Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jayber Crow

Jayber is the kind of person you'd like to spend time with. Berry's narrators are often of that type. When I finished reading the novel, I wanted to get in my car and drive to wherever Jayber still cuts hair, and get mine cut.

The mystery is, if I got my hair cut there, we probably wouldn't have a profound conversation about the environment, or sustainable agriculture, or anything of the sort. Jayber is so embedded in his place (though always a bit of a stranger) that you'd just get a small piece of his life, which would then be like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, only whole if fitted within the total picture.

Jayber begins life wandering, but has the good sense to settle in some place. His wandering through flood and storm to a final good place to live and work and be is one thing. His long-lived but unfulfilled (?) love is another. There is a sense of completeness in the midst of the incomplete.

Jayber Crow narrates what we've lost in the modern world better than any other novel I know. Without romanticizing the past. Quite a feat.

The other reason Jayber Crow is a good entry into Wendell Berry's fiction is that it makes you want to get to know the history of Port Williams. Which is why you go read That Distant Land, and then, in an evening, Hannah Coulter. I know of no other writers who's fiction and non-fiction are so of a piece, and breathe the same life.

1 comment:

  1. Fair enough. It's going on my reserve list at the library.