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"Another Turn of the Crank"

By Wendell Berry


122 pp.; $18

The publication of a new series of essays by Wendell Berry is always good news. In this slim, well-titled volume, Berry returns to the theme that has gained him a growing audience: the goodness of the small agricultural way of life and the destruction of it caused by America's commitment to large-scale political economy. Throughout these essays, Berry writes as a self-confessed Luddite, one who favors community health over technological innovation. This presumption informs his thoughts on how best to conserve farming, communities, forests, nature and human life, and health. He writes burdened by "that difficult hope" that there still exists in the scattered rural communities of America a different way of understanding life than the standard account served up by our major institutions. Berry points to this other way of life as possessing "better economy, better faith, better knowledge and affection." He even sees signs that a "party of local community" might be forming to challenge "the party of the global economy." These essays reflect a vast knowledge not only of the literary traditions of the West but of contemporary ecological issues as well. "To save the land and the people," a phrase he uses in several essays, nicely captures the goal of his life's work.

Reading Berry is both tonic and challenge. This collection may be too brief to count as his best; for the faithful, however, this turn of the crank is another gift of good sense, a cup of cold water in the dry and barren land of contemporary American cultural life.

--Ashley Woodiwiss

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