From Publishers Weekly
Set in a small Kentucky farming village, this collection of Berry's Port William stories illuminates the evolution of rural American life over the course of the 20th century. In 23 stories, Berry chronicles Port William from the 1880s to the 1980s, evoking the connectedness of the small town's denizens to each other and to the land. In "A Consent," a memorable auction of home-baked cakes launches a romance between farmer Tol Proudfoot and Miss Minnie Quinch, the schoolteacher who becomes his bride. Their courtship, marriage and life together form the backbone of several other stories-in "A Half Pint of Old Darling," set during Prohibition, Miss Minnie goes on a brief but garrulous bender. "Nearly to the Fair" describes how Tol and Miss Minnie "went easy into the modern world" with their first motor car, a Model A coupe in which they're never as comfortable as they are with their horses. The most touching story in the collection is "Fidelity," about a terminally ill 82-year-old farmer whose son kidnaps him from the hospital so he can die on the land he worked and loved. Though many stories move at a glacial pace, Berry's writing is graceful, poignant and compassionate, and his feel for the inner lives of his quirky rural characters makes for many memorable portraits. A valuable work of literature and historical set piece, this collection vividly captures the fabric of a kind of all-American life.
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This book collects all of Berry's short stories about the Kentucky farm community he calls the Port William membership and puts them in chronology according to the dates of their settings, from 1888 to 1986. Virtually every character in the stories appears in one or another of Berry's novels and narrative poems. Characters and Berry's simply worded, penetrating style are of a piece throughout. Berry knows one thing very well--a self-supporting, highly traditional community--and his mission in his fiction has been to show the richness and goodness of life within such a community. Tragedy, folly, and sin aren't excluded from the depiction; indeed, they are often as crucial to the stories as they are to Shakespeare's dramas. Yet there is an elegiac tone to the entire corpus, for the days of the Port Williams of the world would seem to be numbered; in the last story here, it is said that the membership is smaller than it has been since nearly its beginning. Indispensable to American literature collections. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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