Matt Wheeler is a singer-songwriter in Pennsylvania who is putting together an album of songs inspired by Wendell Berry's Port William stories. He is interviewed at The Rabbit Room:
I was introduced to Berry’s work through the songwriting of Jacob Zachary back when I was in college in Virginia. Years later, around the time my son was born, I was laid off from my job, and I decided to pick up Berry’s short story collection, The Wild Birds. I was hooked. I proceeded to check out almost every fiction work by Berry that my local library system had.
In his Port William fiction, Berry invites his readers into a rich community, a fictionalized version of the rural community where he grew up and still lives & farms in Henry County, Kentucky. Each story is a portrait of people who belong to each other and to their place. Berry has a way of winsomely portraying the complex, the mundane, and the sacred in the characters he writes. Berry dignifies good work, genuine love for God by loving one’s neighbor, and a right relationship with land and place. There’s just something that Berry can convey about what it means to be human that I’ve found few writers can match.
Among my favorite aspects of Berry’s Port William fiction is the fact that he has been writing about the same community since 1960’s Nathan Coulter and as recently as 2022—Berry turned 89 in August and released two new books last year!—and that there is such continuity. The stories are set in a wide variety of years, from the 19th century to the 2020s, and yet the stories all form a coherent whole. Imagine being able to do that over six decades.
Read all of "Invited into a Rich Community: An Interview with Matt Wheeler" at The Rabbit Room.