From Publishers Weekly
In a series of essays about his life as a California subsistence farmer, Madison ruminates on lessons learned during his 20-plus years in the farmers' market society. Opening with a depiction of a person he's met or a scene from agrarian life, these vignettes often blossom into expositions on larger issues and become a pulpit from which Madison preaches his sermon. His account of his experiences growing sweet corn becomes a rant against the processed food industry; the shadows of military cargo planes flying overhead launch a diatribe against what he sees as America's imperial ways. The overuse of heavy-handed analogies, a pervading tone of superiority and brash, stereotyping statements ("Like many people whose wealth is unearned, he was a rabid Republican") will alienate many readers. Redemption lies in essays about aspects inherent to the life of a small farmer: a love of nature, a sense of pleasure in one's work and an intrinsic connection to the earth and all living things. Musings on the abundance evident at farmers' markets, the nostalgic power of lilacs and the pleasure of eating a fig warmed on the tree by the afternoon sun illuminate Madison's passion for his job and add warmth to what might otherwise be a collection of denunciations of contemporary society. (Apr.)
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''Madison writes beautifully. He is a master of atmosphere, and creates imagery that the reader will want to linger over.''--San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
''Mike Madison is a rare find: a person who possesses both the pragmatism required of a farmer and the keen eye for flawed human nature required of a humorist. [Blithe Tomato] is proof that it's an irresistible combination.''--Saveur
''[Madison's] short, sharp pieces draw readers into psychological landscape of a small-scale farmer, but they also reflect his observations of his customers: the people who swoon at the scent of lilacs, a colorful character he calls the Old Basque, and a man with a faraway look and a jittery woman (who finally appear grounded after Mr. Madison notices them hand in hand).''--The New York Times
''With a Chekhovian eye for detail, Mike Madison has assembled a fascinating group portrait of the fellow growers--endangered individualists all, eccentrics, recluses, dreamers, anarchists--who work the land of his extended neighborhood. Madison makes us appreciate not only how much mankind's labors form landscape but also how much the land molds character for better and worse.''--Stanley Crawford, author of A Garlic Testament
''Mike Madison is one of us--farms with humility, a fool to work so hard, hands with calluses while scratching out a good life in the earth--all the while musing about life passing before our fields.'' --David Mas Masumoto, author of Epitaph for a Peach and Letters to the Valley