Wendell Berry is one of Kentucky’s best-known citizens. He has distinguished himself as a poet, essayist, and philosopher, and, like Jesse Stuart, he is a great conservationist who loves his Kentucky homeland.
Berry was born in Louisville on Aug. 5, 1934. He grew up in Henry County, attended Millersburg Military Institute, and earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Kentucky. Like several of his writing friends, he received a prestigious Walter Stegnor Fellowship at Stanford University where he studied creative writing. He has held faculty positions at Georgetown College, New York University, and the University of Kentucky.
In 1960, he published his first novel, “Nathan Coulter,” the first of his books about Port William, a fictional river town based on Berry’s hometown of Port Royal. For more than 40 years, Berry’s more than thirty published books and widely published essays have been strong advocates for living in harmony with the land and respecting and preserving the natural world. Today, he and his wife and family live on a small working farm new Port Royal.
Berry’s novel, “Nathan Coulter,” is included in the book, “Three Short Novels,” a chronicle of one community’s response to the sense of loss and fractured hope brought on by the Second World War. Young Nathan, in “Nathan Coulter,” struggles to grow up and understand the value of land and family. With the death of his grandfather, Nathan sees that “his life couldn’t be divided from the days he’d spent at work in his fields.”
In “Remembering,” it is 1976 and Andy Catlett is alone in San Francisco, walking the streets at dawn. In the eight months since losing his right hand to a corn-picking machine, he has also lost himself and his sense of place. Two thousand miles from home, he begins to remember — people, places, the comfort of knowing land intimately.
A “World Lost” opens in the summer of 1944 when 9-year-old Andy is engrossed in the cool water of Chatham Spring and fields full of tumblebugs and meadowlarks. But calamity strikes Andy’s world on a hot July afternoon when his Uncle Andrew is murdered.
Wendell Berry has said of “Nathan Coulter,” “When I finished work on this book at the end of the 1950s, I thought merely that I had made my start as a writer. I did not know that I had begun an interest in these characters that would still be productive over thirty years later.” The Port William series promotes Wendell Berry’s profound and inspiring vision of a compassionate and unsentimental duty to the land and to our communities.
“Three Short Novels” and other books by Wendell Berry, including “Hannah Coulter,” “The Memory of Old Jack,” “Humane Vision of Wendell Berry,” and “A Continuous Harmony,” are among the thousands of Kentucky and Appalachian books available in the Jesse Stuart Foundation Bookstore & Gift Shop at 4440 13th Street in Ashland. For more information, call (606) 326-1667, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit jsfbooks.com.