Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard by Nicholas P. Money, a crabby almost book review

The review of Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard is only almost a book review because the truth is, I did not finish. I'm not sure quite how far I got, but I was short of my teeth-gritted goal of one hundred pages. I don't usually bounce off books quite this hard. Usually, if I don't finish, I simply put the book down and wander away, only later realizing that I am never going to return.

Money and I were, off to a rocky start from the beginning, since he chose to start his section on phallic mushrooms by mocking the Victorian squeamishness about them. I'm fond of the Victorians, and I dislike people using them as stock characters. Still, it was a minor irritation, and I could have sailed smoothly (if somewhat torpidly) onward through the book, if Money hadn't decided it would be a good idea to throw in some snide comments about the Chinese. Apparently they use more Head and Shoulders shampoo than anyone else ("probably due to the dwindling supply of dodo semen or passenger pigeon eggs," Money adds), they have too many children ("It is a tragedy in a country as populous as China, that anything from tiger turds to whale afterbirths can be sold as long as the suggestion is made that their consumption enhances erectile function"), and, worse, they are religious.

Which led to our next parting of the ways. Almost from the first, Money keeps a steady stream of witticisms aimed at religious people--all or any, lumped together in a large broth. To an extent, this is normal. Almost all science authors seem to assume that religious people don't read, or at least, that we don't read science books(1), so writers almost invariably feel the need to include at least one aside about the nutty religious people. Presumably, it is there to help bond the writer and reader in one, warm, happy pair of rationalists who can then wander happily through the rest of the book. Generally,  though, once the writer has made his or her obligatory remark, it's over and done with, and we get along very well with atoms, or ants, or whatever. Money, however, would not shut up. I quit counting, and reading, shortly after his long spiel about "drunken witchdoctors" vs. (presumably sober) scientists.

The bits in between were boring. The writing is fairly pedantic and there are very few illustrations; most of them are black and white, so they're not much use for identification or admiration.

I have a big bag full of books just waiting to be read.

Trouble is: None of them are mushroom books. Anyone got any suggestions? There are lots of interesting-looking fungi popping up, what with all the rain, and I'm curious.  I have vaguely fond memories of In the Company of Mushrooms: A Biologist’s Tale by Elio Schaechter, but I don't think it's quite what I'm looking for just at the moment.

(1)The Chinese, however, do read, and everyone knows it, so I'm surprised Money's editor didn't take a pencil to his remarks.


  1. Celebrating the Wild Mushroom by Sara Friedman is a really good read. It doesn't have pictures to identify them, though. I wrote about it here.

  2. Thanks. I'll take a look for it. Pictures are nice, but not essential; I like knowing why they matter more than what they look like (even if I prefer both).