cover image Our Only World: Ten Essays

Our Only World: Ten Essays

Wendell Berry. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $24 (196p) ISBN 978-1-61902-488-5

%E2%80%9CValid criticism,%E2%80%9D poet, conservationist, and national treasure Berry (The Unsettling of America) declares in his latest collection%E2%80%99s opening essay, %E2%80%9Cattempts a just description of our condition.%E2%80%9D The book goes on to vivisect, with uncommon lucidity and common sense, the accruing damages of the %E2%80%9Cindustrial economy and its so-called free market,%E2%80%9D as well as our %E2%80%9Ccommerce of violence%E2%80%9D that profits from the %E2%80%9Cdestruction of land and people%E2%80%9D as shown in the essay %E2%80%9COur Deserted Country,%E2%80%9D about the wastelands created by industrial agriculture. Berry%E2%80%99s crusade is not for conservation but repair, and in another selection, %E2%80%9CLocal Economies,%E2%80%9D he offers a %E2%80%9Creasonable permanence of dwelling place and vocation%E2%80%9D as one remedy. Adhering to an uncompromising ethic that combines stern humility with compassion, Berry rallies a sense of hope (though %E2%80%9Cthe task of hope becomes harder%E2%80%9D) and responsibility for confronting growing physical and political problems, represented here by the tortured political rhetoric he unpacks in %E2%80%9CCaught in the Middle.%E2%80%9D Moreover, he offers a range of practical, %E2%80%9Csmall solutions%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94changes of principle, not policy%E2%80%94that both chasten the reader and inspire him or her to continue %E2%80%9Cour long, necessary, difficult, happy effort%E2%80%9D to protect %E2%80%9Cour only world.%E2%80%9D These essays are classic Berry, balancing the fiery conservationist prophet with the lucid and thoughtful poet; the reflective farmer with the visionary writer. (Feb.)