ERB, Vol 1 , #19

The Englewood Review of Books

Vol. 1, No. 19    16 May 2008

Diving for pearls in the endless stream of books (Eccles. 12:12B)

Chris Smith, editor



“Engaging the Earth;

Engaging our Neighbors”


A Review of Fritz Haeg’s

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.

By Brent Aldrich.


Last month I heard Fritz Haeg give a lecture on his work; the day of the talk happened to be Earth Day, which provided a fitting context for his art and architectural practices. During the lecture, he cited Michael Pollan’s article in the NY Times for Earth Day (also linked in ERB #16) as a particularly lucid articulation and response to our current relationship to the land: “The act I want to talk about is growing some…of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don’t…look into getting a plot in a community garden…[Planting a garden] is one of the most powerful things an individual can do…to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind” (Pollan, “Why Bother?”,  NY TIMES Magazine, 20 April 2008).

            Ripping out front lawns is the first act of Fritz Haeg’s current project and book Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn; the second is planting a “highly productive edible landscape.” Haeg is developing Edible Estates in regional prototype gardens across the U.S. that function as an interruption to the hegemony of the front lawn and are responsive to particularities of location and gardeners. Additionally, most of these gardens have been funded by commissions from arts institutions, establishing a dialogue between the local community and ecologically engaged and responsible art practices.

            The book Edible Estates functions as documentation of the first four regional prototype gardens (there are six now) in Salina, Kansas (the geographic center of the U.S.), Lakewood, California, Maplewood, New Jersey, and London, England. All of these locations are accompanied by photographic documentation, garden plans, and texts by the owners of the garden properties. Haeg’s role in these projects is to initiate, design, and plant; afterwards the garden is cultivated by the homeowners, a sign in the front yard remains with flyers elaborating on the Edible Estate.

            Several introductory essays in the first half of the book consider the history of the lawn, from English estates, through Jefferson’s Monticello, to our current “democratic river of manicured lawn” as Michael Pollan names it in his contribution to the book, the essay Why Mow?. Pollan’s story of his father, the “lawn dissident” and then his own “secession from the national lawn” give more support to Haeg’s project.

            Also in the book are guidelines for establishing your own Edible Estate, which include “a house in some way conventional, iconic, American” and a front yard “very visible from the street, with regular car traffic,” as well as reports from homeowners who have established their own Edible Estates, the USDA plant hardiness zone map, regional planting calendars, and other resources.

            The Edible Estates project, as contextualized in this book is engaging both as an art practice dependent upon the participation and collaboration of families and communities, as well as a very practical response to our use of land, soil, air, food production, and public and private spaces. Haeg says, “food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth, and our neighbors.” Part of the success of this project and book may be the variety of people it seeks to engage. The book’s preface describes the political division of America, as well as the disconnect between the art and architecture communities and the broader society; the Edible Estates project, then, is a creative response to this fragmentation and seeks to be “a symbolic act to engage with the entirety of the country.” This book is a useful vehicle of that desire, combining thorough research and documentation with practical instruction to continue the project.



Brett Aldrich is a senior at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and the director of the Englewood Summer Arts Program.  This summer his artwork will be featured in a store-front installation space in IndianapolisChase Tower.



Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.

Fritz Haeg.  Paperback.  Metropolis Books.  2008.

              Buy now from:    [ Doulos Christou Books $20]   [ ]




[ A note on buying books: We offer you the opportunity to buy the books listed here, either directly from our little independent bookstore (Doulos Christou Books), or through  The prices listed for our bookstore do not include shipping or Indiana sales tax.  Local folks can arrange to pick up their books from either our Lockerbie or Englewood stores.  If you want to buy a book and are having trouble with the links in this email, drop us an email – – and we’ll see that you get the book(s) you want. ]




Used Book Finds


The bread-n-butter of our bookstore business is the sale of used books, and we do a fair amount of scouting around for used books each week.  In this section we will feature some of the interesting books that we have found in the past week.  Generally, we will only have a single copy of these books, so if you want one (or more) of them, you’ll need to respond quickly.



Systematic Theology: Ethics.

              James William McClendon.  Hardcover.  Abingdon. 1986.

