Review of Wendell Berry's "Distant Neighbors"
Wendell Berry Interviewed on BBC Radio 4

A Polite Disagreement with Wendell Berry

In the quiet moments with Wendell Berry's farmers and town folk, I imagine myself accepted as one of them. I've known them — in my own family tree, in the contrarian churchgoers my father, a pastor, attracted for most of my childhood, and in the lives of my best friends still sharing family land with several generations of kinfolk.

Other moments I am angry. Mr. Berry's body of work lauds the unadulterated; how does he reconcile glossing over (or at least hiding from view) the ugly dysfunctions that prosper alongside the natural beauty of such villages and pasturelands? I've seen firsthand not only the ornery nature of such characters — wishing to deny, for example, a decent salary to their pastor who does not make a living with his hands — but also the ingrown, incestuous thinking that tends to breed in rural places. Eventually, my paternal great-grandfather brought his family to town, and he drank away the family income. I guess Mr. Berry might argue that moving into town, working for the man across the desk rather than staying close to the family land, they introduced their own demise.

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