WHAT ARE PEOPLE FOR? by Wendell Berry


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The test of imagination, ultimately, is not the territory of art or the territory of mind, but the territory underfoot,"" writes Kentucky poet, novelist, and essayist Berry (Remembering, 1988; Home Economics, 1987, etc.). In this latest collection of essays (most previously published in Harper's, The Nation, and elsewhere), Berry bends his imagination to the task of inspiring, chastising, and goading us to recognize the wisdom of cherishing community and local work over a national economy and culture that he sees as determined to wreck the planet. In ""A Remarkable Man,"" Berry uses a book review as an opportunity to celebrate an illiterate black farmer born in 1885. Nate Shaw, by Berry's measure, had the kind of superior intelligence that can only come when thoughts and words are intimately connected to physical experience and deeds. Berry expands this definition of intelligence in ""Writer and Region"" to include the capacity to grasp the value of community. To him, Mark Twain reveals our national tragic flaw by letting his characters ""light out for the Territory"" rather than staying put to find their own rustic version of Aristotle's vision of the goal of tragic drama: ""The fulfillment and catharsis that Aristotle described as the communal result of tragic drama is an artificial enactment of the way a mature community survives tragedy."" From his eloquent homage to local work--along with the deep pleasure of knowing where the food one eats comes from--to his cranky condemnation of the personal computer, Berry urges us to wake up and see what we're doing to our earth and to ourselves. A profound, well-crafted book. Berry brings a unique--if somewhat curmudgeonly--voice to the growing environmental movement, a voice that has, in his own words, ""the exactitude of conviction.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1990
Publisher: North Point