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Strange Bright Blooms

A History of Cut Flowers

Virginia Woolf famously began one of her greatest novels: “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” Of course she would: why would anyone surrender the best part of the day to someone else? Flowers grace our lives at moments of celebration and despair. “We eat, drink, sing, dance, and flirt with them,” writes Kakuzo Okakura. Flowers brighten our homes, our parties, and our rituals with incomparable notes of natural beauty, but the “nature” in these displays is tamed and conscribed. Randy Malamud seeks to understand the transplanted nature of cut flowers—of our relationship with them and the careful curation of their very existence. It is a picaresque, unpredictable ramble through the world of flowers, but also the world itself, exploring painting, murals, fashion, public art, glass flowers, pressed flowers, flowery church hats, weaponized flowers, deconstructed flowers, flower power, and much more.

324 pages | 90 color plates, 20 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4

History: General History


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"Examining all things floral from paintings, fashion and pressed flowers to decorative church hats and flower power, this generously illustrated book takes cuttings from one aspect of the human urge to tame and curate nature."


"A fascinating and sometimes challenging literary collection of thoughts on the subject of cut blooms and our relationship with them. . . . Malamud's ambitious new work invites us on a journey to discover the allure of cut flowers through prose and art. . . . This is not a glossy, coffee-table book featuring luxuriant and stylishly arranged blooms, but a thought-provoking insight into our love affair with flowers and a global industry at odds with the product it promotes. Above all, readers are encouraged to reflect on their own attitudes towards cut flowers." 

Gardens Illustrated

"Strange Bright Blooms will convince you that flowers don't just stand there looking pretty. Malamud makes intriguing arguments that flowers not only attract but directly interact with us. While their beauty has inspired great art, blooms have likewise been repurposed as symbols of sexism and racism. Poisonous in warfare, flowers also have been signs of peaceful revolution. Like an unexpected delivery of flowers, this book is a surprise and a delight."

Marcia Reiss, author of "Lily" and "Apple'"

"Malamud’s new book explores our endless attraction to cut flowers as a ‘shortcut to beauty’ but also as a medium in which to explore all manner of concerns around love and war, class and race, life and death. Who would have thought that Marie Osmond’s paper roses, Jeff Koons’s tulips, Mae Reeves’s hats, T. S. Eliot’s sleeping dahlias, and Banksy’s Flower Bomber (among many, many other wonderful blooms) would combine to make such a fabulous arrangement?"

Kasia Boddy, author of "Geranium" and "Blooming Flowers"

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