Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out In The Garden by Dean Riddle

Riddle's passion in life is creating beauty and simplicity both in the garden and out as a gay man.
I've found that owning too many things, period, is spiritually burdensome; it spoils the atmosphere of my goal." p.212
With folksy charm, Riddle shares his life journey centering around his Catskills home and garden.
"When I was making my first garden I felt something was being born that already existed. I felt like a sculptor, though I've never used a chisel in my life." p65
Riddle's love of gardening developed early in life in South Carolina. As a child he noticed that, "the world frowned on men who liked soft things." Riddle grew up feeling different from the other other boys and at age 23 concluded, "you are gay...you are fine."

During his career Riddle was turned down for a gardening assignment because the client did not want a gay man working for her. I loved his response back:
"I hope she has discovered that groves of gay people populate the world of gardens, gracing it nicely, much like the frisky fox gloves at the edge of her dark green forest." p136
Riddle is fully alive and present in the garden. It's "dead serious business," according to Riddle and represents his artistic expression.

If you've never stepped foot in a garden before, planted something into the earth, composted or spread manure in your flower beds, this book may be too much outdoor life to hold your interest.

The problem I have with the book is that it covers too many themes and doesn't feel balanced between them. Library of Congress for example, has cataloged the book under "Gardening" with no mention of Gay literature.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Jeffrey Fulvimari. His drawings fit the charm of the book and writing style of Riddle.

I'll leave you with one quote from the book that I treasure. While it represents Riddle's feeling about the need to start his own garden, it reminded me of how I felt before coming out as a gay man.
"I knew something inside of me was asleep, trying to wake up and live and grow, kick up its heels and dance." p64
Riddle found his passion in the garden, and in living a simple life with good friends and food. If I come back as a plant or flower in my next life, it would be a pleasure to be in his garden.

Rob's Grade: A B C D

(Note: This is my January review for the GLBT reading challenge. The book was purchased by me on Bookins).

Out In The Garden, by Dean Riddle, copyright 2002, Harper Collins, 245 pages, ISBN 0-06-018805-7. 


  1. Sounds like a good story, though I'm with you that it becomes confusing/overwhelming when a book tries to tackle too many themes. The quotes you pulled were great!

  2. Thanks for being the first to comment, Meg! I really wanted to like this book. His life as a gay man took a back seat to gardening. I'm not sure what audience he was trying to reach. My feeling is it's better to have a target instead of trying to be all things to all people. Even as a "how-to" book, the gardening tips seem to apply more to those living in the northeast.

    Aloha from Rob


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Ho'ola'i na manu i ke aheahe

"The birds poise quietly in the gentle breeze."
Said of those who are at peace with the world, undisturbed and contented.