            Excellent  Condition.  Clean pages, very minimal wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ]


The Meaning of the City.

Jacques Ellul.  Hardcover.  Eerdmans.  1970.  

Very Good Condition. Clean pages. Moderate wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ]


The Rise of Universities.

Charles Homer Haskins.  Paperback.   1969 Printing.

Very Good Condition.  Clean Pages / Moderate wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $3 ]





Reviewed Elsewhere


Zizek, and the Danger of Obama for the American Church

            David Fitch offers Election Year Cautions from

Slavoj Zizek’s The Sublime Object.   

One piece of Slavoj Zizek’s political theory in his foundational book The Sublime Object is his notion of ‘ideological cynicism.’ Subjects of the first world, Zizek says, are too smart to become duped by the political ideologies of Western states. We know it’s all just more political spin. Instead, ideology for Zizek, takes on a different form in the so-called “first world.” Here, we are offered ideologies to appease us, to make us feel better about ourselves, so that those in privilege can keep on conserving what it is they really desire. So now, we look at the political ideologies spinning across the political process, and instead of politically observing “they do not know it, but they are doing it,” we observe “they know it, but they are doing it anyway.” In essence, we listen to all the new political speeches and new political options given the electorate and we know nothing will really change. Yet we participate in it anyway, because in essence subconsciously this is what we really want: we wish to protect our own specific pieces of the economic social pie yet feel good about doing it (there’s the classic Freudian split in the subjective consciousness). Zizek suggests that political ideology serves a cynical function now, giving us a Big Other to believe in, making us feel better about ourselves (morally), all the while we hope for keeping the status quo in place protecting our own personal pieces of the pie.

When it comes to Christians of my evangelical tradition, I would suggest Zizek’s ‘ideological cynicism’ could work another way. We participate in National politics, its political ideologies of a more just/moral society, even though we deeply suspect the corporate national machine insures nothing will change. We do this because it is much harder to think of the church itself as a legitimate social political force for God’s justice in the world. …”

Read the full review:   

Slavoj Zizek. 

The Sublime Object of Ideology. 

            Paperback.  Verso.  1989.

            Buy now from:  [ ]




The Publishers’ Weekly Review of Rodney Clapp’s

Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction.


“It seems an unlikely pairing—Johnny Cash and an analysis of the American religious personality. Yet a new book by Rodney Clapp, editorial director of Brazos Press, holds up the tough-livin’, hard-lovin’, drug-usin’ country and western icon as a prism that refracts the many contradictions of the American people, the most religious in the developed world. 

In Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation (Westminster John Knox Press, Feb.) Clapp describes how the singer, who died in 2003, epitomized the American character, all merit and mess. Like Cash, he argues, we are a people torn between hedonism and holiness, between innocence and violence, and between a longing for community and an insistence on vibrant individuality. …

Read the full review: 

Rodney Clapp.  
        Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction

        Paperback.  WJK. 2008.
       Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ]      [ ]




The Discerning Reader reviews Jim Spiegel’s new book

Gum, Geckos and God.




“I don’t think it takes very many years of child raising before every parent realizes that he is in over his head. I am no stranger to this feeling. As I was walking my eight-year-old son to school just last week he turned to me and said, ‘Dad, why is it that people think killing one another will solve the world’s problems?’ My first instinct was that it would be a simple question to answer. But a moment’s reflection made me realize that a proper answer would have to touch on all kinds of issues of theological significance. Thankfully my son is quite a good listener and we were able to turn his question into a good chat.

Author James Spiegel, professor of philosophy at Taylor University, did not realize the challenges he would face in talking about God to his children. Perhaps as a philosopher he felt he would be equipped to answer. But he quickly learned that even seemingly simple questions are often difficult to answer adequately. What is God like? Why does God love us? Why is it hard to be good? If heaven is so great, why am I afraid to die? These questions offer ideal opportunities to teach children while challenging our own assumptions about the Christian faith. These questions, and the answers to them, are the subject of Spiegel’s new book, Gum, Geckos and God: A Family’s Adventure in Space, Time and Faith.  …”


Read the full review:


James Spiegel.  Gum, Geckos and God.

            Paperback.  Zondervan. April 2008.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $10 ]      [ ]



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