Oehlschlaeger mines a wealth of material on economics, politics and religion, condensing Berry's interconnections while “hoping that readers will understand that too clean a separation of ideas is difficult when treating as holistic a writer as Berry.” Organizing work by genre and topic, he begins with Berry's nonfiction. Born in the time of pre-mechanized farming, Berry learns values handed down by family. When he was a boy, his grandfather would halt the team of mules and ask him which mule had the best head, best shoulder or rump. Which was the lead mule and were they hitched up right. Knowledge of the mules begins Berry's contemplation of technological obsession and how it devalues and subverts understanding of nature, creatures and us. Berry mourns the destruction of farming's integrity and, like Thoreau, believes that industrialized labor becomes increasingly meaningless.
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