A path through San Francisco in Wendell Berry's Remembering
04 November 2022
Context is important, both for Andy’s walk and for my own. My sabbatical was definitely this essay’s condition of possibility but upon reflection the experiential impact on the text’s meaning was informed not only by walking the streets but also the occasion of marriage. Andy’s relationship with Flora is the bellwether of his connection to the rest of their community, yet she plays a minor role. The story is about Andy’s integration. Not just how he learns to meaningfully participate in his agricultural community after the loss of his dominant hand but how he learns to accept his fears, anger, and insecurities. Remembering is one of my favorite Berry novels, second only to Jayber Crow, because of how it depicts Andy’s transformation. He becomes whole not by resisting the parts of himself that cause him grief and withdrawal but by incorporating them in the most literal sense: allowing them to be part of how he embodies his social and romantic relationships. Andy learns that membership doesn’t come from exiling anxieties but trusting that the love binding together community is capacious enough to both make a home for and reorient wayward traits and maimed bodies toward higher unity. For Andy, integration is the product not of the institution of marriage on its own, but of a broader network of communal memories and practices.
Read all of "Remembering Revisited" by Joseph Wiebe at Front Porch Republic.