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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moved to tears
I have not yet read this book, but have read many of the stories in it. One of its sources in particular, The Wild Birds (now sadly out of print), is one of the most moving books I have read in years. No story has ever moved me more than The Boundary, an absolutely beautiful reflection on memory, loss, community, belonging, family and life. It is a true gem from start...
Published on March 28, 2004 by Jim Leahy

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible all around.
I hated this book. Yes, the idea sounds cool because living in those times and dealing with everyday poverty right here in the USA sounded interesting. The author drones on with so much description in distracts from the story he is trying to tell. The story ideas are original but written in such a confusing and boring manner, it takes so much away. Maybe like someone in...
Published 24 days ago by NoaEliana


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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moved to tears, March 28, 2004
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I have not yet read this book, but have read many of the stories in it. One of its sources in particular, The Wild Birds (now sadly out of print), is one of the most moving books I have read in years. No story has ever moved me more than The Boundary, an absolutely beautiful reflection on memory, loss, community, belonging, family and life. It is a true gem from start to finish, and worth the price of this book alone. It speaks eloquently and beautifully of all the values that Berry holds dear. I grew up in a small city in England, and have no sense of rural Kentucky life, but the values which Berry sets forth are universally deep and meaningful. His portrait of life in the small community of Port William is vivid and rich with life and humanity. It speaks to the heart of anyone who feels the connectedness of our human condition.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That Distant Way of Life, August 5, 2005
As usual, Wendell Berry continues to prove his place in the American literary tradition; if only his place were more widely recognized. His prose flows onto the page as natural as flowers spring from the soil or rain falls from the sky. I think that is an apt comparison since many of his stories consider the relationship between man and nature. "That Distant Land" is a collection of twenty-three stories, many of which have been published previously. They are brought together marvelously, arranged in chronological order from the 1880s to the 1980s, flowing in and out of time with the neighboring stories.

Berry's fiction focuses on the invented town of Port William, a small farming community in Kentucky. For those who have read his novels, the characters and the town are familiar; for those who haven't, Berry's world is so infused with natural grace that one automatically feels at home in Port William and among its inhabitants. "That Distant Land" gathers together assorted stories about Port William's characters, some that are familiar and told from a different perspective, and some that might be unknown, but no less familiar.

I especially enjoyed the stories that told of Ptolemy Proudfoot and his wife, Miss Minnie Quinch. "A Consent", the story of their odd courtship, is a story that leaves your soul beaming at the simplicity and overwhelming power of love. The Proudfoot-Miss Minnie stories add a dimension of humor to this collection that is absent in other stories. Berry does not rush any of these stories along; some are short, light-hearted anecdotes - others are long, meandering wanders through time and memory. Perhaps the two most poignant stories in the collection are "Fidelity" and the title piece. Centering around Burley Coulter and Mat Feltner respectively, both are about the end of life, of the memories and people who shape our lives and the memories we will leave behind.

While telling his stories, working his way through the history of Port William, Berry affirms time and again a world alive with possibilities, to be what it is and also what it once was. A farmer in the oldest tradition, he is in love with the land and saddened by the 'advances' technology and urban growth have created. "That Distant Land" brings this home as it covers nearly a century of change in the world, and the decay that inevitably hits smalltown America, whose inhabitants feel that perhaps they have nothing left to offer their children that would entice them to stay and carry on their way of life. Berry, time and again, offers this hope, perhaps as a way of challenge.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate., May 18, 2008
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jblyn (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William) (Paperback)
Wendell Berry's fictional town of Port William, Kentucky has proven to be fertile ground for a legacy of graceful, lovely stories about the place and its citizens. Berry has a knack for honing in on the key moments in his protagonists' lives when they reach very personal revelations about themselves and those around them. Add to this a gentleness of style, whether the stories are funny, tragic and/or all points inbetween, and you have narratives that stay with you after you've finished reading them.

This collection of stories about Port William spans the late 19th century to the tail-end of the 20th century. Most of the stories have been anthologized in other collections, but taken together here in chronological order, this anthology makes for a novel-like whole about people, their town and their ways of life that are either gone or gradually disappearing. Rather than sadness, though, the overall sense I get from Berry's tales is one of gratitude that such lives and such times came to pass and that they could be chronicled.

Idealized and parochial visions? Perhaps, but in a USA that these days seems so broadly fragmented across social, political and geographic lines, and where so much time and energy is spent detailing the worst aspects of an American dream gone wrong, it's heartening to read fiction by someone who remembers the good if flawed humanity that we all possess. This anthology and Berry's other fiction about Port William are storytelling at it's best. Recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Collection of Stories, March 8, 2005
Wendell Berry has written twenty-three stories that he has considered worth publishing. They are all collected here. All but perhaps five have been published before in his collections Fidelity, The Wild Birds, and Watch With Me. This collection puts the stories in chronological order of occurrence, and its table of contents further puts Berry's seven novels into the chronology.

