PODCAST

Episode 378: Olivia Laing

BY MEGAN LABRISE • June 25, 2024

The re-envisioning of a home garden leads Olivia Laing to bright insights.

On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Olivia Laing discusses The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise (Norton, June 25), in which the writer and critic explores concepts of paradise and utopia while replanting the garden surrounding their home in Suffolk, England. Kirkus calls this agile, engrossing work of nonfiction “an intellectually verdant and emotionally rich narrative journey."

Laing is the acclaimed author of seven books, including The Trip to Echo Spring (2013), The Lonely City (2016), and the novel Crudo (2018). They’re a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize for nonfiction. Their books have been translated into 21 languages.

Here’s a bit more from our starred review of The Garden Against Time:

“When Laing, author of Everybody, Funny Weather, and other acclaimed books, bought a house in Suffolk, she did so mostly for the garden. Especially during the early pandemic, the dilapidated yet lush yard became her personal project. Spending hours with her hands in the dirt, she became enraptured not just with her own garden, but with the history of gardens and their association with paradise. The result is this intellectually stimulating, vibrant book. Laing describes gardens of her own acquaintance in sensuous, compelling detail, allowing readers to see, smell, and touch them alongside her. Similarly, the author moves through fascinating currents of thought, ranging from Paradise Lost to the history of enslavement in plantations, with tactile dexterity.… As the author unpacks the fraught history of colonialism and class inequality in relation to gardens, she offers intriguing examinations of utopias.…Suffused with Laing’s distinctively skillful prose, this book is an impressive achievement.”

Laing and I begin by discussing the experience of visiting Empress Livia’s garden frescoes at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome. They read aloud from the beginning of The Garden Against Time, and talk a bit about why the book begins with a dream. We discuss whether writing the book was a pleasurable experience, and whether they perceive their garden rehabilitation project as a revision of the land or the authoring of a new habitat. We talk about the privilege of land ownership; what gardens can teach us about time; climate change; climate activism; and much more.

Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.

 

EDITORS’ PICKS:

Safiyyah’s War by Hiba Noor Khan (Allida/HarperCollins)

Being Home by Traci Sorell, illus. by Michaela Goade (Kokila)

Margo's Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe (Morrow/HarperCollins)

 

ALSO MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE:

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorrell, illus. by Frané Lessac

 

THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

Winging It: Improv’s Power and Peril in the Time of Trump by Randy Fertel

Blok 42 by Debrianna Obara

The Assays of Ata by K.I.S.

 

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

 

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