At the AWP Conference a few years ago, I wandered into this talk by this old guy. I didn’t know much about him, but everybody was in such a hum that I thought I should go. I sat on the floor by the sliding wall in the hotel ballroom. I expected to be impressed; Instead, I was amazed. It was, of course, Wendell Berry, and I was listening to him talk about farming and land and food in ways my dad had repeated all my life. It was like I’d met my writerly grandfather.
Since then, I have become – like it seems most Berry readers – a bit fanatical, particularly about his essays. I snap them up whenever I can. I have almost every title on my Bookmooch list. And NOW I have a reason to read them with gusto instead of putting them off as pure pleasure reading.
Carrie at Books and Movies is hosting the Wendell Berry Challenge this year, and I AM SO IN. I’m going for the “Wading on In” Category where I need to read four books. I’m going to try out some of his fiction, but my first two books are essay collections –Bring It to the Table: On Farming and Food and The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry.
To keep myself on trac
k, I’m going to set myself the flexible goal of an essay a day. I’ll try to post what I think about them each week, and maybe you’ll be swayed to read Grandpa Berry, too.
Just to entice you to check him out (and join the Challenge if you’re so inclined), here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” – which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.
See what I mean?