A review of Wendell Berry's collected fiction in progress

The long shelf of fiction by Wendell Berry—overshadowed by the colossal green canopy of his poetry and agrarian essays—has been brought into the light by the Library of America. Wendell Berry: Port William Novels and Stories, the first of two volumes that will enshrine the whole of Berry’s fiction, was released early this year and collects four early novels and 23 short stories.

It includes a detailed chronology of Berry’s life and career, including notes on his to-thine-own-self-be-true decision to leave New York in 1965, the year he won a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, to farm back in his home state of Kentucky. Editor Jack Shoemaker has also provided a map of Berry’s fictional yet very real town of Port William, a 120-year family tree of the four families that live out his stories, and eight pages of notes.

One of the book’s subtitles is The Civil War to World War II, and accordingly, the narrative begins with a story set in 1864, “The Girl in the Window” (2010), and ends with one set in 1945, “Not a Tear,” which originally appeared in 2012 in The Threepenny Review.

Read all of  "The Bard of Kentucky" by Rafael Alvarez at Law and Liberty. 


Wendell Berry in conversation at The Kentucky Book Fair, November 2018

At the Kentucky Book Fair on November 17, 2018, Wendell “I don’t take what I write all that seriously” Berry spoke with Jon Parrish Peede, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The event was moderated by Dr. Morris Grubbs of The University of Kentucky. HERE IS A LINK to an audio recording of that conversation.


On Wendell Berry's Fiction

Berry’s dreams do emerge in his essays, and of course they inform them. His poems, appearing in dozens of publications across these decades, make his hope more vivid, more musical. But to see Berry’s dreaming vision of our world fully laid out, one must go to his fiction. In the early 1960s he began to publish an entwined series of stories centered on the fictional town of Port William in northern Kentucky, a town “without pretense or ambition,” as one of his narrators recalls, “for it was the sort of place that pretentious or ambitious people were inclined to leave.” To date Berry has produced eight novels and more than fifty short stories (along with some poems and at least one play) about this place, magical in its lowliness and mythical in its ordinariness—a fantasia of democratic, republican proportions. If it’s a profoundly flawed world, it is yet, in Berry’s telling, a good one. And therein lies his hope.

Read all of "Reign of Love: The Fiction of Wendell Berry" by Eric Miller at Commonweal Magazine.


Columbia State to host presentation on Wendell Berry's 'The Hidden Wound'

The Columbia State Community College philosophy department will host a philosophy invitational featuring Dr. Lucius Outlaw, Vanderbilt University professor of philosophy, and Dr. Peter Kuryla, Belmont University associate professor of history, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Community Room located on the Williamson Campus.

At the invitational, the presenters will discuss “The Hidden Wound,” by Wendell Berry, in acknowledgement of the work’s 50th anniversary.

“The tumultuous events of 1968 prompted Wendell Berry to reevaluate how his childhood experiences with racial relations on a Kentucky farm informed his awareness of the festering social problem of racism, which he deems unavoidable until the source can be examined within the framework of our social inheritance and we truly begin to recognize the humanity in every individual."

Find more information at The Williamson Herald.

 


Kentucky Arts & Letters Day to feature Wendell Berry in Conversation

The Berry Center is hosting the 4th Annual Kentucky Art & Letters Day on November 10.

This year, we are thrilled to be joined by beloved Kentucky authors: Maurice Manning, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Bobbie Ann Mason, Gray Zeitz, Leslie Shane, Rebecca Gayle Howell, Jonathan Greene, Maureen Morehead, and Ed McClanahan for our 4th annual Kentucky Arts & Letters Day. The keynote will feature Wendell Berry in conversation with Crystal Wilkinson, poet and author of "Birds of Opulence", "Blackberries, Blackberries", and "Water Street". This conversation also marks the finale of our Agrarian Literary League (ALL) program.


Our gallery will host talented wood engravers Carolyn Whitesel, Joanne Price, John Lackey, and Wesley Bates - all with deep connections to famed Kentucky letterpress, Larkspur Press.

For full information on this November 10th event, go HERE.


