Content Tagged ‘Michael Pollan’

Collateral damage

January 15, 2014 | 12 Comments

My ancient essay surfaces

September 8, 2013 | 11 Comments

“As I look at it, you might as well ask, Does a sunset pay? In a certain sense, it is a sort of profanation to consider if my garden pays, or to set a money value upon my delight in it. Shall I set a price upon the tender asparagus or the crisp lettuce, which made the sweet spring a reality?”—Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden

While editor of The Hartford Courant in 1870, author and essayist Charles Dudley Warner had the cunning idea—far ahead of its time, a concept memoir—to spend that growing season gardening. Not for vegetables but for joy. He prosecuted a thesis that gardeners are dreamers engaged in a spiritual activity. As he wrote, 143 years ago now, “To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life,—this is the commonest delight of the race. To dig in the mellow soil—to dig moderately, for all pleasure should be taken sparingly—is a great thing.”

I used his words as a springboard into an essay, “Gardening and Being,” for the summer 1994 issue of Orion. I explained how gardening had grounded me as a person, how its lessons and discipline had been my true crop. The short piece, 1,079 words, was my first personal essay in a slick national magazine. It also marked the seventh anniversary of my and my wife’s purchase of a featureless rectangle of land, an Indiana soybean field, that we’d transformed. By then our white faux colonial farmhouse overlooked our pond, a shimmering blue acre of water, and was embraced by greenery—hundreds of trees and shrubs, gardens of vegetables, perennial flowers. As if endorsing our efforts, the city had built a state-of-the-art elementary on our road, just in time for our daughter and son to start school.

[Read More]

About John D’Agata

March 7, 2012 | 8 Comments

I believe in immersion in the events of a story. I take it on faith that the truth lies in the events somewhere, and that immersion in those real events will yield glimpses of that truth. I try to hew to a narrow definition of nonfiction partly in that faith and partly out of fear.  I’m afraid that if I started making things up in a story that purported to be about real events and real people, I’d stop believing …

[Read More]

Emotion vs. facts in memoir

October 21, 2009 | 6 Comments

Lessons from writing about dreams, loss, fatherhood & farming. On a fall day four years ago I sat down to write about my family’s experiences in Appalachian Ohio, where we lived and worked and were part-time farmers for thirteen years. It took me a year and a half to produce a manuscript of 500 pages. It took me another year and a half to cut 200 pages. And I’ve spent the last year restructuring (again). During this process I’ve learned a lot …

[Read More]

Michael Pollan on narrative journalism

November 28, 2008 | 4 Comments

From Michael Pollan’s comments in Nieman Narrative Digest: “Journalists often write as people who have mastered subjects and are telling you about them. That’s a real turn-off for readers. In my work I often begin as a naif. It’s a good place to start because it’s a lot closer to where your reader is. Instead of starting as someone who knows the answers, you begin as someone learning about something. That’s a good way to connect with readers. “I often …

[Read More]