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Notes From a Native,
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This review is from: The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry (Hardcover)
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.