August 9, 2011

Interview & Giveaway with Brook Wilensky-Lanford, author of "Paradise Lust"

About Paradise Lust: The Search For The Garden Of Eden
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.

You can read my review of the book HERE


First of all, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview at The Book Garden, Brook! After having had the chance to read “Paradise Lust” some time ago I'm absolutely thrilled to have you here today!

Thanks! It’s great to be at The Book Garden, very appropriately named I must say.

It was obviously surprising for you to learn about your great-uncle's quest to find the Garden of Eden. How surprised was your family when you told them that you decided to follow in his footsteps?

It’s funny, although other relatives on my father’s side of the family clearly thought my great-uncle’s Eden quest was a sort of embarrassing quirk in a family of scientists, my father, who first told me the story, has always been a bit of a black sheep. He moved to the Maine woods in the 1970s as sort of a “back to the land” thing, and he was much more sympathetic toward people seeking paradise. My mom, however, is not religious at all, and it definitely made her a little nervous that I was spending so much time with the Bible!

You present so many unique, funny, interesting, and in some cases, quite plausible settings for the Garden of Eden in your book, I wonder do you have a favorite theory of where this place might have been?

Oh, so many to choose from… I have a soft spot for Tse Tsan Tai, a Chinese businessman who in 1914 wrote a book declaring the Garden of Eden to be in Outer Mongolia. This was in the middle of World War I, and his plan was to establish an international government in this unsettled Chinese territory, to bring about world peace. Which is still an endearing idea!

Are there any theories that you found through research but did not include for one reason or another?

Definitely. There’s a man in Arizona who believes the earth is hollow, and that the “inner Earth” can be accessed through the North Polar ice cap, where the Garden of Eden, the lost tribes of Israel, and a whole bunch of other stuff can be found. He keeps trying to get the money together for an expedition, but never quite makes it. I wrote a chapter about him, but it was just too wacky—part of the fun of the book for me is trying to put myself in the character’s heads: “what if Eden really WAS here,” and I had a hard time doing that with the hollow earth theory.

I'm not going to ask where you personally think the Garden of Eden might have been. This question will probably make your eyes roll by now anyway. So my last question for you is: Do you think that one fine day the exact spot of where the Garden of Eden once was will finally be found?

Hmm. I like that question much better! The short answer is “no,” I don’t think there will come a day when everyone agrees on where the Garden of Eden once was. Everyone who does have a theory is absolutely convinced that they are right already, but they all disagree. That’s what drew me to this project, that there were so many interpretations of the same part of the Bible. I’d say, go forth and find your own Eden. You’ll be in good company!

Thank you very much, Brook!
It was a pleasure having you here and I wish you all the best with your book and for your future.

Want to find out more about Brook ? Visit her website.


Brook has generously offered one of my US readers (sorry, international folks) their very own copy of Paradise Lust. All you have to do is answer the following question and leave your e-mail address with your comment so I may contact you in case you're the winner.

The question:
Why do you want to win this book?

Following my blog is no requirement, but I obviously won't object if you do.
One entry per person.
Open to US only.

The giveaway is open from August 9th through August 22nd - one winner will be picked through on August 23rd and will then be contacted by e-mail as well as announced here on my blog. The winner will have 48 hours to respond and if he/she fails to do so I will draw a new winner.

P.S.: While it won't get you an additional entry, spreading the word about this giveaway is greatly appreciated!


  1. What a delicious and provocative title. Of course my mind wandered from the innocence of the biblical Eden to the titillating Song of Solomon."Milton must be spinning in his grave," I thought. Now I'm curious about these various Eden's researchers have found. I also wander how "Paradise Lust" will respond to Leo Marx's "The Machine in the Garden." I'd like a little Eden in my desert postage-stamp corner of the country!

  2. Thanks for the giveaway! I want to read this book because the cover is awesome and it's sounds like something I've never read before, so I know I'd enjoy reading it!

  3. This giveaway is now closed - thanks for participating!