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The Pencil and the Plough

christian tyler

Wendell Berry is a man who refuses to be categorized, because every label attached to him is a distortion of his views. Or so he feels. This lean and lanky, six-foot-something Kentucky farmer is every English city dweller’s idea of what a Kentucky farmer should look like. He has a long face, large hands, close-set eyes, a patient manner and an easy drawl. Yet he is not quite what he seems. Born the son of a tobacco grower who was also a lawyer, a Baptist and hereditary Democrat, Wendell Berry was university-educated and began life as a university lecturer, when he started to write fiction and poetry. In 1965, having turned 30, he went back to the place where his family had farmed for five generations and bought himself a homestead called Lane’s Landing near Port Royal on the banks of the Kentucky River. When I met him fourteen years ago, I suggested he was what in England we call a gentleman farmer. He denied it flatly. ‘No. Because I don’t hire my work,’ he said. ‘I do it myself – I and my wife. Or we swap work with our neighbours.’ What is not in doubt is that Berry is a prolific writer. He writes

Anyone wishing to explore the writings of Wendell Berry might also consider the following: That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (2004) • Shoemaker & Hoard • Pb •

448pp • £8.99 • isbn9781593760540; Three Short Novels: Nathan Coulter, Remembering, A World Lost (2002) • Counterpoint • Pb • 336pp • £9.99 •

isbn9781582432373; The Memory of Old Jack, A Novel (1974, revised 2000) •

Counterpoint • Pb • 176pp • £10.99 • isbn9781582430430; What Are People For?Essays(1990) • North Point Press • Pb • 210pp • $14 • isbn9780865474376.


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