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Wendell Berry.

Wendell Berry has earned a big following for himself through 30 years of writing poetry, stories, and essays urging readers to lead a simple life of respect for nature, people, and traditional values-well, certain traditional values, anyway.

After a beautiful lead story, there follows a long interview by an admirer. There are no tough questions, but Berry has some strong statements. Although he has just returned to university teaching, he can say, "... universities are, pretty much without apology, in the service of the military-industrial state."

Berry is not only an academic prone to let ideology run off with common sense. He also makes blanket condemnations of large-scale farming even while it continues to produce worldwide surpluses of food. When he is not biting the hands that feed him, out of his mouth comes a lot of interesting remarks about literature, history, and rural values.

Unfortunately, the worshippers who have written the essays of praise in the rest of the book are not nearly as interesting as Berry, and they make equally silly statements when ideology guides their thoughts. Gregory McNamee decides the century-long loss of family farmlands began with President Nixon and turned into a nightmare in the "age of Reagan." Eight years is indeed an age for people who know no history.

For those who expect any critical insight into an American writer with great influence, reading this book will also seem like an age. With few exceptions, it is by sycophants for sycophants.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1992
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