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Literary Lawns

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American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn 

When I first heard about Ted Steinberg’s American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, I thought “now, that must have been one helluva pitch!” Imagine convincing an editor to buy a proposal about watching the grass grow.

But William Grimes’ review in today’s New York Times makes the book seem fascinating. Steinberg’s text isn’t so much a monotonous recitation of fertilizer compounds, but rather an examination of why so many Americans are fanatical about their lawns. Along the way, Steinberg meets up with some folks who make Paul James from HGTV’s Gardening by the Yard look like a lawn loser.

For example, Steinberg introduces Jerry Tucker, a man who turned his yard into a replica of Augusta National Golf Club’s 12th hole. There’s also a lady who cuts her entire lawn by hand, using small shears. And then there is Richard Widmark, who woke up in the hospital after a severe lawn mower accident in 1990. His first question to the doctors was “will I ever mow again?”

All in all, American Green sounds like a great read, perfect for early spring to get you fired up for the start of lawn season. I can only hope that Steinberg included my favorite gardener, Carl Spackler, in his list of lawn care lunatics. Undoubtedly Carl would tell Steinberg about his own choice for grass seed: “This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.”