Jump to content


Photo

Wendell Berry


  • Please log in to reply
15 replies to this topic

#1 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,962 posts

Posted 07 May 2010 - 08:25 PM

A search for Wendell Berry's name calls up several threads here at A&F, but none dedictated to the writer. I thought I'd start one, knowing he has fans here.

I'm afraid that I can't say much about Berry. I've never read anything by him! I have a vague idea that I may have read a Berry essay years ago, but considering that I can't remember a thing about it, I don't feel right saying I've read something by him.

What got me thinking about Berry was his recent visit to Arlington's Central Libary -- my main library, as some of you know, having heard me mention it on this board every now and then.

Arlington's Central Library has been hosting author events for some time. I saw George Pelecanos there a few months ago, then listened to Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, speak there just a week ago. During that presentation, the library publicized that its next event would be an appearance by Wendell Berry. Those last two appearances are part of the Arlington Reads program (I don't know if Pelecanos' appearance was part of that same series, or part of another speaker series).

I'm learning a bit about Berry right now, watching the video of his appearance, which is available at the linked site. I'm 13 minutes into Berry's talk, and he's claiming to be a solitary person by nature -- a farmer and writer, not what one might think of as a community advocate, if I'm understanding him correctly.

Berry fans: Share your thoughts on the writer, recommendations of his work, and reflections on the video presentation (if you watch it).

I should say that I've heard Berry criticized for being against the church, or organized religion. I know nothing about that charge, so forgive me if it's inaccurate. I raise it in case those of you more familiar with Berry's work might be awared of the charge, and whether or not it can be found in his writings.

Edited by Christian, 07 May 2010 - 08:29 PM.


#2 Andy Whitman

Andy Whitman

    Member

  • Member
  • 3,238 posts

Posted 08 May 2010 - 10:08 AM

A search for Wendell Berry's name calls up several threads here at A&F, but none dedictated to the writer. I thought I'd start one, knowing he has fans here.

I'm afraid that I can't say much about Berry. I've never read anything by him! I have a vague idea that I may have read a Berry essay years ago, but considering that I can't remember a thing about it, I don't feel right saying I've read something by him.

What got me thinking about Berry was his recent visit to Arlington's Central Libary -- my main library, as some of you know, having heard me mention it on this board every now and then.

Arlington's Central Library has been hosting author events for some time. I saw George Pelecanos there a few months ago, then listened to Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, speak there just a week ago. During that presentation, the library publicized that its next event would be an appearance by Wendell Berry. Those last two appearances are part of the Arlington Reads program (I don't know if Pelecanos' appearance was part of that same series, or part of another speaker series).

I'm learning a bit about Berry right now, watching the video of his appearance, which is available at the linked site. I'm 13 minutes into Berry's talk, and he's claiming to be a solitary person by nature -- a farmer and writer, not what one might think of as a community advocate, if I'm understanding him correctly.

Berry fans: Share your thoughts on the writer, recommendations of his work, and reflections on the video presentation (if you watch it).

I should say that I've heard Berry criticized for being against the church, or organized religion. I know nothing about that charge, so forgive me if it's inaccurate. I raise it in case those of you more familiar with Berry's work might be awared of the charge, and whether or not it can be found in his writings.

I'm a fan. I've read most of his eight novels, but only a few essays and snippets from his much more voluminous non-fiction, so my knowledge is skewed. Given that, though, I think I have a fair understanding of and appreciation for his main themes, and for his most cherished values. I find him to be a marvelous novelist, a creator of absolutely luminous works of beauty. I can't recommend his novel Jayber Crow highly enough. It's one of the most moving and beautiful things I've ever read.

Berry is all about connectedness -- humanity's connectedness to the planet on which it finds itself, an individual's connectedness to the community in which he or she lives. There is an elegiac quality to much of his work, a sense of loss, a grief over what has been forfeited in our headlong rush to mechanized, technological "freedom." At the same time, Berry avoids the sentimental nostalgia that such an approach could easily suggest. The fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, where his novels are set, is beset by the same ills that plague all of society; suicide, alcoholism, familial tension, death, heartbreak. But within that context miracles occur, almost all of them of the small, homely variety that involve nothing more nor less than human beings forsaking the forlorn kingdom of Me and embracing something bigger, something outside themselves. I love him for that.

