I felt that their's was a relationship of expectations; neither one being able to accept the other. I seemed to loose my interest in the lives and people in the present time. Although it seems Jack was to blame for the failed marriage, both are guilty of withholding their God given role for marriage. Such a sad, painfully sad book. This is one of my all-time favorite books, although it is probably not for everyone. I related to the joys of working with one's hands and the feelings of both utter exhaustion and delight following a day of work in the fields. At his age, he's experiencing a little dementia, but I believe this is more a literary device for Berry than a valid medial diagnosis.
There is a sense of peace and continuity that pervades the tales. I'm not going to be able to say it eloquently, but I was so moved by Old Jack's contentment in the solitude of his work, yet also the pleasure of falling into rhythm when working with others. Why do so few authors try this approach? It is about the appreciation of good memories and the acceptance of mistakes made. Everything he writes is like poetry, and as such some may find him a bit ponderous, maybe even opaque. Published in 1974, it felt like it was written well before that.
Here they are, out of the sun, at rest, drinking for the pleasure of it the trickles of water melted from the ice in their glasses. Publicly they're a couple, privately they're strangers. There is wisdom beautifully expressed--about human behavior and the inherent beauty, importance and value of land. This book may now be my third favorite, not because of the enjoyment it gave me, but because of the glimpse it gave me into the emotional complexities of life. If help is needed, a man looks to himself or to his close neighbors.
Through his narrator, Berry offers a critique of unconsidered ambition, or ambition that adheres thoughtlessly to the ladder of success offered by the surrounding culture. Even though Old Jack sees people around him in rich and complex ways, Jack himself emerges as an incredibly complex character. Consequently, my own memories get mixed up with Berry's above passage. A farmer from Kentucky who writes about the evils of modern agriculture, the joys of engaging in meaningful work, and the importance of being connected to nature and place, it is all right up my alley, why couldn't I get into it? They do not forget, however, Old Jack, who for them stands as a symbol of the virtues of the way things used to be. While they build slowly, his courtship with Ruth and the episode with Will Wells take the book in surprising and heartfelt directions. He is almost bitter about this.
Bookseller: , North Carolina, United States Washington, D. Wendell Berry is incredible in many ways, and this book is beautiful. And that is only the first of the heartbreaks that Jack will endure. But more often it was grieving, without much hope and laughter. In this, the book reads as something of a communal memory, showing us the roots of Port William that are about more than traditions and practices, but about relationships with people and the ways in which those people have contributed to their lives. It captured so many of my feelings towards farming and the world in general.
Insofar as Jack keeps faith with the land and those he loves, he does it well. This book is definitely not for everyone, but I'm glad I finally was able to stick with a Wendell Berry novel. It is not a means to an end, it is not something to be put up with or endured; rather, it defines the man and emerges from the reality of who the man is. When he stepped into the first opening furrow of a new season he was not merely fulfilling an economic necessity; he was answering the summons of an immemorial kinship; he was shaping a passage by which an ancient vision might pass once again into the ground. Even with the faults, a decent copy of a fairly scarce book.
It was a good story, certainly, and his writing is always fantastic. Values are shared, and men know each other well enough to judge each other based on moral character, not on superficialities. I say this to defend myself, for I and other men I've spoken to find Berry's work moving in the way only a farmer's writing can be. Note: It's 's 81st birthday today! Over nearly a century, I watched one man's unbridled youthful zeal transform into specific hopes and dreams for loving one woman and working one piece of land. Beyond him was the peace and rest and joy that he desired.
One thing I find so compelling about this novel and much of the rest of the work of Berry is that he depicts men and women who are not disconnected from their work. God, in Ephesians 5, calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and wives to respect their husbands. But his fierce independence and self-reliance, and his love of his land, sustain him, and he grows in wisdom as he ages. His first memory is of watching his much-older brothers leave to fight in the American Civil War. A man who failed in so many ways.
At ThriftBooks, our motto is: Read More, Spend Less. The 92 year-old farmer relives his past, his loves and mostly his abundant failures. I just read it with a book group this time, and we talked a bit about Wendell Berry's unique writing style. Berry helps me better understand their world, especially my grandfather's world. Both Jack and his wife are too prideful to be the first to give what the other wants and were created to desire. Desperate to fulfill her expectations, or at least distract himself with more work, Jack bought more land and hired the help of a black man named Will Wells to tend to it.