I want to love Wendell Berry. What should I read by him?
January 7, 2019 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to familiarize myself with Wendell Berry's work but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed due to the sheer number of essays, books, short stories and poems he's written. There's a newish anthology of essays, but is he better known as a novelist? Would it be better to start with things he wrote earlier in his career, or later? Help!

I love fiction - if there is a specific novel that you think would be a great entry to his work, I'd love to hear about it. I like poetry but I'm more of a savor-a-single-Mary-Oliver-poem-for-a-year sort than a read-a-book-of-poetry type of person. I could do essays, but would prefer essays around a specific theme or idea rather than an assortment. Basically, what has he written that makes you absolutely love him?
posted by rogerroger to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
The World-Ending Fire is a point of entry: it's an anthology covering his entire career (originally compiled to introduce him to British readers) showing where he was prescient but also how his core themes evolve.
posted by holgate at 6:23 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I have been savoring this amazing poem for years
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
posted by Heloise9 at 11:47 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I just read Jayber Crow (one of Berry's Port William novels) at the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend. I can't speak to it's relative merits compared to the rest of his works, since I haven't read them yet. I can say that I loved it and immediately checked out three more of his books from the library.
posted by ourobouros at 5:45 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of Mr Berry! I've read almost all of his non-fiction and poetry. The Mad Farmer Liberation Front is a great poem to start with for sure. The book that got me hooked was LIFE IS A MIRACLE. Make sure you have a pencil handy, you may feel compelled to underline a lot!

“I think that the poet and scholar Kathleen Raine was correct in reminding us that life, like holiness, can be known only by being experienced. To experience it is not to "figure it out" or even to understand it, but to suffer it and rejoice in it as it is. In suffering it and rejoicing it as it is, we know that we do not and cannot understand it completely. We know, moreover, that we do not wish to have it appropriated by somebody's claim to have understood it. Though we have life, it is beyond us. We do not know how we have it, or why. We do not know what is going to happen to it, or to us. It is not predictable; though we can destroy it, we cannot make it. It cannot, except by reduction and the grave risk of damage, be controlled. It is, as Blake said, holy. To think otherwise is to enslave life, and to make, not humanity, but a few humans its predictably inept masters.”
posted by pjsky at 7:26 AM on January 8


You can't go wrong with any of the Port William books, in any order. A Place on Earth is a fine start. I recall really liking Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter.
posted by Leona at 8:41 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Thanks all, I look forward to diving in.
posted by rogerroger at 8:17 PM on January 10


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