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vikyavorsk

Kris' Books.

Female. Slavic mind. Avid reader.

 I read across a broad range of book genres, with an emphasis on Aus/NZ lit, Russian and Ukrainian literature, Latin-American literature and European history.

 

The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America - Leo Marx

The central question on which this book is based on, as I understood, was where exactly does the modern-day American's belief that everything related to urban centres has negative connotations and living a simple lifestyle in a rustic setting is ideal originate, and what it says about the American nation/culture as a whole. Marx (Leo, no relation of Karl's as far as I gather) sets about to answer this question by examining the imaginations of America's foremost classical authors (e.g Cooper, Thoreau, Melville, Faulkner, Frost and Hemingway) and thus delve in the depths of what Marx calls 'sentimental pastoralism'.

 

          The 'machine' that acted as the focal point of this book was inevitably none other than the train- a symbol of industrial progress in most European states during the late 19th century/ early 20th century and no different in the U.S. The book can be generalised by stating that it is an analysis of how the railroad affected American culture, through the voice of the American canon- whether the railroad interferes with someone's meditation in the countryside or it is the corruption new appliances causes to traditional principles of pastoralism: many examples are provided to demonstrate the rise of sentimental pastoralism in the U.S. According to the author, the American Dream (theoretically) cannot be achieved with the attitudes and environment cultivated by this special kind of pastoralism.

 

       On a personal level, I think what interested me the most in this book was the author's explanation of art as an entity with an ever-evolving definition . Art as it was defined by the European immigrants was completely different from what a modern person would consider to be art.  These pre-modern pastoralists believed there was a very distinct mediating ground between "art" and "nature" (an idea that would be difficult to fathom for the averagemodern person). From this Marx proceeds to postulate that 

 there are two different types of pastoralism, one simple and one complex. The argument is which one of these is better: occupying the middle ground between art and nature, or going for something simpler? In a way, I thought that by the way America has gone it has essentially chosen a simpler kind of relationship with nature, something that no one can agree that is something wholly good.