Sunday, May 7, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Libation, A Bitter Alchemy

I don't remember how I acquired Dierdre Heekin's memoir Libation, A Bitter Alchemy (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009), but it's been on my bookshelf for some time. I wasn't entirely sure what it was about when I picked it up a few days ago. Having read it, I'm still not sure I can say. It doesn't really go anywhere. The only linear narrative is supplied by a series of vignettes that deal with the author's decision to plant a vineyard in Vermont and her progress toward making her first wine from her grapes. These vignettes are interspersed between chapters of a wide-ranging text that is held together loosely by its focus on the making of things alcoholic, including wines, but also absinthe, vodka, and Irish whisky, as well as distillation of perfumes and other subjects. Reading it felt like an aimless but pleasant walk through an interesting town. Despite it's rambling structure, it's nicely written (with one or two exceptions—a glaringly questionable fact; she repeatedly refers to the cochineal insect as a "ladybug*" and there are a few unconventionally used words) and enjoyable if taken at its own pace and without expectations.

*Unless, I'm mistaken, the ladybugs (or ladybirds) are true beetles, while the cochineal insect is a scale insect and ladybug larvae, in fact, prey on scale insects.

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