Standing by Words: Essays
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.