sus

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Vernon Watkins did not seek fame. It’s not that he didn’t want people to read his poems, but his understanding of success had nothing to do with book sales, critical acclaim or social climbing. It’s not even that he felt indifferent to literary trends: he held polite but absolute disdain for fashionable writers, “contemporary poets” and the literary power brokers he considered misguided and even corrupt.
 

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Some of the stories in 1001 Nights may have been variations on the legend of the Old Man of The Mountains, Hassan-i-Sabbah, and his "garden of paradise" where he allegedly placed drugged youth to trick them into killing on command on the promise that one day they would return there

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from The Old Man of the Mountain by C E Nowell

"During his exile in Egypt he learned some basic secret by means of which his future power was realized. Some scholars have assumed erroneously that this secret was the use of hashish. Hashish was only an adjunct. What Hassan i Sabbah learned in Egypt was that paradise actually exists and that it can be reached. The Egyptians called it the Western Lands. This is the Garden that the Old Man showed his assassins. . . . It cannot be faked any more than contact with the Imam can be faked. This is no vague eternal heaven for the righteous. This is an actual place at the end of a very dangerous road.

The Garden of Eden was a space station, from which we were banished to the surface of the planet to live by the sweat of mortal brows in a constant losing fight with gravity. But banished by whom? An asshole God who calls himself Jehovah or whatever. Only one spiritual leader found this out, and found a key to a garden . . . for once you have the key, there are not just one garden but many gardens, an infinite number."

Burroughs, The Place of Dead Roads
 

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You can read Ballard's Drowned World as the story of a gardener defending his garden before abandoning it for the hero's journey. We start with Kerans' routine in the jungles and lagoons of London, follow him through various scuffles with colleagues attempting to remove him from his garden and a serious confrontation with a group of outsiders who threaten the garden itself then see him wander off into the distance, perhaps in search of another garden, having eliminated all comers and left the garden in a position to flourish unattended. That, or the world becomes his garden.

So he left the lagoon and entered the jungle again, within a few days was
completely lost, following the lagoons southward through the increasing rain
and heat, attacked by alligators and giant bats, a second Adam searching for
the forgotten paradises of the reborn Sun.

The-Drowned-World_featured.jpg
 

version

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You can also flip the gardener/garden relationship and read it as the characters being pruned and cultivated by their environment. The lush vegetation, slithering reptiles and oppressive heat tweaking thought, behaviour and nervous system. Who's really the gardener here?
 

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He directly references Max Ernst, which I'm sure you'll appreciate.

Over the mantelpiece was a
huge painting by the early 20th century surrealist Delvaux, in which ashen-
faced women danced naked to the waist with dandified skeletons in tuxedos
against a spectral bonelike landscape. On another wall one of Max Ernst's
self-devouring phantasmagoric jungles screamed silently to itself, like the
sump of some insane unconscious.

For a few moments Kerans stared quietly at the dim yellow annulus of
Ernst's sun glowering through the exotic vegetation, a curious feeling of
memory and recognition signaling through his brain. Far more potent than
the Beethoven, the image of the archaic sun burned against his mind,
illuminating the fleeting shadows that darted fitfully through its profoundest
deeps.

[...]

Kerans threw her a mock salute and strolled over to look at the painting by
Ernst at the far end of the lounge, while Bodkin gazed down at the jungle
through the window. More and more the two scenes were coming to
resemble each other, and in turn the third nightscape each of them carried
within his mind. They never discussed their dreams, the common zone of
twilight where they moved at night like the phantoms in the Delvaux painting.
 
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@sus


In 2020, Olivia Laing began to restore a walled garden in Suffolk, an overgrown Eden of unusual plants. The work drew her into an exhilarating investigation of paradise and its long association with gardens. Moving between real and imagined gardens, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to John Clare’s enclosure elegies, from a wartime sanctuary in Italy to a grotesque aristocratic pleasure ground funded by slavery, Laing interrogates the sometimes shocking cost of making paradise on earth.

But the story of the garden doesn’t always enact larger patterns of privilege and exclusion. It’s also a place of rebel outposts and communal dreams. From the improbable queer utopia conjured by Derek Jarman on the beach at Dungeness to the fertile vision of a common Eden propagated by William Morris, new modes of living can and have been attempted amidst the flower beds, experiments that could prove vital in the coming era of climate change.

The result is a humming, glowing tapestry, a beautiful and exacting account of the abundant pleasures and possibilities of gardens: not as a place to hide from the world but as a site of encounter and discovery, bee-loud and pollen-laden.
 
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sus

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I don't want to read this. I don't ever want to read Olivia Laing. If I have to read this for research I'll be furious
 

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I'm surprised they didn't call it "a meditation" in the blurb. I hate the preciousness of that and you see it all the time.
 

sus

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I'm surprised they didn't call it "a meditation" in the blurb. I hate the preciousness of that and you see it all the time.
That's spot-on

Instead they use terms like "could prove vital" and "a humming glowing tapestry"
 
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