”Art was the rememberer. He knew what he knew and what had been known by a lot of dead kinfolks and neighbors. They lived on in his mind and spoke there, reminding him and us of things that needed to be remembered. Art had a compound mind, as a daisy has a compound flower, and his mind had something of the unwary comeliness of a daisy. Something that happened would remind him of something that he remembered, which would remind him of something that his grandfather remembered. It was not that he “lived in his mind.” He lived in the place, but the place was where the memories were, and he walked among them, tracing them out over the living ground. That was why we loved him.”
from the short story “Are You All Right?”, found in That Distant Land
Art Rowanberry is just one of the Port William characters I came to love while reading That Distant Land: The Collected Stories by Wendell Berry. Ptolemy Proudfoot, Wheeler Catlett, Elton Penn, Miss Minnie – the people in this book seem so real. I can only imagine that many of these stories are based on people for whom Wendell Berry is the rememberer. I am adding all of the Port William novels to my to-read list.
Berry loves the land – and he loves the people who love the land, work the land – are the land. I have been on a Berry binge lately – his poetry, his essays, and now his short stories. I plan to read everything of his that I can get my hands on.
5 out of 5 stars