Wendell Berry's "The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age"

I want to say something about the decline, the virtual ruin, of rural life, and about the influence and effect of agricultural surpluses, which I believe are accountable for more destruction of land and people than any other economic “factor.” This is a task that ought to be taken up by an economist, which I am not. But economists, even agricultural economists, farm-raised as many of them have been, do not live in rural communities, as I do, and they appear not to care, as I do, that rural communities like mine all over the country are either dying or dead. And so, only partly qualified as I am, I will undertake this writing in the hope that I am contributing to a conversation that will attract others better qualified. 

I have at hand an article from the Wall Street Journal of February 22, 2016, entitled “The U.S. Economy Is in Good Shape.” The article is by Martin Feldstein, “chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan . . . a professor at Harvard and a member of the Journal’s board of contributors.” Among economists, Prof. Feldstein appears to be somewhere near the top of the pile. And yet his economic optimism is founded entirely upon current measures of “incomes,” “unemployment,” and “industrial production,” all abstractions narrowly focused. Nowhere in his analysis does he mention the natural world, or the economies of land use by which the wealth of nature is made available to the “American economy.” Mr. Feldstein believes that “the big uncertainties that now hang over our economy are political.” 

Read "The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age" at Sierra.


Artwork based on Wendell Berry novels

Artist Micah Bell has produced a unique set of prints and writings inspired by the novels of Wendell Berry. They will be available for pre-order beginning tomorrow, November 7. See more information at Micah Bell Art.

The Membership 

$125, PRE-ORDER NOVEMBER 7

  • 8 limited edition art prints by Micah Bell - printed on 100% handmade, recycled paper in an edition of 100. Signed, numbered, and stamped.
  • 8 writings by artists, authors, and musicians based on the featured books and prints: David Dark, Brooke Waggoner, Stu Garrard, Sandra McCracken, JT Daly, Wesley Bates, Flo Paris Oakes, and Robert Campbell
  • 1 writing by Micah Bell
  • 1 Port William logo nickel lapel pin
  • 1 Port William Membership Member keychain
  • All prints are protected in a plastic covering and collected in a custom box adorned with Port William logo designed by Micah Bell

New Wendell Berry story at Threepenny Review

At last full of the knowledge of the wonder it is to be a man walking upon the earth, Andy Catlett is past eighty now, still at work in the fashion of a one-handed old man on what still he often calls in his thoughts the Riley Harford place, the name that has belonged to it for at least a hundred and fifty years. As a farm perhaps never better than marginal, the place in its time has known abuse, neglect, and then, in his own tenure and care, as he is proud to think, it has known also healing and health and ever-increasing beauty.

He has supposed, he has pretty well known, that some of his neighbors in Port William and the country around had thought, when he and Flora bought the place and settled in it, that they would not last there very long, for it was too inconvenient, too far from the midst of things, too poor. And so Andy has delighted a little in numbering, as disproof and as proof, the decades of their inhabitance: the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s. And now they have lived there more than half a century, long past the doubts and the doubters that they would last. Now it has become beyond doubt or question their place, and they have become its people. They have given their lives into it, and it has lived in their lives.

Read the whole story ("The Art of Loading Brush") at The Threepenny Review (and think about subscribing!)


Early review of forthcoming Wendell Berry volume

As a novelist, essayist, and poet, Berry (Roots to the Earth, 2016, etc.) has been writing work that is all of a piece for more than half a century; reduced, if it must be, his aim is the old agrarian ideal of standing for what one stands on, defending one’s place on Earth. The author notes his wife’s observation that “my principal asset as a writer has been my knack for repeating myself,” a gentle jibe that is true, but necessarily so. There’s no end to threats to small farmers, or an economy of health, or “good work,” the opposite of which is “waste of fertility and of the land itself.”

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(Cover art via nlcaputo_design at Instagram)

See the complete (brief) review at Kirkus.


New Wendell Berry collection for October 2017

Wendell Berry’s profound critique of American culture has entered its sixth decade, and in this new gathering he reaches with deep devotion toward a long view of Agrarian philosophy. Berry believes that American cultural problems are nearly always aligned with their agricultural problems, and recent events have shone a terrible spotlight on the divides between our urban and rural citizens. Our communities are as endangered as our landscapes. There is, as Berry outlines, still much work to do, and our daily lives—in hope and affection—must triumph over despair.

Berry moves deftly between the real and the imagined. The Art of Loading Brush is an energetic mix of essays and stories, including “The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age,” which explores Agrarian ideals as they present themselves historically and as they might apply to our work today. “The Presence of Nature in the Natural World” is added here as the bookend of this developing New Agrarianism. Four stories from an as-yet-unfinished novel, better described as “an essay in imagination,” extend the Port William story as it follows Andy Catlett throughout his life to this present moment. Andy works alongside his grandson in “The Art of Loading Brush,” one of the most moving and tender stories of the entire Port William cycle. Filled with insights and new revelations from a mind thorough in its considerations and careful in its presentations, The Art of Loading Brush is a necessary and timely collection.

