Saturday, July 13, 2019

Lost Corners: Review of Wendell Berry book from 12 years ago

This summer and fall, I'm planning to read some of the works of Wendell Berry, who is described by the makers of the 2016 documentary Look & See as a "writer, poet, teacher, farmer, and outspoken citizen of an endangered world."

In deciding which of Berry's works to start with, I stumbled across a Goodreads review of his 1977 book The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. It was written by "David" in October 2007, twelve years ago. Twelve years seems like an eternity ago, doesn't it? George W. Bush was president, Mike Trout and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were in high school, and Robert Downey Jr. had a nice supporting role in Zodiac but was probably wondering what the next chapter of his career might offer.

I believe David's review ⁠— a very fine piece of writing in itself ⁠— is worth highlighting and saving elsewhere for posterity. So here it is:
"Recommended for: anyone who has felt emptiness in shopping malls

"maybe you'll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty-five cents. you'll pull it from the box. rub two dimes and five pennies together. you'll read it and research rain barrels. you'll sell that book to some used bookstore. you might. and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft. maybe she'll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption. maybe. or maybe she wont. maybe she'll walk more. and ride her bicycle to the local market. slowly. in gradual steps. she will find herself in her landscape. here is the revolution she might think as shuts her door for the last time. gone to a place. a plot of land that she cares for and which in turn cares for her. the nurturing of her landscape becomes almost spiritual in her recognition of the land and its affect on her.

"or maybe she is just standing in a shopping mall and feeling the emptiness. with the people walking by. talking into cell phones. bags on their arms. maybe she will stop there in the center of the mall feeling the emptiness.

"or maybe she will be driving city streets. just all green lights and fluorescent gas station lights and the radio playing some seventies song. and she will feel the emptiness. maybe she will pull into a grocery store parking lot at dusk and listen to the grackles as they call and shout on architect planned trees. in the calling of those birds the emptiness might turn into something else. a step. a decision. to bridge the gap of the estrangement of herself from her landscape. maybe her heart moves an inch closer to the right place."

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