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The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry Paperback – August 5, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
As wonderful as it is to have Poet Laureates, I wish we also had Philosopher Laureates and that Wendell Berry had that forum. His thoughts are important for the national consciousness.
"The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other. The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life."
Berry advocates watching government closely, nationally but particularly locally. When it comes time to protest, he calls for facts and good arguments, not just slogans and buttons.
"I would rather go before the governement with two people who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied."
These essays span several decades but the ideas are more relevant today than when they were written. The trends and programs, such as GATT and the loss of topsoil and the rise of megafarms, are as bad as he feared but time has proven them even more destructive.
"Restraint - for us, now - above all:the ability to accept and live within limits; to resist changes that are merely novel or fashionable; to resist greed and pride; to resist the temptation to 'solve' problems by ignoring them, accepting them as 'tradeoffs', or bequesthing them to posterity. A good solution, then, must be in harmony with good character, cultural value, and moral law."
The book blows me away with its depth, its insight, or the amazing questions it raises.
The Art of the Commonplace is one of those books, and it may be the best introduction to Wendell Berry a reader can ask for. As a collection of essays over more than twenty years, it covers a wide range of social issues-such as agriculture and the environment, family and marriage, consumerism, and globalism-which is amazing given that all of them relate to agrarian topics.
Berry poses questions that most of us never consider, and I believe that is the main reason Berry is one of the most desperately needed Christian writers in today's America.
Berry is the first person I have ever conversed with (and because of the way this man writes it feels like I did converse with him) who could explain traditional religious ideals in terms of their actual practical application. As a student of literature, despite my societal and technologically ingrained commitment to specialization and fragmentation and fracture, I at least recognize that there is something to a story, something that is difficult, right now, to explain in terms of a series of chemical reactions in the reader's mind. Don't misunderstand me: I am an atheist and a materialist still, but that's exactly the point. Berry, despite his protestantism, explains everything in the most rational and sequential way possible.Read more ›
Among the many great manifestos and other eye-opening books I have read, from The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals to Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair to Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman to Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy to The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage), I find all of them enriched by Berry's fundamental insights into the essence what what being human means, including the bits that, in the late 20th century/early 21st century, our modern society has attempted to ignore, diminish, or outright suppress. Berry's own unique experiences, and his poetic as well as prophetic ways of speaking bring us back to the garden, in both a literal and a religious sense. It is a return long overdue.
Michael Pollan was the first person to recommend Wendell Berry's writings to me, and my only regret is that I waited four years to actually act on his recommendation.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wendell Berry- if you know his writing and his life that says it all. Like leaning on a fence rail on an October day and listening to a fourth generation farmer talking of his... Read morePublished 7 months ago by kennethb
Bought as a gift for my husband--I'd say he loves it based on how often he's found reading it! Great for the small-farm minded soul.Published 8 months ago by mdb0083
Brilliant! Just what one expects from Mr. Berry. His essay on Race & Economics illustrates the insights we need- powerful and compassionate.Published 8 months ago by Charles L. Baker
Wendell Berry, what more can I say. A Prophet for our time.Published 14 months ago by John VanDerWalker
Challenging, insightful and packed full of amazing disclosures of what was in the mind of Wendell Berry on many subjects. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dan Grubbs
It is a thought provoking work written in a poetic way. It promotes a reconsideration of modern life in a great many ways. Mulitple re-readings will be necessary.Published 15 months ago by Helene Kasenko
Easily the best collection of essays on U.S. society I've ever read. And no partisan jibber-jabber! Berry has found a way to calmly discuss these things that transcends mere... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Ed in Oklahoma