Yes, he's critical of the Church at times. But that's the way prophets tend to be, and I very much view him as a prophet, although Berry himself might reject that label. He believes the Church has abdicated its responsibility in standing for people and standing against those forces that divide and alienate people from one another. He's a farmer, so naturally much of his worldview is centered on caring for the earth, a practice he takes quite seriously, and a practice that he believes America has abandoned for the pursuit of Mammon. It's a little hard to argue with the basic premise, in my opinion, although I'm sure some will find fault with it. In any event, he's a very, very gifted writer, something of a national treasure. I'd drive a long way to hear him speak. The fact that he's at your local library, Christian, makes me want to visit you in D.C.

#3 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,962 posts

Posted 08 May 2010 - 10:21 AM

Stop by any time. We have a little extra room.

Berry's appearance was a bit of a "get," indeed. Arlington, Va., has become quite a hip suburb, with part of town that is walkable and feels city-like, other parts more typically suburban but still close in to D.C. The benefits of living in Arlington rather than in D.C. are that your vote counts and your taxes aren't outrageously high., but if you're a Democrat -- and most everyone in Arlington is -- you have full representation on the County Board and don't have to bother with those pesky Republicans.

Downside: You live in a mostly white town, while the "south side" is slowly gentrified, and you sniff at everyone else outside of Northern Virginia as being backwoods hicks. But you think a farmer like Berry is pretty cool.

If it's not apparent, I have a love-hate relationship with Arlington. I lived there for much of my life and felt like an outsider even when I resided there. But I can't fault the place much. It's a great community.

#4 Darrel Manson

Darrel Manson

    Detached Existential INFP Dreamer-Minstrel Redux

  • Member
  • 6,697 posts

Posted 26 September 2010 - 10:32 AM

A note I found catching up in my Christian Century reading (July 27 issue):

Wendell Berry has decided to move his papers from the archives of his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. The author made the decision after the university approved building a new dormitory for its basketball team that will be called the Wildcat Coal Lodge and be financed by the coal industry. "I don't think the University of Kentucky can be so ostentatiously friendly to the coal industry . . . and still be a friend to me and the interests for which I have stood for the last 45 years."

#5 Joel

Joel

    Member

  • Member
  • 770 posts

Posted 26 September 2010 - 11:24 PM

Wendell Berry is becoming like unto a new C.S. Lewis for my generation of American post-Evangelicals, I think. Maybe. In the sense that we quote him like he's the second coming of the Bible.

I love Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community and the title essay of Standing by Words, but haven't read his fiction. I suspect I'd like it

#6 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,387 posts

Posted 12 August 2011 - 02:56 PM

Hannah Coulter is a free audiobook download at Christianaudio.com right now.

#7 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,962 posts

Posted 03 November 2011 - 07:52 PM

So, is Jayber Crow the best entry point for Berry's fiction? I'm looking for some new audiobooks, and the library has several in the Port Charles series. I can't tell from the description if Crow is part of that series or some other series, or if it stands alone.

#8 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

    "I like the quiet."

  • Member
  • 3,719 posts

Posted 03 November 2011 - 08:07 PM

So, is Jayber Crow the best entry point for Berry's fiction? I'm looking for some new audiobooks, and the library has several in the Port Charles series. I can't tell from the description if Crow is part of that series or some other series, or if it stands alone.


I certainly haven't read all (or even nearly all) of Berry's Port Charles novels, but they're very loose as a series. As in, there's not narrative arc over his books; they just happen to be set in the same place, and sometimes familiar faces pop up. Jayber Crow is a great entry point, too — I really loved it.

#9 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,962 posts

Posted 09 February 2012 - 08:41 PM

Wendell Berry to Give 2012 Jefferson Lecture

Takes place at the Kennedy Center in D.C. Tickets are free and can be requested via the link at the end of the N.Y. Times story linked above.

#10 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,962 posts

Posted 15 June 2012 - 01:46 PM

I was asked to put together a birthday wish-list for a summer family gathering, at which birthday gifts will be exchanged for everyone. My birthday isn't until November, so I was taken by surprise. I quickly decided to ask for some essay collections. I chose two for the list from Marilynne Robinson, and then went searching for a nonfiction collection by Wendell Berry. I should have checked this thread first, but I'm not disappointed with my choice: Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life: A Reader's Guide.


