43 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Christine Lee Zilka
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Farm City is an awesome read, written by Novella Carpenter, whose book I rank up with Bill Buford's wonderful Heat, with the spirit of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. And I love the voice-Novella the narrator often wonders why people open up to her and accept her so readily (among others, Chris Lee of Eccolo, who teaches her how to prepare pork from her pigs); the voice of the narrator (straightforward, funny, unblinking to the point of childlike wonder, compassionate) is hers, and as a reader I found myself liking her so very much.
I mean, she describes her community in the ghetto with compassion and humor (describing the "tumbleweeds" as "tumbleweaves").
I've been meaning to buy the book at one of our local stores, at one of Novella's book tour readings, but my availability did not intersect with her schedule. And so I ordered the book off Amazon-but for as long as I waited to buy her tome, I wasted no time in cracking it open and settling in for what turned out to be an absorbing, delightful, educational reading of a book that drips with optimism and moxie in a world that has in recent months, gone dark and brooding.
Novella has a farm. She has a farm on an abandoned lot in a part of Oakland nicknamed "Ghost Town," near the freeway and BART tracks. I've visited her farm and was astonished on my first visit to discover an oasis in a part of town that is not a destination site for many-most people drive past it on the freeway, ride past it on BART, there are very few grocery stores, and abandoned lots are many. Like the Valley of Ashes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. But on her street corner, behind a chain link fence, is a lot full of green vegetables and myriad fruits, with a quiet symphony of animal noises.
The farm is serious work, with its share of tragedy: some of her birds die at the mercy of wild neighborhood dogs. Because the abandoned lot on which she squats and plants the garden is purposely unlocked, sometimes others come by and harvest things without permission. (This, she takes in stride-it's not "her" land and she willingly shares the harvest). A farm, rural or urban, is not a perfect fairytale. Nature is unpredictable-but rewarding and complex, too.
When Novella's animals are slaughtered (by her or, rarely, by a third party), it is not a heartless act but a very complex one; sad, respectful, awful, spiritual, and ultimately, pragmatic.
When she buys pigs at auction, unsure of what "Barrow" or "Gilt" might mean, she asks a boy, "Does G mean `girl'?" The way she describes the boy's reaction, "He looked at me as if he might fall over from the sheer power of my enormous idiocy. Then he nodded, so stunned by my stupidity he couldn't speak," is so full of humility and frank humor that I was bowled over as a reader. I laughed out loud. (lol to you). Most writers in the foodie/food realm are so pompous and full of themselves, that I was truly delighted and charmed by Novella here.
I'm always interested in novel structure, and I took a quick look at how Novella structured Farm City: Rabbit, Turkey, Pig. (Those who read her blog know she has added goats to her farm in recent years).
The book is written, more or less, chronologically-because Novella really did start with rabbits, moving on to turkeys, and then pigs. But I still found the livestock-centric structure interesting and effective because yes, to a farmer life and time revolves around the livestock at hand.
The book is on Oprah's list of 25 books to read this summer, and deservedly so.
13 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I'm rating this book more highly than I had first intended, because it grew on me as it went on. For those few reviewers who quit within the first few chapters, it is truly a shame, as the book's crowning glory was really the third section (Pigs). Since my gripes about the book mostly came from the first part, I'll start with my main complaints:
-The book, as a few others have noted, is very heavily about raising (and slaughtering, and eating) livestock. It was probably my mistake to not realize, as another reviewer pointed out, that there is a reason that this is called "Farm City" and not "Garden City." Nonetheless, I had a hard time getting past this in the first few chapters, as I kept wanting the book to talk more about the vegetable growing, beekeeping, and even the laying hens. However, these were all things that the author had done previously; they were not new endeavors for her Oakland farm, and therefore not the focus of this book. On the plus side, once I started letting the book just "be what it was," I came to greatly appreciate the livestock-focused tale.
-As one other reviewer notes, I was mildly frustrated throughout by some of Novella's naiveté about the suffering of the human beings in her midst. Her characterizations of commercial sex workers, drug users and homeless individuals was callous at times. Even at the end, when she talks about having become "part" of her neighborhood, I had to question the reality of her statement. She may see it that way, but do her diverse and struggling neighbors? (*I add this with the caveat that I am a young, educated white female who has lived in the inner city and worked with these populations...if you don't have that kind of perspective, her descriptions probably won't bother you much.)
However, there were two positive aspects of this book, which, in my mind, made it all worth it:
-The evolution of Novella's respect for her animals and their flesh is sincere, and lends maturity to her as a character (maturity that, in my mind, was previously lacking). As an animal-loving almost-vegetarian myself (low meat consumption, picky about its origins), I was surprised how much I grew to appreciate and even identify with her attitude towards her animals. I'm still not sure whether she has pushed me closer to full-vegetarianism, or to raising my own animals so that I can truly appreciate the meat that I eat, but her thought process on this matter has moved me more than anything I've read on the subject in a long time. I did not, like on reviewer here, find these descriptions to be "depressing" or over the top - I thought she devoted the appropriate amount of time and emotion to these matters.
-Though not as well-developed as her points on respecting your meat, the author also gives us something to think about in terms of what urban agriculture means - it's past, present, and future. Within the last few chapters, her increasing understanding of the role (or lack thereof) of her urban farm is both satisfying and enlightening. This, like the point about meat origins above, has opened my mind to a new way of considering things.
A final note that is meant to be informative - neither positive nor negative:
-This book is about the author's story. It's about what she thought, felt, experienced. It is not particularly instructive. You won't learn how to keep bees; you may become inspired to do so, based on Novella's experience and attachment to her hive(s). At times she delves into the science or history of certain things...but not consistently. Therefore, this is a book to help you think about and consider the idea of urban farming, not to walk you through how you can set up your own farm - after all, you probably don't have an empty lot with no zoning restrictions and absentee owner sitting empty next to your apartment.