|Wendell Berry. Photo: David Marshall|
Born in 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky, Berry published his first book, the novel Nathan Coulter (North Point Press), in 1960. A steady stream of publications in various genres followed, along with honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Poet Wallace Stegner once noted, “It is hard to say whether I like [Berry] better as a poet, an essayist, or a novelist. He is all three, at a high level.” Some of Berry’s better-known titles include A Place on Earth (Counterpoint), which the New York Times Book Review called “a masterpiece”; Collected Poems 1957–1982 (North Point Press); Another Turn of the Crank (Counterpoint); and The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Sierra Club Books). The rural Kentucky of his fiction has often been compared to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Like Faulkner, Berry has an ear for local language and a feel for place.
Berry taught for more than two decades at Stanford University, New York University, and the University of Kentucky, but he has now quit teaching. Since 1965 he has lived and worked on the 125-acre Lanes Landing Farm in the county of his birth. It was there that my wife and I visited him one Sunday afternoon. He was exactly what I would expect a gentleman farmer to be: tall, rangy in both body and mind, sagacious, and gracious. He and Tanya, his wife of fifty years, were impeccable hosts, making sure that we were seated comfortably on the porch and that our glasses of lemonade remained full. Earlier in the week, I had heard Berry speak to the Sierra Club in Louisville. Despite his busy schedule, he answered my questions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner reminiscent of his prose. The conversation touched on all the primary themes in his tremendous body of work: the importance of place, sustainability, and — above all — community."
Read the whole interview with Wendell Berry, by Jeff Fernside in the Sun Magazine: Wendell Berry On Small Farms, Local Wisdom, And The Folly Of Greed
If you after this interview want to read something by Berry, here are some suggestions: