Berry's own notice at the start of his novel Jayber Crow preludes his no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style (shown above). Just from this short passage, I can imagine conversing with this grandfatherly gentleman. And the words that would fall from his lips would be as rich and deep as the soil we would be walking on (because of course we'd be ambling across a fallow pasture on the outskirts of Port William...hopefully to sit a spell with Burley Coulter).
In his fiction, Berry creates a world (the town of Port William) and its inhabitants. He weaves together a community and a geneology and a history that will leave you knowing them, loving them, cheering for them, grieving with them. His writing is deceptively simple and straightforward, and simple sentences render the reader speechless with their power and beauty.
Port William reminds me of the small Southern town where I grew up. One where agriculture and family and community once shaped life. Berry is deeply devoted to the land, to community, to stewardship, and he both captures this fading world and communicates the beauty of it in his work.
Somethings wells in me when I read Berry's work. The same feeling I get when I pass through my hometown and see strip malls sprung up where pastures formerly spread. When we drive into the country where family farmland is now a golf course. As family names that stretched back generations fade from memory.
Thank goodness...In the works of Wendell Berry the best of this world is preserved.