I don’t read much fiction; my preference is real life. (Not surprising for a journalist/scholar.) Mostly I read biographies, anything by Hilary Mantel, and garden books, mostly garden essays. I also love the I-ran-away-and-started-a-new-life-and-a-new-garden memoir genre, in any country — France, Italy, Australia . . .
For a new volume of garden essays I usually head to Half-Price Books, to the last and lowest shelf in the Gardening section. Last week I discovered People with Dirty Hands: The Passion for Gardening, by Robin Chotzinoff. What a wonderful read, and something of an idea I’ve toyed with, profiling people who are crazy about gardening.
Following Zelma’s model, I will age ungracefully until I become an old woman in a small garden, doing whatever the hell I want.
It was Zelda, Chotzinoff’s elderly next-door neighbor, who got her “into the habit of talking to gardeners. I like to write portraits of people, but given the choice, I prefer to write about gardeners.”
Chotzinoff starts off, happily for those of us in Texas, with the Antique Rose Emporium and the Texas Rose Rustlers. From there her stories include those of New Mexico chile farmers, urban gardeners, seed sellers, a tomato fanatic, a Native American garden historian, her own family history, and many more compelling characters. All of us gardeners are obsessed, to some degree. It’s fun to find so many kindred spirits lovingly portrayed on the page.