I’ma havin’ some issues with this first chapter about apples. I have issues theological, academical, and pedantical (a word I just made up), and if I don’t rant them out they’ll nag at me and I won’t be able to let them go.
Pollan is talking about his first plant, the apple. Which is an interesting plant in its own right, (each seed in an apple, if planted, will grow an entirely new variety of apple – very likely a crap, inedible one, but totally unique), but Pollan has instead glommed onto the man and the myth that is Johnny Appleseed. Going in, one can see the relevance: while John Chapman (a/k/a Appleseed) is ‘helping’ frontier settlers by seeding the apple trees, he’s also working for the apple, allowing it to increase its habitat across a whole new continent. So far, on topic.
But the author has lost himself in the whole mythology of Appleseed, arguing he wasn’t a saint, the way so many want to believe he was – a hero with no questionable habits. Fine, I guess, except in his argument against mythologising Appleseed as a heroic saint, he turns around and mythologises him into “very much an American Dionysus”. So … it’s ok to idealise the historical figure as a Greek god, but not as a Christian saint? Never mind that Chapman/Appleseed himself identified as a Christian (although not a mainstream one to be sure) and would discuss the “good word” with people as he traveled.
How about just letting John Chapman be John Chapman? How about we don’t argue what special snowflake box he belongs in (which is really the same box with different wrapping paper), and just let him rest in peace, with the record showing he was a complicated man who loved the outdoors and planting apple trees.
And what in the name of a Jonah Gold does any of it have to do with the evolution of plants as it pertains to domestication, and who domesticated whom?