Welcome

In the sidebar to your right under Content, you will find pages with many resources related to Mr. Berry's work.

This site is not owned, operated or sanctioned by Mr. Berry, whose disapproval of computer technology is well-documented. "I hear that I have a website, but I didn't do those things. My instrument is a pencil."

The one person responsible for all of this is me, Br. Tom Murphy (btwb@brtom.org). I am not a personal friend or employee of Mr. Berry and am thus not able to arrange interviews or appearances by him.

Please support the work of The Berry Center: "like" them at Facebook and follow at Twitter. And whenever possible, please support your local, independent bookstores.

Thanks for stopping by.


Lawyer reflects on Wendell Berry and "The Age of Divorce"

It seems like nowadays all I hear about is how the country is heading in the wrong direction. Wendell Berry, a writer, philosopher, farmer and father of the locally grown food movement, has been saying this far before it became fashionable.  Since the 1970s Berry has written unceasingly about how an unhealthy culture is at the root of most of our world’s problems – everything from our growing isolation to global warming.  To Berry, a healthy culture is a sort of fabric that is connected by many threads made up of ideas and practices.  He sees that these connecting threads have been severed in the industrial and technological age. It is this breaking apart of the fabric of our culture that causes Berry to call this “the age of divorce”, where “things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can't put it all back together again.

Read the post by Sean Cleland at Cleland Collaborative Solutions.


Reading Wendell Berry's "Roots to the Earth"

I just read Roots to the Earth, a collection of Wendell Berry’s poetry and prose on American rural life. It is a meditation on living well.

The book first appeared a quarter century ago in a portfolio illustrated with Wesley Bates’ woodcuts. Three years ago, Larkspur Press released a limited edition of one hundred copies. Last year, Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press made the book available to the general public.

Even at one remove from a letterpress printing, this affordable volume is lavish. Bates’ illustrations recall the work of Rockwell Kent, Lynn Ward, and other midcentury traditionalists. However, while Kent and Ward foregrounded their figures against midnight-dark skies, Bates opens his to the light. That echoes the generosity of Berry’s poems and recalls as well some of the cheer found in children’s books, which may explain why Skylight Books displayed the copy I bought in the store’s kiddie section. I think that’s a mistake. True, there’s no reason that older children can’t read Roots to the Earth. Yet it’s adults who are likely most receptive to Berry’s themes of faith, frugality, steadfastness, dignity and humility. Adult experience often teaches something about the cost of abandoning traditional values.

Read the whole article at Left, Write & Centaur


Why We Need Wendell Berry

For a healthy discourse, voices from all across the country are needed. These distinctions occur not just along the lines of race and gender, but class and region as well. Much of literature and cultural taste, like the forces of political change and economics, are dictated by those in the cities, leaving behind those in rural and farming counties. One of the most important literary voices of rural America today, telling the stories and bringing to light the issues of a forgotten region, is Wendell Berry, an author of poetry, fiction, essays, and more.

What distinguishes Berry’s talented, over half-century-long career is his sincere commitment to activism. Since the late '60s, when Berry was a professor and incipient writer, he protested the war in Vietnam. Berry has put his opposition to nuclear power plants, and his support behind small farmers. Berry still lives in Port Royal, Kentucky, on a farm he moved to with his family in the '70s. His experience on the farm has given richness to his vision for a better future and has bestowed authority to his sympathetic calls for an America that stays in touch with the land and agrarian culture that is integral to its character.

As the country’s urban-rural divide has shown itself to have ever-growing and serious consequences, Berry has emerged as a sympathetic, assertive voice for the region. Berry is an especially necessary figure in the current American literary community, in a time when most of the author bios on recent hardcovers seem to contain the sentence “... lives in Brooklyn.”

Read the complete article by Matt Reimann at Books Tell You Why.

 


A Critique of Wendell Berry's Ideas about Gay Marriage

Wendell Berry’s influence has grown in recent years as many people, Christians or not, have found his agrarian vision a compelling corrective to various modern problems. However, Berry publicly took what we might call a “middle road” on gay marriage. This position surprised (and disappointed) many evangelicals that do not agree. But how does Berry’s position on gay marriage stand up to Berry’s own criticism? Does he agree with himself?


In Wendell Berry’s most recent collection of essays, Our Only World, he “risks” arguing that there should be no law either for or against homosexual marriage. This “risk” explains his feeling of being “caught in the middle” (as the essay’s title puts it) of the current political atmosphere. In other words, Berry’s “risk” is alienating both conservatives—who often appreciate his writing but would disagree on marriage—and liberals—who would find his statements not stretching far enough. Berry seems quite comfortable taking this “risk,” since he does not identify closely with either group.

