Brian Fagan is an astonishingly prolific producer, for a non-fiction writer, having produced more than three dozen research-based books (at the rate of more than one a year!) focusing mainly on the areas of archaeology, anthropology and the impact of climate change over the millenia on humanity. I’ve read at least a half a dozen of them, and he continues to pump them out faster than I’ve been knocking them off.
That’s rather remarkable, given the fact that they are all intensively detailed, although this is somewhat less impressive when one notes that many of his books overlap in areas that doubtless lie in the sweet spot of his professional areas of expertise (several, for example, are dedicated to various aspects of the entry of humankind into the New World). Still, how does he do it?
Elixir provides perhaps a clue. While it is loosely organized along nominally topical lines – Canals, Furrows and Rice Paddies; Waters from Afar – although a few of these groupings are more eccentric (Cisterns and Monsoons). One gets the impression that he is simply fascinated by everything, facile at taking notes on old-fashioned file cards, and remarkably facile at shuffling them into a stack that he is capable of almost instantaneously transmutating into finished prose. It’s all quite readable, though often more detailed than the typical reader is likely to have desired. Perhaps if he were to slow down the pace a little he’d have time for another round of selective and reductive editing, thereby making the reader’s job more rewarding.
That said, Fagan invariably knows his stuff, and if the relationship of man to water and vis-versa is a topic of interest to you (and why not, given that has always been, and always will continue to be, fundamental to human existence) then Elixir will certainly provide you with a very thorough and informative read. Unless, of course, its endless level of detail drives you to drink. Cheers!