Standing by Words: Essays

Front Cover
Shoemaker & Hoard, 1983 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 213 pages
8 Reviews
In these six essays, award-winning author Wendell 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 words and their referents mirrors the increasing isolation of individuals from their communities and of their communities from the land. From the essay, Standing by Words, Berry writes, “Two epidemic illnesses of our time—upon both of which virtual industries of cures have been founded—are the disintegration of communities and the disintegration of persons. That these two are related (that private loneliness, for example, will necessarily accompany public confusion) is clear enough. What seems not so well understood, because not so much examined, is the relation between these disintegrations and the disintegration of language. My impression is that we have seen, for perhaps a hundred and fifty years, a gradual increase in language that is either meaningless or destructive of meaning. And I believe that this increasing unreliability of language parallels the increasing disintegration, over the same period, of persons and communities.” Out-of-print for more than fifteen years, Standing by Words offers a masterfully written argument for the literary tradition.

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Review: Standing by Words

User Review  - Cindy Rollins - Goodreads

I struggled with how many stars to give this. At times it was rough going. There were 5-star paragraphs throughout the book but it was not as easy to read as say, CS Lewis-a 5-star author. I might ... Read full review

Review: Standing by Words

User Review  - Ellen - Goodreads

Not quite what I was expecting but still interesting. I like his other works better. Read full review

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About the author (1983)

Wendell Berry The prolific poet, novelist, and essayist Wendell Berry is a fifth-generation native of north central Kentucky. Berry taught at Stanford University; traveled to Italy and France on a Guggenheim Fellowship; and taught at New York University and the University of Kentucky, Lexington, before moving to Henry County. Berry owns and operates Lanes Landing Farm, a small, hilly piece of property on the Kentucky River. He embraced full-time farming as a career, using horses and organic methods to tend the land. Harmony with nature in general, and the farming tradition in particular, is a central theme of Berry's diverse work. As a poet, Berry gained popularity within the literary community. Collected Poems, 1957-1982, was particularly well-received. Novels and short stories set in Port William, a fictional town paralleling his real-life home town of Port Royal further established his literary reputation. The Memory of Old Jack, Berry's third novel, received Chicago's Friends of American Writers Award for 1975. Berry reached his broadest audience and attained his greatest popular acclaim through his essays. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture is a springboard for contemporary environmental concerns. In his life as well as his art, Berry has advocated a responsible, contextual relationship with individuals in a local, agrarian economy.

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