Friday, February 18, 2005

Wendell Berry's Hannah Coulter

I'm always hoping people will read Wendell Berry at my recommendation. I contend he is one of the greatest writers of prose we have. I first read his non-fiction, the most recent of which was Citizenship Papers , which I gave away in mass quantities over the Christmas holiday. My favorite novel of his was Jayber Crow , and I also have recently cherished the short stories in That Distant Land . But now his newest novel has captured my love, at least in part because the prose and voice of the narrator is so much like another novel I have read recently, Marylinne Robinson's Gilead . Here's an excerpt from HC:

"I began to know my story then. Like everybody’s, it was going to be the story of living in the absence of the dead. What is the thread that holds it all together? Grief, I thought for a while. And grief is there sure enough, just about all the way through. From the time I was a girl I have never been far from it. But grief is not a force and has no power to hold. You only bear it. Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery."


  1. Tell us more about your love for Jayber Crow!

  2. Greetings! Nice to meet all the Lutheran bloggers. I've just begun my own blog, LutheranChik's L Word Diary. Check it out!

    P.S. I love Wendell Berry too. I often quote from his "Mad Farmer Liberation Front" oldie but goodie. Yes, indeed -- practice Resurrection!

  3. I gave my wife Hannah Coulter for Christmas and she, of course, loved it. We read all of Berry's stuff. But I have not gotten to Hannah, yet.

    Much as I love all of Berry's stuff, I cannot shake Jayber Crow from his post at the top of the pile. It is simply lyrical; it is one of the most touching meditations on fidelity that I have every read (even counting Tertullian); it draws so many of the strands of his various novels together.

    When we began a book discussion group at my church, I recommended Jayber as the first "read." Despite some fantastic other books, Jayber continues to be the favorite of most of our members. It has remarkable staying power and memorability.

    I haven't sought out a Wendell Berry fan club, but if you're hosting, I'll bring the wine.

    Peace (and sustainable agriculture),