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Logan, William Bryant

Logan, William Bryant


ADDRESSES: Office—The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10025.

CAREER: Writer, arborist, and communications director. Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY, writer-in-residence and communications director.


A Book of Roses, illustrated by Drew McGhie, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) The English Gardening School: The Complete Master Course on Garden Planning and Landscape Design for the American Gardener, Rosemary Alexander and Anthony de Gard Pasley, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (New York, NY), 1987.

The Gardener's Book of Sources, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.

(Translator, with Angel Gil Orrios) Frederico Garcia Lorca, Once Five Years Pass, and Other Dramatic Works, foreword by Christopher Maurer, Station Hill Press (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Vance Muse) The Deep South, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1989, revised edition, 1998.

(With Susan Ochshorn) The Pacific States, photography by Chuck Place, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1989, revised edition, 1998.

Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Jeffrey Golliher) Crisis and the Renewal of Creation: World and Church in the Age of Ecology, Continuum (New York, NY), 1996.

The Tool Book, photography by Georgia Glynn Smith and Sean Sullivan, Workman (New York, NY), 1997.

Oak: The Frame of Civilization, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.

Former author of column for New York Times.

SIDELIGHTS: Writer and arborist William Bryant Logan is an outdoors enthusiast and gardening expert who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is director of communications and writer-in-residence at the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York City.

Logan is the author of books on a number of gardening-related and natural history subjects. Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth is a collection of forty-four essays that examines the living, constantly chang-ing cycle that generates the soil upon which we live, and upon which we depend for many of the resources that feed, clothe, and house us. Logan explains how the topsoil favored by gardeners and farmers is dependent upon the rarely considered rock that lies beneath it. A continually evolving process creates this soil and brings it to the surface. With this "compulsively readable" collection, Logan takes on the "ambitious but worthy job of bringing this vital system to our attention," commented Jane Barker Wright in Horticulture. Logan also muses on topics as diverse as the physics of digging a hole; the unusual properties of graveyards; the agricultural practices of Native Americans and the country's founding fathers; and the vast, interconnected ecosystem that makes agriculture possible. He treats the lowly dung beetle as a proper symbol of renewal and points out that dirt is the source of many vital medicines and substances. The "brief, elegant essays" provide a "natural history of the soil and our connection with it," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Peter Warshall, writing in Whole Earth, commented that "this is the most literate book to bring soil to soul and soul to the subterranean."

The Tool Book indulges Logan's fascination—sometimes obsession—with the tools, gimmicks, and gadgets that make gardening easier and more fun. More than 440 tools are lavishly displayed in seventy full-color photographs, including twenty-six types of shovels, sixteen hoes, eleven sprinklers, and fifteen rakes, all produced by the Smith & Hawken gardening company. The book includes dozens of tools designed for digging, cultivating, cutting, raking, sweeping, watering, and planting. Logan includes a discussion of proper gardening attire and protective gear, plus a series of tips on what to look for in a good garden tool and how to use each tool to its best effect. He provides a comprehensive history of the development of garden tools with "crisp explanations of the history and purpose of each," a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted. Gardeners might not need all the tools depicted in The Tool Book, but Logan "has taken a commonplace subject and made it engrossing," remarked Booklist reviewer George Cohen.

Oak: The Frame of Civilization provides the "biography of a tree that has been collectively embraced for its multifaceted grandeur," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. The ubiquitous oak, found everywhere humans settled in temperate climates, is not the most rarified of trees. It is, however, the most versatile, and Logan lays out a "superb and inviting profile" of the tree that provided food for our earliest ancestors, shelter for our forebears, and that arguably made civilization possible. Acorns from oaks were a staple food for early humans long before they learned how to hunt or cultivate plants. Oak lumber built houses and cities, and the superbly adaptable wood made it possible to build rugged seagoing vessels that became navies and plied maritime trade routes. Barrels, casks, coffins, kegs, and other types of storage were made of oak, as were ink and tanning materials. The tree was beloved for its spiritual qualities—ancient Druids worshipped the oak and held sacred rites in oak groves and at wooden henges that were more plentiful that the more famous stone henges that survive today. Even the name Druid is based on the oak—dru meaning "oak" and "wid" meaning knowledging, making the Druids practitioners of "oak knowledge." Logan also describes the oak's physical structure and biology, from the farthest root to the tip of the leaves.

The decline of the oak began in 1862, Logan explained, with the appearance of the ironclad ships and the advent of the industrial era and reliance on fossil fuels. Today, the oak's most popular use is in "wooden pallets and low-end flooring," a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated. "And there's much more to mull over, all of it handled with care and thought by Logan," commented the Kirkus Reviews contributor. The Publishers Weekly critic called the book an "entertaining and instructive homage to the oak."



Audubon, May-June, 2005, Frank Graham, Jr., "The Tree of Life," review of Oak: The Frame of Civilization, p. 76.

Booklist, February 1, 1998, George Cohen, review of The Tool Book, p. 890.

Horticulture, October, 1995, Jane Barker Wright, review of Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, p. 71.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Oak, p. 338.

People, December 15, 1997, Emily Mitchell, review of The Tool Book, p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1995, review of Dirt, p. 101; April 18, 2005, review of Oak, p. 53.

Whole Earth, spring, 1999, Peter Warshall, review of Dirt.

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