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Author Topic: A Place in Time, by Wendell Berry  (Read 1721 times)
Harold
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« on: December 31, 2012, 04:46:43 PM »

If you know me, you probably know that I adore the works of Wendell Berry.  It should come as no surprise then to have sensed my anticipation and excitement building since I first heard that he was gearing up to release a new collection of stories from the Port William township.

I was not let down.

In A Place in Time, Berry fills in some gaps in the Story of Port William, Kentucky, a fictional town in which he concentrates his colloquial creativity.  The collected stories in this volume span from 1864 to the present day, covering themes such as the multiplicity of sides in war; commentary on marriage and love, life and death, and specifically death that comes too soon; the art of imagination and remembering; the necessity and beauty of keeping sabbath; the power of forgiveness, of others and of oneself; dying, and dying well; returning to a well known place after an extended absence; finding one's identity, and the ways others can have an effect on that journey; the disintegration of community, in large part by the military industrial complex; leading a bifurcated life; and the unnecessary suffering and sorrow that we put ourselves through.  And in all of these, Berry writes not with a disdain for, but a love of life.

Though there are many melancholy moments, A Place in Time is, overall, a great deal less depressing than some of Berry's previously released volumes.  While reading the story, Down in the Valley Where the Green Grass Grows, I was overcome with a bout of belly laughter like I haven't felt in some time, having to stop and wipe the tears from my eyes, I was laughing so hard. 

As is always to be anticipated when reading anything by Berry, there are many clear, concise and pointed statements of wisdom and beauty laced throughout A Place in Time.

In closing, I will leave you with two such morsels that I've been continuing to chew on, as they seem particularly poignant today:

On sorrow, and the way we often bring more of it upon ourselves than we even realize:
"He would never know even the extent to which it's suffering had been unnecessary... He thought...of our half-lit world, a speck hardly visible, hardly noticeable, among scattered lots in the black well in which it spins.  If all it's sorrow could somehow be voiced, somehow heard, what an immensity would be the outcry!" (P 237).

And, to end on a positive note, the essence of community:
"a membership, as Burley liked to call it, a mere gathering, not held together by power and organization like the army, but by kinship, friendship, history, memory, kindness, and affection" (p 193).
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"If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are."
-Wendell Berry
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