Social Media: Where Wendell Berry's Past is Always Present?

We use social media to remain on the culture’s cutting edge, ahead of the curve, or (at the very least) up-to-date. And yet, in keeping my eye on All Things Wendell Berry, I’ve noticed an odd trend. Folks are posting links to old news and treating them as if they are new news. A week or so ago it was a surge of interest in WB having received The National Humanities Medal from President Obama. This happened six years ago in 2010.

Today a quick glance at “Wendell Berry” on Twitter shows a wide-ranging interest in another event from 2010: the withdrawal of his archives from the University of Kentucky because UK had accepted money from Big Coal and named a student residence building Wildcat Coal Lodge. 

I’m happy to see so much attention given to Wendell’s various adventures. It’s good to celebrate & remember anyone’s noble acts. But none of these tweets begin “‪#‎otd‬ (on this day) in 2010.” 

I guess we've just hit The End of History out here on the internet where all the clocks click Now and Now and Now.


Wendell Berry stands up for 19th century flatboat men

Like his apparent mentor, the Metropolitan’s caption-writer, Mr. Schwartz uses raftsmen and flatboats interchangeably as synonyms, and assumes that either a flatboat or a raft could be used to carry firewood to steamboats. A flatboat was used for transporting freight and could carry many tons, but downstream only. A raft was made of logs—or in Bingham’s paintings, squared timbers—to be transported, of course, only downstream. Both were equipped with long, heavy oars for steering, but they could not be rowed. Neither a flatboat nor a raft could have been used to supply firewood to a steamboat. Navigation of either a flatboat or a raft required great strength, skill, and knowledge—also courage, for the work was dangerous. The people who sold firewood to steamboats had first to cut the wood. And so there is no likeness whatever between Bingham’s river boatmen and gas station attendants.

Read more at The New York Review of Books