Review: A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
edited by Janet Chui & Jason Erik Lundberg
illustrated by Janet Chui
Two Cranes Press, 2008
76 pages, ISBN 9789810810177
These days you have to crinkle the map a bit to find any edges, but that makes the edges no less real. And still at the edges of the map lie not only dragons and other fauna, but quite curious flora as well, though in some instances the distinction is difficult.
"A Field Guide to Surreal Botany" begins with an elegant introduction to the world of surreal botany, and its move to the underground of science since the eighteenth century. But:
The publishers of this book believe that the time for remaining ignorant of surreal botany has come to an end. Personal safety alone would justify the information on some of these specimens coming to light, and readers will surely appreciate learning of the plants whose threats are lesser, or that are disappearing as the plants themselves become more rare. This book may be read and appreciated by gardening enthusiasts, paranormal investigators, and conspiracy theorists alike.
To that last list, I would add: the whimsically creative, the writer dry of ideas, precocious children, geneticists, and perhaps those very surreal plants themselves as are capable of assimilating information from this printed form. The guide delights with forty-eight detailed and researched (and in the case of the Big Yellow Flower of Unnecessarily Obvious Information, perhaps overly detailed and researched) plants (or plant-like beings, or vaguely plant-like things) that exist across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and in some cases "beyond".
That is not to say the book is without flaw--with so many contributors, the tone at times falls from the requisite scientific to more mundane turns of phrase; and some of Janet Chui's wonderful illustrations, for me, fall short of perfection. And while I'm wishing, I really could have gone for a more thorough set of indexes--it's frustrating to remember a plant and have to go scan the table of contents, where they're alphabetized per region.
Really, though, it is a beautiful book, and the humor and erudition is more than consistent enough to carry the bemused reader away--they do warn you about some of those plants! While the Forget-me-bastard merely causes itching, stinging, and rash, the Time Cactus can trick the unwary researcher or amateur botanist into a quite deadly trance (sending nutrients back along a wormhole to previous times of scarcity). I would recommend a copy of this book to be nestled in among any collection of its more prosaic ilk.
34 comments; 17 subscribers
And my favorite flora... well, I'm not sure exactly what a flora is. But I'll say "Daisy" even though that surely makes me look stupidified. ;)
Only because before I started dating my girlfriend, I gave her a daisy and that pretty much told her how I felt. Because I'm lame and unimaginative, I now give her daisy's for every special occasion. :)
@Ghostamongme: we be stupidified together because I'm just as clueless! :D (Not to mention I gave the same answer, but there was a reason behind that. lol)
FACT: My aunt owns a local florist! :D
My favorite real life surreal Flora is the Pink Lady's-slipper (Pink Moccasin-flower) Cypripedium acaule
grew up with those in the woods of my New England home and my parents told me they were fairy shoes discarded after a night of wild dancing in the moonlight that took root where they fell
(And all my favourites are in there, the flora of the Catwalk Wood, near where I live.)
That is to say, geese-bearing plants! And in his herbal is a picture of the plant, the heads of the flowers like closed tulips, and geese legs emerging from the pursed mouth.
The geese, I think, are barnacle geese, and the myth of their plant-birth had apparently been revealed as a falsehood many years before the publication of John Gerard's book. So why did it remain in Gerard's herbal ? One theory explains that if geese were thought to be from a plant, then they could be eaten on days when meat shouldn't be consumed.
When I read about these mussel-shaped flowers and the birth of geese from their opening, they became my favourite mythical plant... I want there to be plants like this.
[[ excerpt removed at author's request ]]
("okay, dog, chasing that car and barking wildly -- what you gonna do if you CATCH it?? ... Ohhh, hey, wow -- euuuwgh!!")
Keep checking back for more raffles.
And, you know, if you think our opinions on fiction/etc jive with yours a bit, check out a copy of the magazine, yeah? :)
Can everything below the "-------------------" line in my entry be deleted please? I want to try to expand a little on what I wrote and use it as a flash piece somewhere. Thank you in advance!
I've edited your original post, and best of luck with it--I hope it goes somewhere! :)
Congratulations pancak, I hope you enjoy the book. I have wanted it for many months now; looks like I will have to break down and purchase it finally. :~)
Trying to get through a couple of small projects so I can get back to GUD's email and slush. *ulp*
Do you have a comment? Log in or Register; registration is quick, painless, free, and spam-free (unless you ask for it)