The One-Straw Revolution

Six decades ago in postwar Japan, long before Michael Pollan or Alice Waters, Masanobu Fukuoka, a laboratory scientist who had studied plant enzymes and rhizomes in Tokyo laboratories and had worked with poisonous wartime chemicals during the devastations of the Second World War, headed back to the land his father's family farmed for nearly 1,400 years. There he painstakingly recovered and developed a method of farming that aligned itself as closely as possible with natural principles. While Japan set itself on a breakneck course toward modernization, Fukuoka grew rice in the opposite way, refusing to farm with chemicals that would annihilate even something as small as a leaf beetle. Call his book "Zen and the Art of the Wild Cucumber," or see Fukuoka as a Japanese Thoreau tending the whole universe in a beanstalk -- however you approach Fukuoka's rich philosophical side, it's important also to notice that his deep spiritual wisdom was co-terminous with his genius as a farmer. Without fertilizers or even tilling, he nonetheless harvested some of the greatest rice yields per acre in all of Japan. By the late '70s, when The One Straw Revolution was translated into English, Fukuoka had become a guru and disciple in seemingly radical -- but eminently sensible -- ways of approaching food, gardening, farming, and eating. His book is an early cult classic in organic and natural farming circles, but its implications stretch beyond them and continue to resonate as a global food crisis looms. Fukuoka believed that fertilizers and pesticides caused the very problems that they proposed to solve; that rather than annihilating pests, they invited them. He argued that natural foods, grown without these costly additives, should be the cheapest; and that the body living closest to the land and aligning itself with the seasons would be the healthiest. Thirty years later, as this book is re-released, Fukuoka's message -- now more urgent than ever -- remains a deeply nourishing clarion call.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."