Last week, the Déja Vu blog of Lapham's Quarterly ("Bringing an historical perspective to today's news") made a connection between a new study showing that the mind needs periods of rest in order to process and retain all the information we shove into it throughout the day and Robert Burton's own lament about the overwhelming number of books published in "our Frankfurt Marts, our domestic Marts" (of the early 17th century). There is too much information for one brain to absorb, and it seems that we've been feeling that way for a long while.
Meanwhile, Harry Ayres, writing in the Financial Times (for a no-comment comment on the unlikelihood of the FT praising Masanobu Fukuoka, see Anna Lappé's twitter feed) finds a way into The One-Straw Revolution, and it's not through organic food:
I was struck by one sentence in particular. Somewhere in the middle of this charming, eccentric book, one of the founding texts of natural, non-interventionist farming, Fukuoka asserts that “the one-acre farmer of long ago spent January, February and March hunting rabbits in the hills”. Later on, he says that while cleaning his village shrine he found dozens of haikus, composed by local people, on hanging plaques; but “there is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song”.
Farmers, once upon a time, had leisure time! They wrote poetry, at least they did in Japan. And that leisure was characterized, not by catching up on RSS feeds or figuring out how to apply for farm subsidies, but by wholesome pursuits that allowed for a fair amount of wool-gathering. Ayres's column brings out the features that make The One-Straw Revolution an inspiration to so many: its holistic (sometimes didactic) approach to creating the good life.
(This all puts us in mind of the way, whenever we spoke on the phone to Larry Korn, who co-translated and edited The One-Straw Revolution, and who has made a career out of Fukuoka's methods of gardening, we had to slow down our New York patter, breathe deep, and listen to his calm—and calming—voice. Thank you Larry-sensei!)
The whole of The Summer Book takes place in what we would consider downtime and involves a little girl finding ways to amuse herself. David Nice, a music critic, has published our favorite recent appreciation of the book. It might be our favorite because he quotes some great, funny, passages, it might be because he truly praises the translation, or it might be because he writes the following:
Somehow I imagined it would be a bit of a soft option, gentle whimsy after the bright and black of Linn Ullmann's A Blessed Child, another masterpiece based on the author's childhood and times.... I was wrong.
And by extension, you are wrong too, if you fear that The Summer Book is sentimental.Here, for slow viewing, and with a soundtrack of crashing waves and birdsong, is footage of the island where Tove Jansson and her partner spent their summers: