Monday, December 24, 2007


Write the Book You Want to Read

Mark R. Peattie, Foreword to Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of North American Trees (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007), p. xiii:
For there was and is, to my knowledge, no work quite like it, and it follows my father's own dictum to all aspiring writers: write the book that you're longing to read, but can't find anywhere.
I just finished reading another book by Donald Culross Peattie, Green Laurels: The Lives and Achievements of the Great Naturalists (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936), in which a form of this dictum appears on p. 25:
I like to think about Otto Brunfels, the Carthusian monk, who had sampled the forbidden and quickening elixir of heresy, and leaving his order went wandering up the left bank of the Rhine. He was one of those who trustfully searched for his German plants in his Dioscorides, and he now added a second heresy to his fame. He decided to compile nothing from the old authorities, but to make an herbal of his own. And so he was one of the first to write a book, as many a man has done since — as indeed I am doing now — because it was the book he wanted to read, and nobody else would write it for him.
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