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October 2018

Getting my Wendell Berry in, just under the wire.

Hey everyone. Where did October go?

I know our discussion this month was supposed to be about Wendell Berry's Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, and I'm truly sorry to report that I did not get the entire book read, or any posts done. Because I can tell it is a truly great book. I can tell that mostly because I know how Wendell Berry writes, and I know a lot about how he thinks, and he is RIGHT ON. But I can also tell that it is great because it contains paragraphs like this:

"Most of us get almost all the things we need by buying them; most of us know only vaguely, if at all, where those things come from; and most of us know not at all what damage is involved in their production. We are almost entirely dependent on an economy of which we are almost entirely ignorant. The provenance, for example, not only of the food we buy at the store but of the chemicals, fuels, metals, and other materials necessary to grow, harvest, transport, process, and package that food is almost necessarily a mystery to us. To know the full economic history of a head of supermarket cauliflower would require an immense job of research. To be so completely and so ignorantly dependent on the present abusive food economy certainly defines us as earth abusers. It also defines us as potential victims." (pp. 36-37.)

He's got something like that on almost every page. It's so true it's exhausting. But at one point he talks about "good work," and what he means by that phrase. Trust me, reading this book would be "good work." I'm still not fully back on my reading game, but I'm going to continue with this one, however long it takes me.

Questions about the comments.

Hi everyone!

Nothing about essays or books today, just a blog housekeeping question. A friend has reported she's having trouble leaving and viewing comments--is that happening to everyone else? Anyone able to leave a comment, view the comments, or not?

I've looked things over on the back end and it all seems set up properly, but what I don't know about TypePad is a LOT, so I thought I'd ask. Thanks for the help!

*Sorry--it just occurred to me that if you can't leave comments I wouldn't know. If you can't leave or view any comments, please email me at [email protected]. Thanks!


Really teeny tiny review: Anne Tyler's Clock Dance.

I'll say this for Anne Tyler: even when she's phoning them in (and Clock Dance feels just a bit phoned in, although it is still quite good), I still really like her writing. You can read a book of hers about families and people and interpersonal relationships, and when you're done, you don't feel depressed and you don't feel like there's no point. And that's rare in modern fiction.

Welcome to October: and Wendell Berry.

I gotta be honest with you: this autumn is turning out to be a bit of a shitstorm.

I mean, it's fine and all. We're good, generally. But you've got to let me kvetch just a bit about our Midwestern autumn. It's turning out just like our Midwestern spring was this year: aggressively dreary, cold-ish, WET. Now, I live for fall. I live for autumn sunshine that is warmer than spring sunshine and autumn breezes that are crisper than spring breezes. I live for the changing colors of leaves, and the dry skittering of leaves on the road. I live for they drying out and rustling of corn, and the bright orange of pumpkins glowing in the sun. And I am getting NONE of that. Seeing as how a nice autumn season of two to three weeks of nice 65-degree weather and fall light is pretty much one of the only reasons I live in Wisconsin, this lack of a nice fall is seriously chapping my hide. (All the more so because autumn 2017 was a lot like it--wet, dreary, stupid.)

Okay. I think I have it out of my system. Thank you.

Now: to close out September? I can't say I was crazy about Leslie Jamison's The Best American Essays 2017. Too dark, even for me. But I did find one essay I liked very much, Bernard Farai Matambo's "Working the City," about how he and another friend from Harare, Zimbabwe, were accepted to universities in the United States, and then spent their time "working their city," that is, visiting every office or business or friend's house or embassy to ask for funds to help them make it to the United States. Something about it was so hopeful and so honest and so nice:

"But Cato and I have a plan. We are approaching everyone and anyone we think may have money to five our way. We have written letters of inquiry to banks, members of Parliament, government ministries, airlines, government ministers, nongovernmental organizations--both domestic and international, private and public corporations, and general citizens known for charitable works or their good economic standing, a list that includes pastors, churchgoing men and women, and the wives of army generals. Cato has even written letters to embassies all over the city...

You never know, he said. And it wasn't my destiny to stop him.

It must have been all that talk of oil wealth that gave him the nerve, that our desire to leave no stone in this city unturned. We are trying out every rock that may move." (p. 106.)

I can't describe it. But it was hopeful and scrappy and remarkably free of malice, considering the author was having to leave no stone unturned just to try and find the money to get to the country where his education was waiting. I really liked it.

But now, it is October. Is everyone ready for Wendell Berry's Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community?