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The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry Hardcover – April 16, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press; First Edition edition (April 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582431469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431468
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,062,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Writer and farmer Berry has long been an inspiration to the contemporary agrarian movement and a guiding light to people who care deeply about the health of their land and their communities. In his numerous books of essays, he has thoughtfully and articulately shown how the current consumer-based, profit-driven industrial society not only destroys our natural world but also increasingly harms our social and personal well-being. The 21 essays in this collection, written over the past two decades, provide both a splendid introduction to Berry's work and a stimulating compendium for those already familiar with it. These are beautifully crafted essays, replete with social criticism, righteous anger, moral guidance, and lyrical wording. Above all, they contain a reverence for the beauty and complexity of our natural world and a call to be good stewards of the earth and our limited resources. Berry states that we do not need to rely on constant technological progress to improve our future: "If we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us." Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Ilse Heidmann, Olympia, WA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Mr. Berry writes elegantly, effortlessly balancing tragedy and a quiet, sly humor."

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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on April 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cover to cover this book encompasses twenty-one powerful essays spanning as many years, from "The Unsettling of America" (1977) to "The Whole Horse" (1999). It is basically the backdoor into the house of Berry's thought, the best way to familiarize oneself with his writings without buying all his books. In fact, to date, it is the only such compilation currently available.
For me personally, reading Berry is a kind of sacrament taken with the utmost reverence and joy. Like the bark of an ancient redwood tree, the essays are imbued with scent and deep, earthly texture. This language serves the underlying themes well -- themes of love, work, earth and health. Indeed, many of the essays set out explicitly to reestablish the hidden connections between body and soul, individual and community; the former necessarily connected with the land that created and sustains us. Like hymns to one's sense of place, one reads Berry and is transported back home.
"I came to see myself growing out of the earth like the other animals and plants. I saw my body and my daily motions as brief coherences and articulations of the energy of place, which would fall back into it like leaves in the autumn."
Full of common sense, prophetic visions, poetic beauty and cogent analyses of America's cultural crises, these essays will retain their relevance and charm for generations if not millennia to come. At present, I can think of no single author better suited to guide us through these troubled times. Humble, illuminating, honest and profound -- this is one thinker not to be overlooked by anyone concerned with our fate as species and the fate of the planet as a whole. Definitely one of the most important, soul-satisfying books I have ever read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Karl Janssen on July 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had never read Wendell Berry before, and this book has provided me with a very comprehensive introduction to his thought. Berry advocates abandoning the present resource exploitative global industrial economy in favor of local economies and a more responsible, ethical treatment of the Earth. He is against "free trade" and the free market economy, because it strengthens corporations and eliminates farmers. He is a strong proponent of sustainable agriculture, but he mostly avoids discussing the science here and concentrates rather on the ethics of land use and food production. He's a confessed Luddite, in that he detests technology when it replaces human labor. He's also a devout Christian, but offers a unique interpretation of the Bible that sounds an awful lot like Pantheism. He believes we should place more emphasis on marriage, family, and community life, and replace our meaningless occupations with meaningful vocations. Berry's main argument is that for the sake of a little money and ease we have ceded too much of our decision-making responsibility to the corporations and the government, thereby giving up our personal freedom and becoming passive bystanders rather than active participants in the world in which we live.

Though I don't agree with Berry on every issue, I found his writings very enlightening and in some cases mind-blowing. Berry is a brilliant diagnostician. I doubt there's a writer alive who can better enunciate the ills of modern society. Unfortunately, this collection doesn't prescribe a clear course of treatment. Berry proposes we take up organic gardening and invest in local food--good first steps, indeed--but that hardly seems sufficient to overthrow a status quo that's existed since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ross bob mullins, jr on August 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These essays should be required reading for all college students. Even the parts that are not "politically correct" have an important message that needs to be heard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mick on January 18, 2013
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This book should be standard reading on every college campus and in every hall of power in America. Mr. Berry cuts through the branches and strikes at the root cause of our nation's moral decline; and he does so in a beautiful, eloquent, and poetic way. This book is a life changer.
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