This is a very readable book. Not because Berry writes in an easy journalistic way, he certainly doesn’t, but because the book feels like someone is just talking to you in a very direct way about their life and values. It makes the reader think hard about the way both s/he and Mr Berry see the world. His point of view is, at the same time, both radical and conservative. It is hard hitting and he certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
A writer, poet and (importantly) farmer; he has lived for many years in Kentucky, doing all these things in a unique way. In particular he has farmed without using petrol but instead with a team of horses. This, in a way, defines his viewpoint. Some might think it Luddite and indeed it is extreme by most people’s standards, in its rejection of moist of both the economics and the culture that currently define how our society operates. But in stating these views, he certainly makes the reader reflect on their own views and indeed their own integrity.
I’m not sure how much I would like Wendell Berry if I met him, but it has to be said that reading this book has made me think very deeply about my own values –and examine my conscience. Ultimately his philosophy is deeply Earth caring, though it is expressed with a bluntness that challenges the intellectual environmentalist as much as the commercial and corporate culture of our time, substituting in place their values, right, mindful, responsible and compassionate action in the everyday pursuit of our immediate lives, as the only effective solution to our current social and environmental crisis.
Berry, Wendell, edited Kingsnorth, Paul, ‘The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry’, Allen Lane, Penguin Random House, UK, 2017