In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

466 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE (creative love, self-emptying incarnation);' the test of which is "the presence of something like that pattern in a human life seen as a whole" (152). "Heaven's earthly life;' which serves as the subtitle to this book, comes from one of Berry's Sabbath poems (2004), a poem about Blake's painting, "Jacob's Dream;' and the account thereofin Genesis. The speaker of the poem asks whether Jacob, in his reverie, is living "his part / Of Heaven's earthly life" and ends with the assertion that Jacob's "meager sod" and "low estate" is in fact "the household of God. / And it is Heaven's gate:' This is a thoroughgoing sacramental view of nature. It would please the likes of Flannery O'Connor, who never tired of saying that we approach the infinite by the penetration of the finite. And it is to the credit of Shuman and Owens that, whatever the weaknesses of this book, they have given us a collection alert to this very sacramentalism. No one who reads Berry well can be other-worldly without first being profoundly this-worldly-an important fact not lost on any of the contributors here. Jason Peters Augustana College(Illinois) The Achievement of Wendell Berry: The Hard History of Love. By Fritz Oehlschlaeger. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2011. ISBN 978-08131 -3007-1. Pp. 322. $40.00 Fritz Oehlschlaeger's book pieces Wendell Berry's extensive writings into a carefully crafted quilt, revealing the pattern oflove that runs through Berry's entire oeuvre and binding this pattern into a unified whole. While this task is made easier by the cohesive vision that informs Berry's essays, fiction, and poetry, it remains a Herculean effort because of the thematic and generic range of his work. Other recent assessments of Berry take more focused approaches: Kimberly K. Smith's Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition: A Common Grace (2003) considers Berry from an Agrarian perspective, J. Matthew Bonzo and Michael R. Stevens' Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life: A Reader's Guide (2008) introduces Christian readers to Berry, and the essays collected by Mark T. Mitchel and Nathan Schlueter in The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry (2011) reflect on Berry's contribution to conservative thought. But instead of bringing Berry into any particular conversation, The Achievement of Wendell Berry attempts, in the words of its dust jacket, to "provide a comprehensive introduction to the philosophical and creative world of Wendell Berry:' This bold endeavor is both its strength and weakness: the lack of any specific focusing lens enables Oehlschlaeger to offer a sympathetic overview of Berry's thought, but the absence of a more narrow thesis BOOK REVIEWS 467 causesthe book to lapse, at times, into a simple summaryof Berry'sessaysor stories. It is certainly no slight to Oehlschlaegers lucid prose to note that at these points, I would rather read Berry's writings themselves. Nonetheless, The Achievement of Wendell Berry serves as an affectionate and knowledgeable guide to the prophetic essays,reflectivefiction, and attentive poems by which Wendell Berry calls us to act out an exacting love for our places. Oehlschlaegers sympathetic attitude toward Berry is clear from the first page, where he acknowledges the difficulty posed by the "Notice" that Berry posts at the beginning of his novel layber Crow: "Persons ... attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise 'understand' it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers" (1). Berry's choice of location for his exiles is fitting since he views our culture's tendency to explain and analyze everything rationally-to the exclusion of an imaginative, affectionate understanding-as one of the ways we turn our places into isolated deserts. Oehlschlaeger avoids reductive explanations, then, and instead responds to Berry with affection, reading his "work with an eye toward learning from it, not simply about it" (3). In the first chapter, Oehlschlaeger addresses himself to learning "alanguage of practices, particulars, and virtues" from Berry and then considering in turn several of the virtues-such as "prudence, courage, justice, equity, and friendship"-that are central to Berry's vision (10). Oehlschlaeger views Berry's...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 466-469
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.