- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint (23 Jun. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582437459
- ISBN-13: 978-1582437453
- Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.7 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,371,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Standing by Words Paperback – 23 Jun 2011
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"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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
This is not just reading, it's literature.
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.
The author justly criticizes the present's tenure track literature as "a voluminously inflated, mass-produced, journalized product, little used, but nevertheless the basis of a rich commerce in subsidies, grants, and teaching jobs." As an example of modern poetry's isolated uselessness, he cites Sylvia Plath, quoting Joyce Carol Oates's hostile, dismissive essay about her: "When the epic promise of 'One's-self I sing' is mistaken as the singing of single self and not the universal self, the results can only be tragic." But if Berry had paid much attention to Sylvia Plath, he would have known that her "tragedy" resulted not from being immured in the useless academic isolation wherein Joyce Carol Oates has spent a safe, comfortable life churning out "mass-produced, journalized product," but from her failed attempt to break out of useless isolation-- Plath left a safe teaching job at Smith-- and become part of the kind of rural, politically-involved community Berry recommends. She committed suicide because she got no support from society in trying to do this. And her poetry certainly has not proved "useless" although it hasn't contributed to the kind of hierarchical "decorum" that Berry keeps going on about.