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Standing by Words [Paperback]

Deborah Martinson
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Book Description

23 Jun 2011
"If we fail to do what is required and if we do what is forbidden, we exclude ourselves from the mercy of Nature; we destroy our place, or we are exiled from it." The essays of Wendell Berry are an extended conversation about the life he values; sustainable agriculture, a connection to place, the miracle of life, and the interconnectedness of all things. The existence of this life is dependent on our devotion to preserving it, an emotional proximity to the land that is slipping away from us. In six elegant, linked literary essays, Berry considers the degeneration of language that is manifest throughout our culture, from poetry to politics, from conversation to advertising, and he shows how the ever-widening cleft between the words and their referents mirrors the increasing isolation of individuals and their communities from the land. With his confident and unwavering prose, Berry assesses how the gap between modern communities and nature grew so large, how we may bridge it, and the role language plays in facilitating both parts. Standing by Words joins our new series, which celebrates the collected essays of Wendell Berry in beautiful, uniform editions.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (23 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437459
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437453
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,489,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This skillfully conceived book is one of the strongest contemporary arguments for literary tradition: a challenging credo, un-glib, calmly assured, clearly illuminating--and required reading for those seriously interested in the interplay between literature, ethics, and morality." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essay. He was most recently awarded the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya, in Kentucky.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive collection of critical essays. 10 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This collection of essays reveals Wendell Berry to be a lot more than a simple versifier and indeed a critic of the poetic process, of considerable standing. His examination of poetry anciemt and modern aswell as the proper use of language are meticulously reasoned pieces of academic rhetoric that requires close reading to appreciate in full. B ut if you are someone with a love of the use of language in debate and the deployment of propositions in establishing a principle, then this is definitely for you. There is none of the felicity of poetry to be found here; merely a well educated man defending all that he holds dear about the use of English. The very first essay makes clear that he is not with the modernisers and is almost scornful of the 1970's inclination to protest poetry, which he considers an abuse of the poetic idiom.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, poorly scanned. 24 Feb 2013
By Dr. Bill - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wendell Berry's prose is more musical than much poetry, and this meditation on commitment--to a poetic form, a patch of ground, or a marriage--is well worth reading.

Kindle did a poor job scanning the text. In addition to mangling the cover, they introduced at least one glaring misspelling every three pages. Fortunately, Berry is clear enough to survive their treatment. If you'd rather not carry around a paper copy, this is a passable substitute.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Community, poetry and marriage 13 May 2012
By Patricia Kramer - Published on
I admit I got bogged down in several of the essays and skipped through them. When I settled down and dug in, the words and ideas resonated as they always do when reading Wendell Berry. The essays I most connected to were "People, Land and Community" and "Poetry and Marriage".

There is a paragraph in the essay "The Specialization of Poetry" that strongly speaks to our times.
"Contemporaneity, in the sense of being 'up with the times,' is of no value. Wakefulness to experience - as well as to instruction and example - is another matter. But what we call the modern world is not necessarily, and not often the real world, and there is no virtue in being up-to-date in it. It is a false world, based upon economies and values and desires that are fantastical-a world in which millions of people have lost any idea of the materials, the disciplines, the restraints, and the work necessary to support human life, and have thus become dangerous to their own lives and to the possibility of life. The job now is to get back to that perennial and substantial world in which we really do live, in which the foundations of our life will be visible to us, and in which we can accept our responsibilities again within the conditions of necessity and mystery. In that world all wakeful and responsible people, dead, living, and unborn, are contemporaries. And that is the only contemporaneity worth having."

The false world has not improved in the 29 years since this essay was written.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Among The Best 28 Feb 2013
By Glenn W. Jolley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thankfully, this masterpiece is back in print after a far-too-long absence. This engaging collection of essays is Berry at his best and "Standing By Words" is quintessencial Wendell Berry. I first read this book over twenty years ago, lost my copy, and was grateful when it was reissued. I have discovered, again, how important Berry's insights and wisdom remains for our culture and how his writing stands the test of time and change. This book will delight the discerning reader of any age and culture.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standard Wendell Berry 22 May 2013
By Robert Hancock - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well thought out commentary written by a Kentucky master. I really like the chapter on Poetry and Marriage. Berry has a tendency to put phrases together in a way that has me thinking...."wish I'd said that".
This is not just reading, it's literature.
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