Description:
Far from being a mere "nostalgic agrarian," Wendell Berry offers an important and redemptive vision for life through his poetry, fiction, and essays. His themes of community, place, and conservation speak to a range of people, both conservative and progressive, who are concerned with finding health in the midst of our restless, transient "culture of death."
Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life is a systematic overview of Berry's life and work and a concise introduction to his cultural and spiritual themes. It demonstrates the power of Berry's vision and shows how his account of the world resonates with the biblical narrative of creation. This book confronts readers with the question persistently raised in Berry's works: How can we sustain meaningful lives against the background of a consumeristic, dislocated age?
This timely guide will benefit theology, literature, and sociology students as well as pastors and ecology groups. Readers will discover how to flesh out Berry's worldview and foster a culture of life in their neighborhoods, educational systems, churches, and homes.
Matt Bonzo (Ph.D., Free University of Amsterdam) is assistant professor of philosophy and Michael R. Stevens (Ph.D., University of Dallas) is associate professor of English, both at Cornerstone University.

Has anyone read it?

Edited by Christian, 15 June 2012 - 01:47 PM.


#11 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

    "I like the quiet."

  • Member
  • 3,719 posts

Posted 15 June 2012 - 01:55 PM

Has anyone read it?


Nope, but I own it and plan to read it eventually. I participated in a workshop the authors gave at the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh two years ago, and it was fantastic.

#12 Tyler

Tyler

    (Credit Only)

  • Member
  • 6,311 posts

Posted 15 January 2013 - 03:28 PM

Bob Allen: Wendell Berry expounds on gay marriage.

“Christians of a certain disposition have found several ways to categorize homosexuals as different as themselves, who are in the category of heterosexual and therefore normal and therefore good,” Berry said. What is unclear, he said, is why they single out homosexuality as a perversion.
“The Bible, as I pointed out to the writers of National Review, has a lot more to say against fornication and adultery than against homosexuality,” he said. “If one accepts the 24th and 104th Psalms as scriptural norms, then surface mining and other forms of earth destruction are perversions. If we take the Gospels seriously, how can we not see industrial warfare -- with its inevitable massacre of innocents -- as a most shocking perversion? By the standard of all scriptures, neglect of the poor, of widows and orphans, of the sick, the homeless, the insane, is an abominable perversion.”
“Jesus talked of hating your neighbor as tantamount to hating God, and yet some Christians hate their neighbors by policy and are busy hunting biblical justifications for doing so,” he said. “Are they not perverts in the fullest and fairest sense of that term? And yet none of these offenses -- not all of them together -- has made as much political/religious noise as homosexual marriage.”

....

“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred,” Berry said. “Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.”
“Perhaps the most dangerous temptation to Christianity is to get itself officialized in some version by a government, following pretty exactly the pattern the chief priest and his crowd at the trial of Jesus,” Berry said. “For want of a Pilate of their own, some Christians would accept a Constantine or whomever might be the current incarnation of Caesar.”



#13 Tyler

Tyler

    (Credit Only)

  • Member
  • 6,311 posts

Posted 14 June 2013 - 09:14 PM

The audiobook of Jayber Crow is on Noisetrade.

#14 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Thomist, Christian

  • Member
  • 3,146 posts

Posted 30 July 2013 - 12:30 PM

Bob Allen: Wendell Berry expounds on gay marriage.

 

If anyone hadn't heard this yet, it's worth seeing.  (FYI, Berry doesn't start until about the 28 minute mark.)  Interestingly, I found parts of the transcript rather harsh sounding when I read it, but those same bits sound much less harsh when you hear them delivered in his personal tone and style.  I think it's quite eloquent, actually.

 



#15 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Thomist, Christian

  • Member
  • 3,146 posts

Posted 05 October 2013 - 05:05 PM



#16 Joel

Joel

    Member

  • Member
  • 770 posts

Posted 23 October 2014 - 02:59 PM

After years of reading and loving Berry's essays and nonfiction (in particular Economy, Sex, Freedom, and Community and Life Is a Miracle), I've finally started on his novels. And I am really liking them. I read Jayber Crow last month and am about 2/3 of the way through Hannah Coulter. These are beautiful books. I've always thought I was kind of allergic to any "regional" literature outside of the Pacific Northwest (I like to read about places I know, I guess), but I'm pretty sure I'm starting to fall in love with Port William.