Nick explained to the audience what a promising literary career the young Wendell Berry was enjoying. After graduating from UK, he had been invited to attend Stanford's creative writing program. Upon completing his first novel, Berry and his family lived in Europe courtesy of a Guggenheim Fellowship. A year later, in 1962, Berry accepted a teaching position at NYU. Here was a man who truly had the world before him, Offerman explained, yet Berry surprised everyone when he announced he was leaving New York to return to his native Kentucky. He would move back to his own people in Henry County, Kentucky. And from the small town of Port Royal (population ±79) Berry would go on to write dozens of enduring short stories, novels, poems and works of non-fiction. And love his wife. And raise his children. And farm his land. And be a member of his true community.
I don't think Nick's rendition of Berry's arc was lost on this audience. Los Angeles, like New York, is a city where people move to "make it." It's not a place those in the process of "making it" would necessarily think to leave. Yet Berry himself did something like that. And for Berry, that has made all the difference. But I digress.