on the beekeeper’s Faustian bargain.
“bee?” © Mark Hanauer http://bit.ly/mSjmaq
The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America
HarperCollins, May 2011. 288 pp.
Honeybees are like starlings and chickens and thistles and wheat; they do not belong here in North America. Sure, they have been here, by way of Europe, since 1620, but their origins are African, western Asian, and southeast European — criteria by which many of us also lack native legitimacy. In The Beekeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, Hannah Nordhaus reminds us that honeybees are not indigenous wildlife that have been gingerly tamed, or whose natural proclivities we tweak and observe. Instead, they are more like miniature cattle, which are charming in small numbers as a backyard hobby, but when used commercially can lead to stench and group exhaustion.
The Beekeeper’s Lament is not only about bees, or the people who make a living off of them, fascinating as both of these subjects are. It’s about the dying of rural America, the way we grow and sell our food, the reason people take risks, and, ultimately, about loving, as Nordhaus puts it,
It is a poignant and keenly observed narrative of almond orchards and a beekeeper’s Faustian bargain. And the story is particularly Californian.
something that can’t love you back, that is just as happy to hurt you, that lives without concern for its keeper or his profit margins or his pride, and that dies with astonishing indiscretion — that simply does what it was born to do.