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Published Date : October 23, 2012
For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the author’s first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the stories date’s range from 1864, when Rebecca Dawe finds herself in her own reflection at the end of the Civil War, to one from 1991 when Grover Gibbs’ widow, Beulah, attends the auction as her home place is offered for sale.
It feels as if the entire membership, all the Catletts, Burley Coulter, Elton Penn, the Rowanberrys, Laura Milby, the preacher’s wife, Kate Helen Branch, Andy’s dog, Mike, nearly everyone returns with a story or two, to fill in the gaps in this long tale. Those just now joining the Membership will be charmed. Those who’ve attended before will be enriched.
The story of the community of Port William is one of the great works in American literature. Published in the author’s 78th year, this collection, the tenth volume in the series, is the perfect occasion to celebrate his huge achievement.
“And so it’s all gone. A new time has come. Various ones of the old time keep faith and stop by to see me, Coulter and Wilma and a few others. But the one I wait to see is Althie. Seems like my whole life now is lived under the feeling of her hand touching me that day of the sale, and every day still.
I lie awake in the night, and I can see it all in my mind, the old place, the house, all the things I took care of so long. I thought I might miss it, but I don’t. The time has gone when I oculd do more than worry about it, and I declare it’s a load off my mind. But the thoughts, still, are a kind of company.”
Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal, the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya, in Kentucky.
Praise for other fiction by Wendell Berry:
“Wendell Berry has constructed an almost perfect fiction, a sublime meditation on how irrevocable loss is redeemed through a renewed sense of kinship with the land and the past.” —The Washington Post
“Berry is a philosopher, poet, novelist, and an essayist in the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau… like Thoreau, he marches to a different drummer, a drummer we would do well to be aware of.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Berry is at his best when his characters’ competent, self-sufficient lives are thrust against the brutal forces of modernity. The clash strikes at the foundation of values of hard work, decency, and trust. And it drives his characters to deeper, truer realizations.” —Seattle Times
“Port William [is] one of the most richly imagined communities in contemporary fiction.” —Kirkus
Praise for Collected Poems:
“[Berry’s poems] shine with a gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder of life.”–The Christian Science Monitor
“Wendell Berry is one of those rare individuals who speaks to us always of responsibility, of the individual cultivation of an active and aware participation in the arts of life, be they those of composing a poem, preparing a hill for planting, raising a family, working for the good of oneself and one’s neighbors, loving.”–The Bloomsbury Review
Praise for Entries:
“If you’re wondering where all the sincerity has gone in contemporary poetry, you may rest assured that Wendell Berry has it.”–Bookpress
“Disarming in its apparent simplicity and powerful in its lack of guile.”–San Marcos Daily Record
Praise for Given:
“For those who believe that life and the world are gifts, this is an invaluable book.”–Booklist
“[Berry’s] sage mind and poetic skills combine to skewer political arrogance, savage commercial folly, muse on growing old and lament a good dog’s death. Mindful of time and earth, of joy and love, Berry calls us to the hard work of a hope and peace and gratitude so incarnate that they rest ‘on the ground underfoot.’”–Christian Century