A FIELD GUIDE TO IMAGINARY TREES by Joseph Bulgatz

A FIELD GUIDE TO IMAGINARY TREES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A book of trees–both real and imagined–that taps some very deep roots of the human psyche.

Here are a handful of arboreal specimens full of divine wonder and aesthetic pleasure, those for which we have special affinities and that resonate on the atavistic level. They speak of our species’ first homes, of life, of good and evil, of the oracular. Bulgatz (More Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 2000) paws around the earth from which these trees sprouted, discovering allegory, parable and metaphor in the process. He is a playful guide, sometimes speaking as a cherub, sometimes as a scholar discoursing on the cooperative relationship of the plant and animal kingdoms in the “Barnacle Goose Tree” and the “Vegetable Lamb of Tartary.” He introduces readers to the farcical folk of Chelm, into whose hands one day came a miraculous box of oranges (“It was a gift, the paper enclosed said, sent from ‘Harry and David, Fruiterers of the World.’ ”), and to the blessed Shmoo Pear, a tree that adapted perfectly to the Atkins diet. But the laughs are spaced out amongst the author’s deeper exploration of our desire to anthropomorphize trees. Far from a pathetic fallacy, Bulgatz sees within these stories–Philemon and Baucis, the Tree of Liberty, Yggdrasil, the forest-intoxicated Celts, the age of the sacred grove–a profound exercise of the imagination.

A vessel as enchanting as the symbolic and shimmering freight it carries.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 2005
ISBN: 1-4134-8422-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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