My Friday Post: Weeds by Richard Mabey

On Fridays I join in with two book memes:

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires. 

This week I’m featuring a non-fiction book, Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Weeds by Richard Mabey. This is a book that I’ve dipped into, mostly at this time of year, when the weeds in our garden begin to grow again. It is full of fascinating facts – a cultural history of weeds. Richard Mabey argues that ‘we have caused plants to become weeds because of our reckless treatment of the earth. They are part of nature’s immune system, of its instinctive drive to green over the barrenness of broken soil and decaying cities.

Plants become weeds when they obstruct our plans, or tidy maps of the world. If you have no such plans or maps, they can appear as innocents, without stigma or blame. My own discovery of them was my first close encounter with plants, and they seemed to me like a kind of manna.

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

To gaze at Albrecht Durer’s extraordinary painting Large Piece of Turf (Das Grosse Rasenstuck, (1503) is to glimpse an imagination pierced through the artistic conventions and cultural assumptions of its time and projecting itself forward three centuries. This is painting’s discovery of ecology. This is any corner of any waste patch of land in the early twenty-first century, or at any time. This is a clump of weeds looked at with such reverent attention that they might have been the flowers of Elysium.

Durer’s painting is not reproduced in the book, but this is it:

Large Piece of Turf Durer 1503

I’ve had this book for ten years – I think it’s time I read it through from start to finish.

14 thoughts on “My Friday Post: Weeds by Richard Mabey

  1. You know, Margaret, I’ve never thought much about the role that weeds play in the ecosystem, although of course, they do. And people have used them for millennia for different purposes. I’ll bet this is an interesting read!

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  2. This is one of those books I would probably dismiss at first glance, but I am glad you featured it here today because it really does sound fascinating. I am not into gardening, but the cultural historical aspect of weeds and their role really interest me. From the quotes you shared, I really like Mabey’s way of thinking. Thank you for sharing, Margaret! I hope you have a great weekend!

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    1. This book caught my eye in a bookshop, with its striking cover, as I’d been struggling to get the weeds in our garden under control. It is a mine of information!


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