cover image Watch with Me

Watch with Me

Wendell Berry. Pantheon Books, $21 (210pp) ISBN 978-0-679-43469-6

Lumbering, likable, easygoing Kentucky farmer Ptolemy (``Tol'') Proudfoot, who weighs around 300 pounds, might at first seem an unlikely match for dainty, neat, tiny, prim schoolteacher Minnie Quinch, but their marriage in 1908, after a courtship begun at a cake auction, thrives through mutual adjustments, small discoveries and abiding love. Berry ( What Are People For? ), noted essayist, poet, novelist and Kentucky farmer, infuses these seven quietly moving stories--set in Port William, Ky., the small town that Berry has visited so often before in his fiction--with sly humor. Their deceptively simple plots, following the couple for 33 years, deal with Minnie's sole whiskey binge, the Proudfoots' disastrous ride to a state fair in their new Model A coupe, the town misfit's apparent suicide threat and so forth. With the simplicity of folk tales, these stories beautifully evoke a world where people live in relatively harmony with nature, the land and community, and where neighborliness and human scale still matter. ( Sept.)