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The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry Paperback – August 5, 2003
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"Here is a human being speaking with calm and sanity out of the wilderness. We would do well to hear him."
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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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.
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. He is the first person who's been able to explain why marriage matters in a way my mind can grasp, why fidelity matters, why restraint matters. Amazing. These are things I've always felt mattered, but had suspected it was merely the product of my upbringing and culture. Berry absolutely undermined my sense that the humanities and higher education and "critical thinking" ought to be the way to go. I'm still just blown away by how radically my perceptions have been altered.
Perhaps for folks who grew up on farms, this all is nothing new. This collection is critical for those land and food starved folks like me, those trained in critical thinking who have that nagging sense in the back of their mind that they are missing something.
I've already ordered two of these to ship to friends and family, and I can't wait for spring, where I can at least be part of a community supported agriculture project, a shared venture for fresh food, something to reconnect me to the cycle, because that's what it is -- and I'd never once considered that. We humans, we don't have to be a disease.
There is a lot of repetition in this book, because it's a collection of essays spanning, I don't know, 40 years. But repetition is perhaps what people like me need before we can even begin to begin to begin to GET IT. Also, while I skipped several essays, as the reading was on assignment for a literature course, whatever you do, get your hands on this and read the essay "The Body and the Earth."
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Wendell Berry's writing makes it clear that he sees a naked emporer -- but what sets him apart in my estimation, is...Read more