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The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry Paperback – August 5, 2003

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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

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 1 edition (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760078
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760076
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Kramer on May 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
For me the central theme of this book can be illustrated in this quote. " I don't think it is appreciated how much of an outdoor book the Bible is." Berry is a deeply religious man who lives his religion every moment in his deep, deep connections to the land, to all animals, to community,to the growing of food, and to the world as an organic entity.
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."
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Eanes on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sometimes, during and after reading a particular book, I feel as though I could not have read anything more appropriate at that time.

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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J Charles on January 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book took me more time to get through than any other I can recall, page for page, because I had to constantly set it down and take notes. In fantastic irony I was taking these notes on my phone and emailing them to myself. Berry would be so horrified! I ended up with about 6,000 words of notes from this, and that's from having read half the essays (generally I take about 0 notes when reading a text). As a young suburbanite who considers himself extremely "progressive" and very pro government, as someone who has made a life of living off fake food, as an atheist, as a rationalist obsessed with finding all the correct answers and believing we will find them in the laboratory, and as a current student at an agricultural university where the agriculture department is invisible (and committed to biotechnology) and everything else is business, I was taken by this selection of essays and essentially thrown against the wall. I've absolutely never been so influenced by a single text in my life.

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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael Tiemann on October 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
If I had to recommend one single book to inform the solutions to the problems of the 21st century, it would be The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry.

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.
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