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Scattering Point

The World in a Mennonite Eye

Jeff Gundy

Publication Year: 2003

Part memoir, part family history, part meditation on history and the present, this work of creative nonfiction allows Jeff Gundy to ask what it should mean to “live in the world but not of it,” as the traditional Mennonite saying recommends. As Scattering Point moves through time and space, it repeatedly questions how a modern, assimilated Mennonite poet and professor might live with some kind of fidelity to his tradition and to the promises and griefs of contemporary life. Scattering Point takes its title from Scattering Point Creek, which has its source on the author’s family farm in Illinois. This book explores that place while also ranging widely from it and the Amish and Mennonites who have been associated with the area for nearly the last century. It traverses the Illinois prairie to churches and caves in Europe and incorporates family stories, soil geology, the architecture of cathedrals and churches, reflections on depression, and Mennonite martyrdoms and schisms. Scattering Point speaks of the great questions of history and religion, the quiet lives of Amish and Mennonite men and women whose histories are almost forgotten, and of our lives today. Readers of all backgrounds will see something of themselves in Jeff Gundy who writes, “I must admit it: I do love this world and, many, though not all, of the things in it,” and whose quest is always for understanding that will allow us to “go back into the world more able to undertake the difficult work of loving it as we should.”

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page

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p. v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

My thanks to the editors of these periodicals, where earlier versions of these pieces first appeared: Creative Nonfiction: “Scattering Point” Conrad Grebel Review: “Fantasia with Raspberries, Baby Chicks, Wine and Roses”; “Scatter Plots: Depression, Silence, and Mennonite Margins” The Georgia Review: “Cathedrals, Churches, Caves: Notes ...

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pp. 1-4

I began this book with no idea that the dim but firm memory of my grandmother’s voice would come to encapsulate for me the cluster of people, places, and ideas that it unfolds and broods over. As I thought, researched and wrote, though, the memory kept ...

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CHAPTER 1. Cathedrals, Churches, Caves: Notes on Architecture, History, and Worship

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pp. 5-35

The layers of history, the ways the past persists, are easier to see in the Old World, where the irony of ancient towers juxtaposed against tattoo parlors and multinational fast-food outlets is inescapable. The smooth and rough children of western Europe at ...

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CHAPTER 2. Fantasia with Raspberries, Baby Chicks, Wine and Roses

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pp. 37-59

If my raspberries grow it’s in spite of all I do and don’t do for them. Mostly I treat them with a neglect I hope will prove benign. I think I fertilized them once, and in the dry years I spray some water their way every now and then—but I may just be ...

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CHAPTER 3. Scattering Point

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pp. 61-86

In my parents’ living room is a fat paperback book with a white cover and a lot of foldout maps in it—the Soil Survey of Livingston County, Illinois, issued by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in April 1996. As my father said, in a tone that mingled awe and rue, it’s really got a lot in it; besides ...

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CHAPTER 4. Scatter Plots: Depression, Silence, and Mennonite Margins

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pp. 87-115

When I began trying to write about depression I found it a difficult subject to approach. There have been hundreds of thousands of words written on the subject, but very few that speak clearly or simply. After nearly a year of reading medical books and ...

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CHAPTER 5. The Notebook in My Back Pocket

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pp. 117-138

These two statements have been banging around in my head for years. Clearly they conflict on several levels, but we might begin by noting the difference in pronouns. The first addresses a “you” who is presumably flirting with misguided individualism, if ...

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CHAPTER 6. Where We Live: Two Scenes from the Black Swamp

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pp. 139-150

Here on the table lands of what used to be the Great Black Swamp, the signs of its not-so-distant resistance to human habitation and travel are not easy to see. One sign is the topography, or lack of it—there are many places where you can look in ...

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CHAPTER 7. The Sparrow in the Mead Hall: On Birds, Souls, and the World

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pp. 151-166

Each new school year at my college begins with a formal convocation. The faculty march in clad in our full regalia, there is special music, an outside speaker aims to inspire us all to new heights of zeal for learning, and the first-year students are coaxed ...

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CHAPTER 8. “Would You Have Left All This for Waldo?”: Notes on a Partial Pilgrimage

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pp. 167-192

We came driving up to Wahlerhof around five o’clock, at least an hour late. It was the tail end of a long, absorbing afternoon we’d spent driving the winding roads of southwestern Germany, stopping to rubberneck and take pictures and talk in our awkward ...


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pp. 193-203

Works Cited

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pp. 205-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487174
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456576
Print-ISBN-10: 0791456579

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 19 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 55217048
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Scattering Point

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Subject Headings

  • Gundy, Jeffrey Gene, 1952-.
  • Mennonites -- Illinois -- Biography.
  • Gundy, Jeffrey Gene, 1952- -- Family.
  • Mennonites -- History.
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