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May 2009
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Blog Watch: WB at Malabar Farm

Meeting Louis Bromfield - and Wendell Berry! - at Malabar Farm :: The Ethicurean: Chew the right thing..

On a recent visit to Malabar Farm — during the Spring Plowing Days when local farmers bring their teams of draft horses to plow the fields on the working part of the farm — I had the deep pleasure of meeting not only the spirit of Louis Bromfield, but also the flesh-and-blood person of Wendell Berry. READ MORE ...

Epigraphical WB

Enclave: Metro Planning Is Not Exactly a Rational Animal on May Town Center.
By the power of a model, the specialist turns the future into a greenhouse of fantasies. - - Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America

Nearly a year ago the Planning Department had the audacity not just to recommend the May Town Center proposal to the Planning Commission without the benefit of neutral traffic and economic impact studies, but to admit publicly that they did not conduct the studies because they did not have enough money to pay for them. ...

WB in SR

The Sewanee Review

We have recently been made aware of a number of Mr. Berry's pieces that have been published in The Sewanee Review:

  • "The Uses of Adversity". Essay. Sewanee Review, Spring 2007, Vol 115 Issue 2, pp. 211-238
  • "American Imagination and the Civil War". Essay. Sewanee Review, Fall 2007, Vol 115 Issue 4, pp. 587-602
  • "The Dark Country". Story. Sewanee Review, Spring 2009, Vol 117 Issue 2, pp. 163-180.

If you know of others, in SR or elsewhere, please let us know.


Wendell Berry Picks Jail Over NAIS | Food Renegade.

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) listening sessions taking place across the country came to Kentucky last month. Wendell Berry, the agrarian poet and small farm activist, was there.

Story after story from these listening sessions has confirmed one thing: small farmers across the country are 100% opposed to the NAIS legislation. As you probably already know, NAIS promises to require every single livestock animal in America to be identified and tagged — no matter the size of the operation. So, you’ve got a few backyard chickens? Some milking goats? A small free-range pig farm? Say hello to expensive tagging & government paperwork. Not only will NAIS be so burdensome as to put many small scale farmers out of business, but it is a huge infringement on our liberties.  READ MORE (and listen to audio of WB's remarks) ...

WB at FB

In this post, I (Br. Tom) am departing from the usual practice here of citing others and am expressing some of my own thoughts about a recent trend in WB-awareness online.

When we search Facebook for the name "Wendell Berry," we are informed that there are thirty results. We find such groups as "Wendell Berry for President!" (2 members),  "Wendell Berry Cranks My Tractor" (22 members),  "I [heart]Wendell Berry" (also -  the  same? - 22 members), "The Ironic Wendell Berry Online Discussion Group!" (8 members), and "We Want Wendell Berry to Come to Union" (53 members). But we also find "Wendell Berry Haters association" (7 members) and " Wendell Berry: Crappy Writer Extraordinaire" (19 members).

And then there is the mother of all Wendell Berry Facebook groups - a fan page called, simply, "Wendell Berry" (2,995 fans). The next closest group, with 1,427 members, is "The Wendell Berry Society." The former is notorious for its use of an especially dour photo of WB.

I note that the content of the very popular "Wendell Berry" fan page consists of a feed from this very site, Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky. I do not know who has set up that Facebook page. If I knew, I would thank that person for helping to bring Mr. Berry's work to a wider audience ... which has always been my one and only purpose. And that's what Facebook has accomplished.

I say above that the content at this FB page consists of the feed from here, but that isn't accurate. There are also comments from the fans ... ranging from some real interaction, questions and answers, to all the "liking" that goes on in FB. There are also the by now clichéd (but still necessary) concerns about the irony of an online presence for a man who has spoken no kind words about this technology. Let's not forget that ... as WB has recently said ... we each have a complex, complicit, and  outright guilty entanglement with these systems ... "a paradox we're all caught in" (Speech at GWU, 1 March 09).

As one commenter on the FB page says, "I wonder whether he thinks such 'virtual communities' as these have virtue." That's a question worth pondering ... one that has haunted me from the start of my online WB projects ... not so much in an attempt to divine what WB himself thinks—he has made that clear enough— but for each of us also to consider our choices and the ways we are "present" "here" ...  To what degree must we treat our online presence and our use of this technology ... these "tools" ... as ONLY virtual (as in "not real")? In what ways might (and do) these activities bear on The Real of our actual existences in our actual places?

Yet, it's about the work ... Mr. Berry's writing ... and its relation to our senses of who we are and where we are and what we shall do. We turn to his writing and let it work on us ... as it will.

I, for one, think that such an encounter can only nudge us closer to the health and sanity that we crave.

Blog Watch: Quotable WB

Inscapes: Quotables from Wendell Berry.

I love Wendell Berry's writing. I do not always agree with his conclusions, but I appreciate his eloquent defense of simplicity and tradition. Last night I was skimming Life is a Miracle, trying to decide if I'm in the mood for it just now. I think not, but I enjoyed the section of brief concluding notes. Sometimes he makes me laugh -- and then forces me into a completely unexpected depth of thinking, like this note did: "The anti-smoking campaign, by its insistent reference to the expensiveness to government and society of death by smoking, has raised a question that it has not answered: What is the best and cheapest disease to die from, and how can the best and cheapest disease be promoted?"  READ MORE (especially about the bluebird trouble) ...

Bonzo & Stevens reviewed

First Principles - The Traditional Mind.

Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life is a fine overview of the work of Kentucky’s great poet, novelist, essayist, and social critic. The authors hit on many of the major and minor themes found throughout Berry’s career and cite liberally from all the genres of writing in which he works. In that way, this is a fine introduction to the wide scope of his work. At its core, however, the project of Bonzo and Stevens seems to be to introduce Berry, or perhaps justify Berry, to the conservative Christian world. More narrowly, the book is written by evangelicals with an evangelical Christian audience in mind. READ MORE ...