Death is Life: Gene Everlasting Book Review

by ziggy on January 29, 2014 -- 0 comments -- Follow

GeneEverlastingThe next time I feel desperate about the state of affairs in the world, I should turn to this book for a quick and thorough pick-me-up. Which is ironic, I guess, because the real theme of the book (as you might guess from its title) is death. Death and dying are usually not a welcome topic of conversation.

However, Gene Everlasting is an evocative opportunity to step into the well-worn shoes of our favorite contrary farmer/writer Gene Logsdon and consider what it’s like to have lived 80 years on this crazy green earth, possibly waiting for death around the corner, questioning immortality, but discovering what it means to savor life in all of its colorful moments, big or small, happy or sad.

Gene Everlasting: A Review

Gene Everlasting is a book of essays written by Logsdon, mostly newly written, and many at least somewhat influenced by the author’s bout with cancer. (I guess no one needs to explain what the fortunate outcome of the bout was.) In true Logsdon fashion, the book is littered with nuggets of truth waiting to be picked up. Some are right there, like fallen apples, blinding in their clear beauty, and others will require perhaps a second pass or a different frame of mind to appreciate.

When Logsdon talks about letting his sheep go after a lifetime of shepherding, and after recognizing he no longer had the strength to keep them, he says: ” For two days, I mired myself in self-pity and wondered if maybe all the stuff I was writing about death was just bullshit. But the sweet memories that hurt so much soon began to heal me. The tears stopped. Memories were the compost of the thinking process, enriching the mind world, never dying as long as there were people who kept on remembering…”

Only the most observant and eloquent of farmer-writers can compare memories to compost, make good sense of it, and soothe you with the thought of it. I love this book for moments like that. The essays are brief, concise, very open (and often openly discussing somewhat taboo subjects), and at their best, deeply personal and yet somehow shining a light on universal truth.

It’s about death and dying and the apparent human need to defy it, farming, the cycle of the seasons (and ultimately, life), birds, weeds, cancer, family, and how to live in the present moment. It’s all over the place but everything is ultimately so inter-connected, like life and death themselves. It’s a lovely hodgepodge of experience and wisdom. It’s as much about death as it is about how to live, and finding light when everything looks so utterly dark around us.


Gene Everlasting
ISBN: 9781603585392
Book Format: Hardcover
Dimensions: 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Number of Pages: 192
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green

See also: my review of Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit, a beautiful book filled with an equal number of nuggets (sorry) of wisdom about how to harvest the power of poo to enrich a degraded landscape.

(Thanks to Chelsea Green for the opportunity to review this book.)

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