What Wendell Berry stands on, quite literally, is dirt. And if dirt seems an odd thing to also stand for, then reading fifteen hundred pages of his essays will fill you in on the ramifying significance of dirt.
The importance of dirt may be the most prominent thread running through fifty years of Berry’s writing on remarkably diverse topics. When we neglect the health of the soil, Berry warns, it is not just our diet that suffers; our homes, communities, and politics wither. Without a healthy, sustainable agriculture preserving the soil’s fertility, no human culture can survive. In standing for dirt, it turns out, Berry stands for a countercultural view of humans as radically dependent creatures, formed from dust and sustained by the Creator’s breath.
The Library of America’s mission is to publish “America’s greatest writing in authoritative new editions,” and in 2018 they recognized Berry’s literary achievements by releasing a volume of his fiction. This year, they are publishing What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969 – 2017.
Read the complete review by Jeffrey Bilbro of What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969–2017 at Plough.