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Essayist, social critic, poet, “mad farmer,” novelist, teacher, and prophet: Wendell Berry has been called many things, but the broad sweep of his contemporary relevance and influence defies facile labels. With his unique perspective and far-reaching vision, Berry poses complex questions about humankind and our relationship to the land and offers simple but profound solutions. Berry’s essays, novels, and poems give voice to a provocative but consistent philosophy, one that extends far beyond its agrarian core to include elements of sociology, the natural sciences, politics, religion, philosophy, linguistics, agriculture, and other seemingly incompatible fields of study. Wendell Berry: Life and Work examines this wise and original thinker, appraising his written work and exploring his influence as an activist and artist. Jason Peters has assembled a broad variety of writers including Hayden Carruth, Sven Birkerts, Barbara Kingsolver, Stanley Hauerwas, Donald Hall, Ed McClanahan, Bill McKibben, Scott Russell Sanders, Norman Wirzba, Wes Jackson, and Eric T. Freyfogle. Each contributor examines an aspect of Berry’s varied yet cohesive body of work. Also included are highly personal glimpses of Wendell Berry: his career, academic influence, and unconventional lifestyle. These deft sketches of Berry show the purity of his agrarian lifestyle and demonstrate that there is nothing simple about the life to which he has devoted himself. He embraces a life that sustains him not by easy purchase and haste but by physical labor and patience, not by mindless acquiescence to a centralized economy but by careful attention to local ways and wisdom. Wendell Berry: Life and Work combines biographical sketches, personal accounts, literary criticism, and social commentary. Together, the contributors illuminate Berry as he is: a complex man of place and community with an astonishing depth of domestic, intellectual, filial, and fraternal attributes. The result is a rich portrait of one of America’s most profound and honest thinkers.
Jason Peters is Dorothy J. Parkander Chair in Literature, Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
"This is a superb collection. Berry is one of America's greatest social critics, essayists, and poets, and the grand simplicity and unity of his life and thoughts emerges from the fascinating details of his personal history, captured beautifully in the words of his friends." --David Ehrenfeld, author of The Arrogance of Humanism and Swimming Lessons: Ke
"Though the 'characters' herein are real people, there is magic in this book that rivals the best of Wendell Berry's writings. Over and over we see solitary readers grappling with Berry's art and thought amid struggles and in places unknown to the author. The magic is that they receive direction and succor even so. The loving reciprocity of these 'What I've Gained from Wendell' tales is so natural yet powerful it brings to mind planting and harvesting. The integrity-filled life, poetic depth, devastating prophesies, and superlative prose of Mr. Berry long ago achieved a consistency that verges on the relentless. To see his good work gently rise from the page, years and miles later, to touch lives he has not imagined in ways he has not foreseen, converts this near relentlessness into simple grace." --David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K
"I can't think of any subject matter more timely, and timeless, than the suite of ideas that Wendell Berry has championed over the years. While giving thoughtful attention to those ideas, this anthology also offers rare insight into the person behind the words. Like the unmistakable laugh of Mr. Berry himself, it is sure to leave readers both invigorated, and basking in the grace of this gentle, wise man." --Jennifer Sahn, editor of Orion magazine
"[A] stimulating collection. Berry has long deserved such a masterful collection as this. Peters’ volume does what the best of the collections always do: It drives us to pick up Berry’s writings and read them over and over again." --Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., Charlotte Observer
"The essays collected by Peters unearth a simplicity and unity beneath Berry’s complex surface, proffering a source of inspiration for those seeking to live life better and encouraging audiences to forsake worldly consumerism in favor of consumption of Berry’s words." --Kentucky Monthly
"If it is true that we live lives of noisy desperation, prone to the seductions of fashion and to the ‘thrall of our appetites,’ we could do worse than to hear a voice that offers an alternative. Wendell Berry: Life and Work is a rewarding way to begin listening to such a voice." --Paul Doerksen, Winnipeg Free Press
"The most comprehensive single source evaluating Berry and his impact." --Whitney Hale, UK News
"Pairing literary criticism with more personal work, Peters' volume does a remarkable jobn connecting the dots between Berry's physical labors and his intellectual ones." --The Post and Courier (online)
"This appreciation of Berry by friends and colleagues is a fitting tribute to a man whose writing truly has the power to change lives." --Carmichael's Bookstore Catalog
“Those who admire Berry’s work will want to pick up this book even if they may already own some of its contents, because there is no other single volume that paints so complete a portrait of this remarkable man.” --Scott P. Richert, The University Bookman
“Anyone undertaking a serious study of Berry will want this book. Those familiar with only one of his genres will find it a helpful introduction to the full range of his writing and activism.” --Lisa Woolley, Bloomsburg Review
“The wonderful thing about this collection of essays is that it demonstrates just how varied and far-reaching Berry’s influence has been and how meaningful his work is to his readers in so many different ways.” --Resurgence
"Taken in sum, these essays illuminate the life and work of one of America’s most provocative native thinkers in which the reader senses what the subject professes he lives." --Richard Taylor, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Shuman and Owens . . . presents articles based on how the work of author Wendell Berry can be interpreted in the context of living a true Christian life." --Book News Inc.
"[The contributors] discuss [Berry’s] placing community and interaction for the common good over the centralization of the work and life of the world." --Mary Popham, Courier-Journal.com
"A broad collection of writers examines the famous Kentucky agrarian writer’s work through a series of essays." --Lexington Herald-Leader
"This collection is a must-read, must-own….It is filled with the richness of writings from the essayists who delineate not only Wendell Berry’s great works, but give us a glimpse of the man, one of Kentucky’s greatest wonders." --Mary Popham, Louisville Courier-Journal
"This is a remarkable collection for reference and reflection."--Mary Popham, The Courier Journal
"This collection of essays put together by editor Jason Petes are written by 27 scholars, activists, and fellow authors that 'unite considreations on Berry's thinking, friendships, and labor.'. . .[It] is perhaps as good a glance inside the soul of Wendell Berry as one could hope for." -- Modern Mountain Magazine
“Not only reminds us why it is such a pleasure to read Wendell Berry’s work...but it further compels readers to take seriously the implications of his work for their own lives and in their own communities. In doing so, it serves to extend the already considerable reach of Berry’s legacy.”--Journal of Agriculture and Human Values
In many ways, this collection reads like a tribute to Wendell Berry and through this tribute the authors lead the reader into Berry's thoughts on community, responsibility, and fidelity and these qualities are the yardsticks of happiness. One of the points driven home by this collection is that one should not consider the writingsof Wendell Berry without also considering his life, and thus the title of this collection is appropriate. -- Jacob Jones, University of Florida -- Jacob Jones
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Peters, Jason, "Wendell Berry: Life and Work" (2007). Environmental Sciences. Book 7.