Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden

Overview

It seems that ever since mankind was kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, we’ve been trying to get back in. Or at least, we’ve been wondering where the Garden might have been. St. Augustine had a theory, and so did medieval monks, John Calvin, and Christopher Columbus. But when Darwin’s theory of evolution permanently altered our understanding of human origins, shouldn’t the search for a literal Eden have faded away? Not so fast.

In Paradise Lust, ...

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Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden

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Overview

It seems that ever since mankind was kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, we’ve been trying to get back in. Or at least, we’ve been wondering where the Garden might have been. St. Augustine had a theory, and so did medieval monks, John Calvin, and Christopher Columbus. But when Darwin’s theory of evolution permanently altered our understanding of human origins, shouldn’t the search for a literal Eden have faded away? Not so fast.

In Paradise Lust, Brook Wilensky-Lanford introduces readers to the enduring modern quest to locate the Garden of Eden on Earth. It is an obsession that has consumed Mesopotamian archaeologists, German Baptist ministers, British irrigation engineers, and the first president of Boston University, among many others. These quixotic Eden seekers all started with the same brief Bible verses, but each ended up at a different spot on the globe: Florida, the North Pole, Ohio, China, and, of course, Iraq. Evocative of Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell, Wilensky-Lanford writes of these unusual characters and their search with sympathy and wit. Charming, enlightening, and utterly unique, Paradise Lust is a century-spanning history that will take you to places you never imagined.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wilensky-Lanford, whose essays have appeared in Salon, Killing the Buddha, and The Exquisite Corpse, has carved her literary niche as a "private investigator with an open mind," exploring myth and the human social psyche. In her first book, she confronts a foundational Western myth, the Garden of Eden, and humanity's constant search to return there. Part adventure story, part historical narrative, Wilensky-Lanford spins the history of explorers who searched for the Garden's precise earthly coordinates. With adept, well-researched prose, she traces how, from four verses in Genesis naming four rivers flowing from the Garden, scientists and pseudo-scientists, preachers and theologians, have claimed "scientific proof" of Paradise's location—in Iraq, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Florida, Ohio, the North Pole, and elsewhere. Though quick-witted and quirky, Wilensky-Lanford isn't satisfied with asking only "where," she also deftly explores "why?" After traveling the globe on her Paradise quest, she arrives at the stump of "Adam's Tree" in a contested zone near Basra, Iraq, meditating not so much on the Garden, but on humanity's first steps from it. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

A freelance journalist debuts with a spirited chase through history, geography and religion as she chronicles the myriad and sometimes mad attempts to locate the Garden of Eden.

Wilensky-Lanford has certainly done her homework for this summary and analysis of the search for the "actual" Eden. Her journey began with a family story about a great-uncle who had toyed with locating Eden. As she began reading about the subject, she discovered its vast dimensions. After sketching the many earlier searches, she focuses on those within the last century, beginning with Boston University president William Fairfield Warren, who, in the late 19th century, placed Eden at the North Pole. Next: Friedrich Delitzsch, a German professor of Assyriology, argued for present-day Iraq and suggested that two of the four rivers mentioned in Genesis were actually canals. In 1901, the Rev. Edmund Landon West was convinced Eden had once lain in the area of Ohio's Serpent Mound. A Chinese businessman proposed a China site in 1914; in 1919 William Willcocks saw the possibility oftwo Edens; and so on. Besides her chapters on the various theories of Eden's location, Wilensky-Lanford offers sections on the recent history of the debate between science and religion, the explorations of Thor Heyerdahl, Mormonism, the use of satellite imagery to help pinpoint locations and the enduring meaning of "Eden." She ends back in Iraq, in Qurna, site of the remains of the so-called "Tree of Knowledge." Although the author occasionally cracks wise—she jokes about a gopher and Noah's Ark—she generally treats the seekers with respect, sometimes more than they deserve.

A lively journey, though getting back to the Garden turns out to be even more complicated than Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" lyrics imagined.

Andrea Wulf
Paradise Lust is a pleasure. Wilensky-Lanford tackles her subject with an appealing mix of serious research and tongue-in-cheek humor. Neither too academic nor too whimsical, the storytelling in Paradise Lust is often irresistible.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802119803
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Brook Wilensky-Lanford grew up on Mount Desert Island, Maine, studied religion at Wesleyan University, and is a graduate of Columbia University’s M.F.A. program in nonfiction. She has written for The Huffington Post, Salon, Triple Canopy, Killing the Buddha, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Exquisite Corpse. She lives in the Garden State.

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Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Part I Unity

1 The Last Giant Man of Eden 3

2 The Great Divide 24

3 The Serpent Lesson 48

Part II Civilization

4 The Salt River 65

5 Far East of Eden 84

6 Practically Paradise 100

7 The Tree Is Dead, Long Live the Tree 119

Interlude: Survival of the Witness 132

Part III Progress

8 The Location Committee 141

9 Mother Eve's Great Decision 160

10 Back to the Land 177

Part IV Exile

11 An Evolving Creation 201

12 The Once and Future Eden 221

13 The Beginning or the End? 236

14 Last Tree Standing 252

Afterword 259

Notes on Sources 265

Acknowledgments 293

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    fantastic!

    What a wonderful book. It is utterly engrossing - I couldn't put it down. Such an interesting subject, and so skillfully told. The characters really come alive, and the descriptions draw you right into the narrative. I highly recommend this book!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Too much self introspection

    Choppy and screaming bias entire time while highly bias

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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