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What Linnaeus overlooked Lionni has undertaken, teasing a new academic discipline out of his wily imagination. Parallel Botany is the study of an elusive vegetal kingdom of parallel plants, "unconstrained by any known laws of nature." "Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void," they are primarily characterized by matterlessness or, as the scholars would have it, "paramateriality"--a serious obstacle to fossilization. Most are black or colorless, several are invisible, few will photograph; some violate normal rules of perspective, appearing the same size from any distance; others resemble the art of Arp or Calder; all disintegrate at the slightest touch. Not so this work. Lionni's crafty introduction to this germinal phenomenon reads like a classic text, full of references to "intellectual crises" and "esoteric trajectories," complete with all the props of modern scholarship--university chairs, textbooks (Notes Toward a Vegetable Semantics), local societies and splinter groups, anthropological evidence, historical feuds, even a footnote for himself under a different identity. Among the deadpan disquisitions, the imposing gibberish (intuitive codification, fluctuations of ozonoferous density), and the incongruous examples (bagels, gypsy music) are Lionni's cunning illustrations--a garden of unearthly delights, richly ambiguous, rooted in mischief.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0394733029
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1977