Every one of the stories is well-crafted, and, taken as a group, both their quality and their scope are little short of astonishing. From the tenderness of the stories about Wheeler Catlett and his law practice first collected in The Wild Birds to the boisterous, almost slapstick humor of the Ptolemy Proudfoot stories first collected in Watch With Me, Berry covers an impressive range of material.

He also confronts the reader with some difficult questions regarding the value of a way of life that had already, for the most part, vanished when he published the first of these stories. One need not agree with the answers that he suggests to admire and enjoy these stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Berry's work consistently satisfying, August 8, 2005
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I have deeply loved all of Berry's fiction. That Distant Land is particularly satisfying for showing the unfolding of many of his characters in a linear historical progression. The wealth of inter-relations and the handy genealogical tree of the characters brings all the characters into a full richness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and excellent., June 24, 2010
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This review is from: That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William) (Paperback)
I read this a few years ago, and just finished a reread. I haven't read anything else by Wendell Berry, but this is fantastic. It's a set of interlinked stories that take place in and around the fictional Kentucky community of Port William, and Berry's love of farming and the community that coalesces around farming is evident everywhere. His writing is elegant in its plainness, and beautiful in its prevailing sense of sadness. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Land and Memory, April 11, 2010
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This review is from: That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William) (Paperback)
"That Distant Land: Collected Stories" includes all of Wendell Berry's short stories published up to 2004. It's a remarkable body of work, and it's only the short stories - it doesn't include the novels, the books of poetry or the essays and articles.

Maybe I should say what a remarkable writer Wendell Berry is. If you haven't read Berry before, you should. Choose anything by him. Anything. In his novels and short stories, you walk into the fictional world of Port William, Kentucky. It is a small world, geographically speaking, a few square miles on the banks of the Ohio River across from Indiana. But it stands for something much larger, something more universal.

Two of the stories serve as a kind of bookend summary of the whole volume, and tell you much about the author's beliefs and philosophy, and the ideas that infuse all of his writing.

"It Wasn't Me" uses the form of an auction to pit a reverence for the land against the narrow and uncaring commercial use of it. There are three bidders: a young man named Elton Penn who has farmed the land for his landlord; a doctor, who is most likely looking for an investment and possible tax shelter but who would be more than willing to have Penn manage it; and a neighboring farmer who wants to expand his farm holdings, and this particular farm sits right in the middle of it. In the few short pages of the story, Berry explores motives and beliefs, stripping them down to bare essentials. This is a clichéd story of "good versus evil;" it is something deeper and more profound than that.

In the other story, "The Boundary," 82-year-old Mat Feltner's world has, because of his advancing age, become increasingly confined to the area immediately around his farmhouse. But he begins to worry that a fence hasn't been properly maintained, and he sets out on foot to check it, much to his wife's concern. The fence turns out to be fine, but Mat's journey turns into both an exploration of memory and the land, as well as a physical ordeal.

Both stories encapsulate the themes of all of Berry's writings, fiction and non-fiction alike:
* A spiritual reverence for the land. This isn't "nature for nature's sake" but a reverence that recognizes the innate connection we have to the land.
* A belief, some might say a recognition, that for most of us, the connection to the land is forgotten and broken. We think of it, when we think of it at all, as a financial asset, something that's part of our investment portfolio or that shelters taxes.
* We are stewards of the land, and because of that, we are also stewards of memory, because some of our most profound memories are found in land and place.

All of these stories display a beauty of thought and narrative. And they arranged in the table of contents in the order they occur in Berry's fictional world. (The novels are also listed in this chronology to show where they are placed in the rich world he's created.) Arranging them this way, and adding a genealogy and a map at the end of the volume, emphasizes that memory, history and people are inevitably one with the land, part of a coherent whole that Berry believes we have fractured and nearly destroyed in contemporary life.

He may have a point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Souls of the soil, December 29, 2007
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This review is from: That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William) (Paperback)
Wendell Berry reveals the hardy Depression-era souls of the Kentucky soil in their intimate rhythms of survival and subsistence. Stretched to their limits by the harshness of tedious labor, they remain decent, sociable, collaborative, resilient, and committed. Their modest dreams are often crushed, but they persist by honoring the traditions of their ancestors.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Counter-culture at its best!, August 3, 2005
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Saying that Berry is something like Faulkner feels like damning with faint praise, and that is not my intent. The comparison is inevitable, given that both men write stories about Southern characters, and that both authors ponder philosophy along with plot. But Berry is better than Faulkner, and better at all kinds of levels. He's a skillful writer; these stories are pleasurable to read. Plus, Berry has an idea of how the world has been, could be, and ought to be - but the doctrine is delivered painlessly and persuasively in these irresistable tales from Port William. A book that should be taught in college a century from now, if America survives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These stories stay with you., January 22, 2013
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I try to take my time when reading these selections as they are really cool. Now that I have read a few of his books, it is fun to get into a story collection and have a character pop up from one of the other books. Makes me want to go back and read the other stories again.
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That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William)
That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (Port William) by Wendell Berry (Paperback - March 10, 2005)
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