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May 2015
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July 2015

Wendell Berry placed in South's intellectual tradition

But people who have gone looking, whose Tocquevillian rue about what modernity homogenizes and grinds away has sent them questing for alternatives, often find in the South scattered elements of the case against progress that they’re searching for. Some of these elements are intellectual — the line running back from Wendell Berry through the Southern Agrarians to Jefferson, for instance, is one of the strongest counter-narratives available to any American dissatisfied with liberal and libertarian visions of human flourishing today. (I didn’t say it was all that strong, mind you.) Others are those features of Southern culture that can make the rest of America seem dull or flat or hollowed-out by comparison: The literature and poetry, the music in all its varied forms, the religious and metaphysical horizons, the folkways and the manners, the food (the food, the food), everything about Louisiana, and the enduring martial culture on which the wider nation’s military has long relied (and still relies today).

Read more by Ross Douthat at The New York Times

Threepenny Review publishes Wendell Berry story

"Dismemberment," a new short story by Mr. Berry, has been published in the current edition of The Threepenny Review (Summer 2015). Here are the opening paragraphs:

It was the still-living membership of his friends who, with Flora and their children and their place, pieced Andy together and made him finally well again after he lost his right hand to a harvesting machine in the fall of 1974. He would be obliged to think that he had given his hand, or abandoned it, for he had attempted to unclog the corn picker without stopping it, as he had known better than to do. But finally it would seem to him also that the machine had taken his hand, or accepted it, as the price of admission into the rapidly mechanizing world that as a child he had not foreseen and as a man did not like, but which he would have to live in, understanding it and resisting it the best he could, for the rest of his life.

He was forty then, too old to make easily a new start, though his life could be continued only by a new start. He had no other choice. Having no other choice finally was a sort of help, but he was slow in choosing. Between him and any possibility of choice lay his suffering and the selfishness of it: self-pity, aimless anger, aimless blaming, that made him dangerous to himself, cruel to others, and useless or a burden to everybody.

He would not get over the loss of his hand, as of course he was plentifully advised to do, simply because he was advised to do it, or simply even because he wanted and longed to do it. His life had been deformed. His hand was gone, his right hand that had been his principal connection to the world, and the absence of it could not be repaired. The only remedy was to re-form his life around his loss, as a tree grows live wood over its scars. From the memory and a sort of foreknowledge of wholeness, after he had grown sick enough finally of his grieving over himself, he chose to heal.

Read more at The Threepenny Review (and consider subscribing to this excellent publication).

Wendell Berry and "Laudato Si"

As it turns out, a US author from Kentucky came to Francis' same conclusions a little over thirty years ago. Award winning author Wendell Berry advocated in his 1983 essay "Two Economies" for a system that would prioritize the spiritual "Kingdom of God" without neglecting economical necessities. 

Berry has often criticized electronic communication and modern agricultural techniques. That said, at a more universal level, this essay advocated for a practical harmony that both shaped the environment through human invention and allowed the environment to provide practical aids and limits on human development. Berry used topsoil as an example. He argued that industrialists overlooked complex ecological systems by replacing the double function of topsoil, water retention and drainage, with machines and dams that performed merely one or the other task, risking eroded ecosystems. In short, in the name of efficiency, technocrats had overlooked and reduced nature's efficiency. Turning to the ironic belief that we can or ought to control nature, Berry asked: "What is to be the fate of self-control in an economy that encourages and rewards unlimited selfishness? (68)"

Read more at Huffington Post

Wendell Berry: Responsible Writer

I find it interesting when a writer who is as eloquent, longsuffering and respected among his peers as Wendell Berry becomes almost irrelevant in public discourse. He isn’t trying to sell us anything. He doesn’t seem concerned about his image. He doesn’t scream or get arrested or perform. And we don’t even have to tune him out; his writing goes out on a frequency that is rarely even heard.

Take, for instance, what he has to say in his newest collection of essays, Our Only World, about the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. After unequivocal sympathy with those who were injured or lost a loved one, he adds: “What I am less and less in sympathy with is the rhetoric and the tone of official indignation. Public officials cry out for justice against the perpetrators. I too wish them caught and punished. But I am unwilling to have my wish spoken for me in a tone of surprise and outraged innocence.” And this is where, if anyone thought Berry’s writing important, they would be protesting: “The event in Boston is not unique or rare or surprising or in any way new. It is only another transaction in the commerce of violence.”

Read more at America Magazine

Wendell and Tanya Berry honor their daughter Mary

Wendell Berry and his wife Tanya gave the New Pioneers Trailblazer Award to their daughter, Mary Berry, all of New Castle, Ky. Mary Berry directs The Berry Center, which was created to continue the Berry family's work in culture and agriculture, going back nearly a century. The center's Berry Farm Program is based at St. Catharine College, near Springfield, where the awards ceremony was held.

Read more at The Rural Blog

Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba, Tennessee in August

Rivendell Fellow Norman Wirzba and author Wendell Berry will headline a symposium on the theme of “Imaginative Education: Learning to Know a Place, Care for a Place” at the University of the South in Sewanee on August 20-21.

“The connections between literature and place, and place and land, are central to the Rivendell ethos. We are delighted to share in this very special symposium, and to host the guests during their time here,” said Carmen Thompson, Director of Rivendell.

Inspired by the example of distinguished author, farmer, and cultural critic Wendell Berry, the symposium will encourage reflection on the deeper dimensions of knowing, caring for, and becoming present to place that Berry represents in his work.  Key features of the symposium event include the participation of Mary Berry, Executive Director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky, and Leah Bayens, director of the Berry Farming Program at St. Catherine College, as well as a public conversation with Mr. Berry conducted by Wirzba, who is Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life at Duke University.

From Rivendell Writers Colony