A Profile of Wendell Berry

I first heard of Wendell Berry when I was ten years old. One evening in 1964, my father, Dan Wickenden, came home from his editorial office at Harcourt Brace, in midtown Manhattan, and described his new author: a lanky youth of thirty, who sat with his elbows on his knees, talking in a slow Kentucky cadence and gesturing with large, expressive hands. An image lodged in my mind—busy men in dark suits, their secretaries typing and taking dictation, while Berry told amusing stories in bluejeans and scuffed shoes. (Tanya disabused me of that part of the memory: “Khakis, maybe. Not bluejeans.”)

I remembered this encounter not long ago when I pulled from a bookshelf “A Continuous Harmony,” a collection of Berry’s essays that my father edited in 1971. With its homely brown jacket and yellowing pages, it looked its age, yet it spoke urgently to our current compounding crises. One of the pieces, “Think Little,” announced, “Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.” Berry went on to say that he was “ashamed and deeply distressed that American government should have become the chief cause of disillusionment with American principles.”

Read all of "Wendell Berry's Advice for a Cataclysmic Age" by Dorothy Wickenden at The New Yorker.


Wendell Berry, NFTs, and "an anti-economy"

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While blockchain holds unfulfilled potential and some NFTs do possess aesthetic value, their rapid ascendance reveals disturbing truths about our economy. One especially ironic NFT helps uncover the NFT craze’s downsides. Strangely, a user named “Wildsheep” is selling a pixelated portrait of Wendell Berry as an NFT, which nobody has yet bid on. Front Porch Republic readers will appreciate the irony of speculating on a virtual image of Wendell Berry, who refuses to buy a computer or smartphone and instead insists on writing by pencil. What then might the great Kentucky agrarian say about NFTs? While Berry doesn’t discuss NFTs explicitly, answers to this question can be found in What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth, a 2010 collection of Berry’s economic writings.

Primarily, Wendell Berry assails the very speculative economy that NFTs represent and entrench. An economy based around reckless gambling on digital images cannot support community or respect limits, two central themes of Berry’s work. While ostensibly promising decentralization, NFTs instead further a hyper-financialized economy built on falsehoods and abstractions, one that Berry labels in “Money Versus Goods” an “anti-economy” or “a financial system without a sound economic basis and without economic virtues.” He further lambastes how this economy produces goods that are destructive, fraudulent, unnecessary, useless, or any combination of the four.

Read all of "The Irony of a Wendell Berry NFT" by Andrew Figueiredo at Front Porch Republic.


Touting Wendell Berry on Twitter

tout (verb): attempt to sell (something), typically by pestering people in an aggressive or bold manner
 
This morning found me promoting (if not exactly attempting to sell) Wendell Berry's essay collection, A Continuous Harmony. First published by Harcourt, Brace in 1972 and subsequently by Shoemaker & Hoard (2004) and Counterpoint (2012), it is now fifty years old. The other day I pulled it from the shelf thinking that it's probably among the lesser known of his volumes, but that's hard to say. At any rate, this is what I did on Twitter.
 
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And this was followed by a link to Counterpoint's page for the book. So I guess that I actually was trying to sell a few copies.
 

Wendell Berry receives University of Notre Dame's Henry Hope Reed Award

In conjunction with the Driehaus Prize, the $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Award, given annually to an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its architecture and art, will be presented to Wendell Berry, an American poet, novelist, cultural critic, environmentalist and farmer, for his contributions to the discourse about nature and the city. 

“Berry is the bard of rural life in America, a writer and poet whose work speaks for the Earth and challenges us to appreciate and steward nature as the foundation of our sustenance, our well-being and a reflection of who we are as a culture,” said Polyzoides. “His writing and commentary have had an indirect but still profound influence on our built environment, offering inspiration and direction as to where and how nature should prevail over architecture, a fundamental question for our age.” 

Read the complete article at Notre Dame News.


Thinking About Wendell Berry's "Think Little"

In 1969 the agrarian writer, poet, and Kentuckian, Wendell Berry, published Think Little, a short essay dealing primarily with environmentalism and the principle of subsidiarity. I found it to be a well written and compelling piece. While it is brief, Berry’s essay contains striking observations that continue to be relevant in our own day.

As I began reading it, my immediate thought was how little has changed. This short essay could easily have been written yesterday. “First there was Civil Rights, and then there was the War, and now it is the Environment. The first two of this sequence of causes have already risen to the top of the nation’s consciousness and declined somewhat in a remarkably short time.” While the Civil Rights Movement itself has passed, the issue of race has again come to the forefront of the national and global stage. In 2020 the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests and riots dominated headlines, while in 2021 Critical Race Theory surfaced as a major point of contention. Then, though Berry speaks of Vietnam, one could easily replace that with the war in Afghanistan or even just the broader War on Terror. As for the Environment, there has hardly been a more prevalent and constant issue than Climate Change. The push for expanding renewable energy sources, building more electric cars, changing people’s diets, and reducing carbon emissions has been in the national and global discourse for decades now. Yet, as Berry points out, both Civil Rights (race) and the War (of your choice) have been short-lived in their prominence in the public sphere. This is not to say that racial issues have disappeared necessarily, but neither the protests of 2020 nor Critical Race Theory have actually lasted very long in terms of how important they are perceived as being and how much they dominate the political sphere. The protests came and went, and the Critical Race Theory debate has mostly given way to debates surrounding COVID-19 regulations and mandates (at least for now). Afghanistan is a similar story. While it took over headlines for a month or two, it has practically disappeared from the news and from public discourse. I doubt many people are actively thinking about our withdrawal and defeat at all, and likely will not remember it until it appears in midterm election advertisements.

Read all of "Wendell Berry’s “Think Little” Remains Relevant Today" by John Thomas at The New Utopian,.