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Andy Catlett: Early Travels (Port William) Hardcover – November 9, 2006


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Andy Catlett: Early Travels (Port William) + A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers familiar with rural Kentucky novelist (A Place on Earth), poet (A Timbered Choir) and essayist (Another Turn of the Crank) Berry and his vast repertoire will feel right at home in this slim, memoirlike novel narrated by the elderly Andy Catlett. In the winter of 1943, at age nine, young Andy is allowed to set out alone by bus from his home in Hargrave to Port William, 10 miles away, where both his parents grew up. After coffee at the bus station (a nickel) and quick trip, he is retrieved by his grandfather Catlett's mule team, driven by longtime hired black servant, Dick Watson. Andy's observations of his grandmother's unfussy cooking and the men's work stripping tobacco in the barn is full of nostalgic, admiring detail. Dick and Andy visit Dick's wife, Aunt Sarah Jane, whose superstitions and acute perception of racial inequity "introduced the fester of it into the conscience of a small boy." At a visit to his mother's more modernized family farm, the absence of Uncle Virgil fighting overseas is grievously felt, and Andy is allowed to listen to the radio before sleeping. "The world I knew as a boy was flawed, surely," Berry writes wisely, "but it was substantial and authentic." (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Berrys themes are reflections of his life: friends, family, the farm, the nature around us as well as within. He speaks strongly for himself and sometimes for the lost heart of the country. As he has borne witness to the world for eight decades, what he offers us now in this new collection of poems is of incomparable value. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Port William
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (November 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593761368
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593761363
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,452,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By SK on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
How many authors continue to get better as they get older? Berry does, because his work is built on solid foundations of spiritual and artistic discipline. He has never wasted his energy running after fashions, but rather has invested it in his family, his land, and his art. This book is therefore something quite rich, brimming full with clear-eyed insight into the human condition but even more importantly, with deep, sober, yet passionate love for humanity. As ever, the Port William microcosm shows a distinctly American possibility for life, and is tinged with an apprehension that this possibility is just about passed, with little to replace it. For all that, there is no despair here, but a living hope, whose only support is that that life is now on the page and can live in any reader. And you, dear reader, would be well-advised to open this book and join the Port William community.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on April 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Andy Catlett, title character, says this of one of his beloved elders, and means it about the entire ensemble of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family hires, and others in his close-knit world of childhood, a world that also nurtured him into and through adulthood. Nine-year-old Andy's first solo trip the ten miles to Port William is cause for the boy to ponder how best to navigate the expectations, customs, and burdens of the loved ones he visits after Christmas in 1943. Andy, the boy, is joined in his ruminations by Andy, the man already a father many years and a grandfather too, who seasons his recollections of that rite of his youthful passage with the knowledge and wisdom come from time and the bittersweetness of recollecting kin and kith all gone.

The copyright page carries the disclaimer, "This book is a work of fiction. Nothing is in it that has not been imagined." But as other readers have written, one can also imagine fictional Andy and real Wendell slipping into each others skins with ease. Wendell Berry preserves a slice of World War II rural and very small town life with such loving care and meditative dignity that it is difficult not to think of the slim book as intensely personal.

ANDY CATLETT: EARLY TRAVELS is my first dip into the "Port William series." Thanks to the irresistible thumbnail sketches of so many characters who inhabit the other novels, I'll be dipping into more -- such as HANNAH COULTER and JAYBER CROW. Ironically, because this book serves more as an introduction to the slate of Port William denizens than as a fully rounded novel, it earns from me four and a half stars instead of five. But truthfully, ANDY CATLETT: EARLY TRAVELS is no less a treasure for the absence of high drama.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on September 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wendell Berry has created something with the Port William Membership stories that perhaps no other writer has created. While other authors may return to the same character, no other author has crafted a series of tales and novels where the setting is more character than place. Reading the novels and stories of those who inhabit Port William and its environs is like returning home, like reliving your childhood and that of your ancestors, like seeing the world with brand new eyes.

In "Andy Catlett: Early Travels" Berry revisits a character readers familiar with his works have met later on in life. As an old man, Andy Catlett revisits the Christmas he was nine years old and was allowed to travel by himself to visit both sets of grandparents. To him it was the beginning of his manhood, a dividing time between his childhood and his future. He spends two days with his Catlett grandparents, witnesses their sparse economy and the simple life they lead among the encroachments of modernization. He also spends two days with his Feltner grandparents, more well-to-do farmers, but still exemplars of frugality and self-sufficiency. As an older man, he can look back on those few days and realize what he missed along the way and what he gained.

While slim and focused in scope, "Andy Catlett: Early Travels" reaches far and wide. Berry offers insights and observations into today's world without seeming to preach. His knowledge is assured and true and sad, in that through our modernization and our current way of life, we will not know how to provide for ourselves should our current system fail us. In times of economic crisis, these questions seem too obvious to ignore. And while Berry offers the condemnation that the present world may yet have to pay for what it has forsaken, he also offers reassurance and hope.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Kramer on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is another gift from Wendell Berry which urges us in its quiet yet strong way to remember where we came from and stop and think about where we are going. Looking back through the span of his life, Andy Catlett describes a time when family ties were strong and children were given the freedom to be responsible, to learn the value of work and to watch and grow within that family network.

I was delighted to read the section about the button box, as I was lucky enough to endlessly play with my grandmother's button drawer in her old Singer sewing machine. I am still playing with those buttons with my grandchildren.

"I went to the closet..behind Grandma's chair and took out her button box. Every house I visited as a child had a button box. It has disappeared now from every house I know, but then it was a necessary part of household economy. No worn-out garment then was simply thrown away. When it was worn past wearing and patching, all its buttons were snipped off and put into the button box. And then when something old needed a new button, or when something newly made needed a set of buttons, the button box provided. Grandma's was an old shoe box better than half full of buttons of all sorts. It was a pleasure just to run your fingers through, like running your fingers through a bucket of shelled corn. My old game with it was to paw through it in search of matching sets of button, especially the intensely colored glass buttons that had come off dresses. I sat on the floor by Grandma's chair with the box in my lap and fished out a set of shapely black buttons and lined them up on the linoleum beside me.

And then it came to me that I was no longer interested in button boxes.
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