The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn
W. W. Norton, 2007
The rise of the perfect lawn represents one of the most profound transformations ever in the history of the American landscape. Today, the lawn is one of America’s leading “crops,” outstripping cotton in acres by a factor of two. Blending muckraking journalism and social history, Steinberg looks at both the lighter and darker side of the all-American landscape, from sprinkling restrictions and flawed pesticide labels to lawn-mower racing, AstroTurf, and the man so addicted to perfection that he recreated Augusta’s twelfth hole in his backyard.
Steinberg traces the history of the lawn from its explosion in the postwar suburban community of Levittown—just miles from where he grew up—to the present romance with turf colorants, crabgrass killers, and riding mowers. He paints a picture of Americans as so in love with supergreen, weed-free, ultra-trim grass that they cut their lawns with hand scissors, dial up turf hot lines at the slightest sign of brown, obsess over dandelions, and mow checkerboard patterns into their yards.
But perfection has its costs, from the whopping 75,000 Americans injured by lawn mowers every year to the seventeen million gallons of gasoline spilled each summer refueling garden equipment—more oil than marred Alaska during the Exxon Valdez disaster—to the hearing impairment of Latino landscapers caused by leaf blowers. Steinberg’s exposé will make you think twice about the landscape that defines the American Dream.
By turns funny, hard-hitting, and ironic, this book may well change forever how you view your yard.
“Ted Steinberg is a very funny guy who also happens to write great social and environmental history. He has discovered in that blandest of American landscapes, the front lawn, a story of how we live that is as profound and disturbing as it is amusing and bizarre.”—Donald Worster, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
“The lawn is the centerpiece of the American Dream, and why wouldn’t we dream about our obsession? In American Green, Ted Steinberg explores the psychological, moral, economic, and, yes, even political implications of growing and mowing a lawn, a not at all academic act that turns out to be a blast. You may never picnic the same way again, but if you do, you will want to talk about it with your city councilman, if not your doctor.”—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats
Available at: Amazon.com