UPDATE 6/25/17: This collection is now titled (somewhat ominously) The Order of Loving Care: Last Agrarian Writings.

UPDATE 7/24/17: The collection has now been (un)re-titled back to The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings.

See more information at Counterpoint Press.


Wendell Berry Fiction to be added to Library of America

Three new authors (including one living one), two returning favorites, and a pair of groundbreaking anthologies are just some of the highlights of Library of America’s list in the first half of 2018. Below is the list of publications for next winter and spring, followed by more detailed descriptions of each new volume.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA SERIES

Wendell Berry
Port William Novels & Stories
The Civil War to World War II

Nathan Coulter • Andy Catlett: Early Travels • A World Lost • A Place on Earth • Stories
Jack Shoemaker, editor
Library of America #302 / ISBN 978-1-59853-554-9
January 2018

The Library of America


Paul Kingsnorth introduces Wendell Berry

About 18 months ago, out of the blue, I was offered something of a dream assignment. Penguin, the publisher, was looking to put together the first British collection of essays by the now-venerable American writer Wendell Berry, and they thought I would be a good person to make the selection, and write an introduction. Would I be interested? Of course, they would understand if I was too busy.

Needless to say, I was not too busy. I have been reading Wendell Berry for over 20 years, on and off, and have found him a constant source of nourishment and inspiration. It’s always difficult to explain exactly what you like about a writer, but Berry combines an earthy wisdom, an unashamed traditionalism, a love of his fellow man and passionate resistance to those who would desecrate the Earth which is his subject. It’s a combination I like. Also, to adopt his idiom, he has a damn fine way with words. I’d say he’s a writer who should be read by anyone wanting to find their place, or even figure out how to think about it, in an ever-churning age.

Read the whole article by Paul Kingsnorth (and Mr. Berry's "Damage") at Resilience.


New Studies of Wendell Berry for 2017

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2017 will bring us a trio of new books that promise some fresh considerations and applications of Mr. Berry’s work.

Wendell Berry and The Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield is due to arrive in March from Franciscan Media.

Berry presents us with the sort of coherent vision for the lived moral and spiritual life that we need now. His work helps us remember our givenness and embrace our life as creatures. His insights flow from a life and practices, and so it is a vision that can be practiced and lived—it is a vision that is grounded in the art of being a creature.

Jeffrey Bilbro and Jack Baker have co-written Wendell Berry and Higher Education: Cultivating Virtues of Place that is forthcoming from the University Press of Kentucky in June.

Drawing on Berry’s essays, fiction, and poetry, Jack R. Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro illuminate the influential thinker’s vision for higher education in this pathbreaking study. Each chapter begins with an examination of one of Berry’s fictional narratives and then goes on to consider how the passage inspires new ways of thinking about the university’s mission. Throughout, Baker and Bilbro argue that instead of training students to live in their careers, universities should educate students to inhabit and serve their places.

The Place of Imagination: Wendell Berry and the Poetics of Community, Affection, and Identity by Joseph R. Wiebe is scheduled for February from Baylor University Press.

Wendell Berry teaches us to love our places—to pay careful attention to where we are, to look beyond and within, and to live in ways that are not captive to the mastery of cultural, social, or economic assumptions about our life in these places. Creation has its own integrity and demands that we confront it. In The Place of Imagination, Joseph R. Wiebe argues that this confrontation is precisely what shapes our moral capacity to respond to people and to places.


Wendell Berry collection to be published in UK

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The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry will be published by Penguin (Allen Lane imprint) in England near the end of January, 2017.

'Wendell Berry is the most important writer and thinker that you have (probably) never heard of. He is an American sage' -James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Wendell Berry is 'something of an anachronism'. He began his life as the old times and the last of the old-time people were dying out, and continues to this day in the old ways: a team of work horses and a pencil are his preferred working tools. The writings gathered in The World-Ending Fire are the unique product of a life spent farming the fields of rural Kentucky with mules and horses, and of the rich, intimate knowledge of the land cultivated by this work. These are essays written in defiance of the false call to progress, and in defence of the local landscapes that provide our cultural heritage, our history, our home.

In a time when our relationship to the natural world is ruled by the violence and greed of unbridled consumerism, Wendell Berry speaks out to defend the land we live on. With grace and conviction, he shows that we simply cannot afford to succumb to the mass-produced madness that drives our global economy. The natural world will not withstand it.

Yet he also shares with us a vision of consolation and of hope. We may be locked in an uneven struggle, but we can and must begin to treat our land, our neighbours, and ourselves with respect and care. We must, as Berry urges, abandon arrogance and stand in awe.

Via Penguin Books, Ltd.

See at Amazon.co.uk