Wendell Berry's "The Farm" republished and reviewed

The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

The sole content of the book is the long poem that gives the book its title, which is at once a depiction of a farm and its workings (presumably based on Berry’s own farm), and rich wisdom on how to run a farm sustainably – from maintaining woodlands to cultivating cornfields to keeping a garden.

The intermingling of biodiverse relationships between humans, land, plants, and animals in this poem, is reminiscent of what I experienced on my grandparents’ small-to-medium-sized Iowa farm a generation ago. Berry’s vision of the farm, while frank about the intensive labor it requires (“There is no end to work — /… / One job completed shows / Another to be done.”), is compelling in the image of farm life that it conjures.

Read the complete review by C. Christopher Smith at The Englewood Review of Books.


A review of "The Essential Wendell Berry"

Agrarianism is the theme he returns to with great regularity and is also the subject of his best-known book, the 1977 classic The Unsettling of America, a compressed version of which is included in this collection. A good part of Berry’s career has involved excoriating mechanized, chemicalized mega-farming as a brutal, life-threatening assault that kills the soil and sends it down the river, guts farming communities, renders moot our relationship to animals and sky and other people, and widens a dualism between us and the earth that is ruining our health, our minds, our ability to live satisfying lives, and the American (and global) culture.

These works are mostly about small-town America, and mostly set on Berry’s farm at Lane’s Landing, once a riverboat stop on the Kentucky River near Port Royal, Kentucky. But not one word stoops to smug nostalgia. He is instead trying to prove that science and economics happen in a place: he draws endlessly and non-repetitively on the deep well of the lived truth of farm life, which delivers up sweet, clear lines of poetry and local lore and a kind of immediate authenticity.

That authority is the reason we read Wendell Berry. When he tells us precisely what ails us as a nation, that a “Faustian economics” of “corporate fundamentalism” fuels a “world-ending fire” of limitless consumerism that is our ruin, we believe him. We want to scream it from the rooftops. But he goes a step further. He doesn’t leave the question begged, but answers it:

Small solutions, unrelentingly practical, that will be made by individuals in relation to small parcels of land.

Read all of "How to Fight the Fire" by Dean Kuipers at Los Angeles Review of Books.


Library of America will publish Wendell Berry essays in April 2019

Wendell Berry
What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969–2017 (two volumes)
Jack Shoemaker, editor
Volume 1: Essays 1969–1990
Library of America Series #316 / ISBN 978-159853-606-5
Volume 2: Essays 1993–2017
Library of America Series #317 / ISBN 978-159853-608-9
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-610-2
April 2019

See the complete Spring roster of Library of America titles HERE.


Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, Bookstore Closings, Grief

Jayber Crow broke my heart in exactly the way I needed it to be broken, allowing my changing-times sadness and confusion to flow.

Jayber’s growth of soul as he narrates his life from 1914 to 1986 (being Port William’s barber for 32 of those years) grew on me.

If you’ve been grieving the losses that have come with a modernized, technologically driven age, Wendell Berry can’t get the gifts of the past back for you, but he can help you honor them with an unsentimental grief.

He can help your soul to grow through facing those losses with an honest remembering and gratitude. He can help you consider what changes you might make in order live at least a little closer to what you believe.

Berry can even help you see your need to forgive yourself along with everyone else who, in greater or lesser degrees, allowed the lessening of localism and the desecration of the land to happen.

Read all of  "Becoming Rememberers: How Wendell Berry Helps Us Grieve Our Time’s Tragic Tradeoffs" by Peggy Haslar at Sparrowfare.


Larkspur Press publishes Wendell Berry's Sabbaths 2016

Mr. Gray Zeitz's long-running letterpress project at Larkspur Press has delivered another volume of recent poems, Sabbaths 2016. Like so many other Larkspur/Berry editions, the book includes several wood engravings by Wesley Bates, whose work was featured in the recent film Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.

The fifteen Sabbath poems here include "What Passes, What Remains," a longer narrative poem that was first published in The Art of Loading Brush (Counterpoint, 2017). Other poems from 2016 have been published in Oxford American, Spring 2018.

See Sabbaths 2016 and other Larkspur titles HERE.