Synopses & Reviews
For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the authors first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the stories dates range from 1864, when Rebecca Dawe finds herself in her own reflection at the end of the Civil War, to one from 1991 when Grover Gibbs widow, Beulah, attends the auction as her home place is offered for sale.
It feels as if the entire membership, all the Catletts, Burley Coulter, Elton Penn, the Rowanberrys, Laura Milby, the preachers wife, Kate Helen Branch, Andys dog, Mike, nearly everyone returns with a story or two, to fill in the gaps in this long tale. Those just now joining the Membership will be charmed. Those whove attended before will be enriched.
The story of the community of Port William is one of the great works in American literature. Published in the authors 78th year, this collection, the tenth volume in the series, is the perfect occasion to celebrate his huge achievement.
"And so its all gone. A new time has come. Various ones of the old time keep faith and stop by to see me, Coulter and Wilma and a few others. But the one I wait to see is Althie. Seems like my whole life now is lived under the feeling of her hand touching me that day of the sale, and every day still.
I lie awake in the night, and I can see it all in my mind, th old place, the house, all the things I took care of so long. I thought I might miss it, but I dont. The time has gone when I oculd do more than worry about it, and I declare its a load off my mind. But the thoughts, still, are a kind of company."
-- Beulah Gibbs
"Berry (Hannah Coulter) returns home to Kentucky in his 10th volume in the Port William Membership series with 20 new interconnected stories of the sleepy farming community and its townsfolk. Told from various perspectives and in cadenced reflections, these quiet and meditative 'relics and scraps of memory' speak eloquently of familial and romantic love, slavery and war, loss and time's slow but inevitable passing, all with a solemnity and candor often found in Faulkner or Twain. While each offering holds appeal, some are more striking than others. 'Fly Away, Breath (1907)' visits Granny Dawe on her deathbed surrounded by kin and, despite the somber mood, a sudden 'Hooo!' from the nearly departed lends buoyancy to the story. Reckless wonderment unique to adolescence runs deeply through 'Andy Catlett: Early Education (1943)' as 10-year-old Andy gets an illuminating bird's-eye view of his mother while awaiting her corporal punishment after tramping through the house covered in chimney soot. 'Stand By Me (1921-1944)' shows Berry's delicate treatment of tragedy as a stalwart father loses first his wife to illness and later his eldest son to the ravages of war. For longtime fans and those new to the series, this rich slice of evolving Americana is just as poignant and enjoyable as ever. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal, the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya, in Kentucky.