But what else is at risk here? Is Berry not only “caught in the middle” of the typical sides of the debates, but also “caught in the middle” of his own arguments—or, perhaps more bluntly, does he actually risk contradicting himself? How does this position on gay marriage line up with his own earlier essays related to marriage and sexuality?

In this article I explore Berry’s “risk” in connection with specific arguments from his previous essays on marriage, family, and sexuality in order to provide the overall context necessary for making sense of his current position. Is Berry’s “risk” consistent with his other positions? Is it not only consistent but a logically necessary step? Looking behind simple statements to the broader arguments that undergird and support them will help us understand what to make of Berry’s statement as well as Berry’s continued relevance to evangelical discussions of marriage.

Read the entire article by Jacob Shatzer at Themelios.


Starting Wendell Berry

Today is the birthday of Wendell Berry, the writer, farmer, and activist from Port Royal, Kentucky.

Berry is my favorite author. Only twice in my life have there been authors I loved so much that I wanted to read not only everything they wrote but also everything that had been written by the people they considered to be friends, mentors, and influences.

C.S. Lewis was the first. Lewis, the Inklings, and his favorite medieval writers dominated my reading lists in my late teens and most of my twenties. Wendell Berry is the other. His fiction, poetry, and essays, as well as his published letters and interviews, have profoundly changed my thinking over the last ten years. They’re changing my actions too…slowly. (Side note: What’s been interesting has been to go back to C.S Lewis now and notice in retrospect the parallels between the two writers.)

Which Wendell Berry Book Should I Start With?

Every couple months I get a text from a friend or family member who is at a bookstore right now. They want to read some Wendell Berry but don’t where to start.

Those are fun messages to get. I tailor my answer to the person asking the question, and so the string of texts they get from me is probably longer, more detailed, and more earnest than they expected.

To mark Berry’s birthday, Chris and I put this question to our friends on Facebook and Twitter: If someone asked you which Wendell Berry book they should start with, how would you answer?

Read the whole post by John Pattison at Slow Church.

Check out Getting Started on this site ... and thanks for the link & kind words, John!


Paris Review staffer likes Wendell Berry's work

Personally, I have been very moved by Berry’s writings. He paints a picture of a unified life that appeals to me, arguments for its feasibility today notwithstanding. In all the discussions of Berry I’ve encountered, one element of his writing that frequently gets overlooked is its playfulness and joy, of which I was reminded this past week reading through his collection of poems Given. He takes pleasure in his poetry and prose; it is clear that he delights in the world, even in the brokenness and sorrow of which he frequently writes. The little poem “Why” is a good sample:

Why all the embarrassment
about being happy?
Sometimes I’m as happy
as a sleeping dog,
and for the same reasons,
and for others.

Read the whole brief appreciation by Joel Pinckney at The Paris Review (scroll down).


Review of Wendell Berry study

Wiebe argues convincingly that imagination functions as a hermeneutical key for Berry. Wiebe recognizes that Berry does not attempt to develop a consistent program or systematic ethic. Wiebe recognizes that through his fiction, Berry, like other great writers, functions on the “subflooring” of an ethic, what we might call a pre-ethic. As Wiebe points out, great literature does not engage the human will first, rather the imagination (25). Therefore, Wiebe interprets what Berry attempts to do in his fiction as parables. His storytelling does not attempt to provide models for moral instruction, but parables about experiences of people with neighbors, enemies, misfits, and strangers. Experiential communities are not idealized, have no romanticized heroes and are unsystematic—they are never “complete.” Wiebe makes his case by leading the reader through an analysis of how Berry uses his fictional characters as parables of life in its fullest and frailest measures—with chapters focusing on Old Jack Beechum, Jayber Crow, and Hannah Coulter. Wiebe could have added weight to his argument by consulting David Buttrick’s works on the function of biblical parables. Buttrick argues that biblical parables do not intend to provide morsels of morality to live by. Rather, they construct a “world” that combines both ordinary yet unexpected features, and then ask readers how they would make decisions in that constructed world. Parables draw readers into a world and challenge the shallowness and exploitations in our present culture.

Read the complete article by D. Dixon Sutherland at Reading Religion.


Reflections on Wendell Berry and Complexity

Reading Wendell Berry is an exercise in cultivating complexity. His love of Nature, the vision of locality, and understanding of the costs of a global economy resonate with what remains of my small-town southern upbringing. I did not live the Hillbilly Elegy experience; instead, my memories of childhood evoke an almost Berry-esque playing by the creekside on our five acres in Montgomery County, Tennessee. Reading Berry calls my soul to abandon the city life I live and move to a mythical farm.

And yet, there are goods the city cultivates which Mr. Berry’s vision would demand sacrificing.

Read the whole article by Josh Herring at The Imaginative Conservative.