’s story of course but often his own as well. One documenting the life of one of the greatest gardeners of the 20th century, the other a somewhat ‘doctoral’ dissertation of the author’s take on the history and philosophy of 19th century science. Each a worthy subject in its own right. But an odd juxtaposition at times. I often felt divided by the voice and goals of the author. Did he want to give us an adoring biography of the great man or did he want to regale us with his insights into Goethe’s critique of Newtonian optics. I understand the purpose of the scholarly history - to provide a context within which we could view Chadwick’s and Lee’s conflict within the University of Santa Cruz. On the other hand, I can’t help but think Alan Chadwick might have lost interest in the minutiae of the scholarship and suggested that some weeding may prove more useful and a long lunch with much wine, more fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For those with an interest in the rise of the organics movement, biodynamics and permaculture it is a fascinating slice of history told from the inside.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: NORTH ATLANTIC; 1 edition (15 March 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781583945599
- ISBN-13: 978-1583945599
- ASIN: 1583945598
- Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 1.3 x 27.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 721 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review