Saturday, August 04, 2007

Currently Reading - Jayber Crow

I've heard the name Wendell Berry referenced in numerous places over the past few years - primarily in conversations and writings dealing with sustainable practices and the connection with spirituality. But I had not read any of his works other than portions of online essays, until I ran across Jayber Crow on my local library shelf.

The full title is "Jayber Crow: The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written By Himself" - whew. This is one of the most lovingly written books I have read. No other words describe the prose here. Every page - nearly every paragraph - is quotable, as Jayber describes life in the Kentucky River valley. When reading fiction, I'm usually drawn to mystery and intrigue, with complex twists and turns. This book is the opposite, but I don't want to put it down. I'm only halfway through, so will post more when completed. But I had to point it out. From researching more on Berry's writings, it appears he has written seven other books based on the Port William community, and uses it as a prototype for what works and what doesn't in societies we build and evolve. Growing up in a small southern town as I did, many of the characters come alive with faces from my childhood. But the images go beyond nostalgia, into a realm of evaluating those things in my life that have worked and have not, even as Jayber looks back over his life span. This is just a beautiful book

Here are a few phrases from the section I'm currently reading:

The local foul-mouthed church janitor talking about his proper wife...

the madam goes around committing virtue left and right
When describing a late-night encounter where he stoically and wordlessly sat with a grief-stricken father who was dealing with the loss of his son in WW2:
After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at the last and lie down.
I feel that I could find worthwhile quotes in this book as easily as the old game where one opens a book (phone book, bible, whatever) to a random page and points their finger at a random spot. It is rich in wisdom and humor, and transcends the local community to provide universal ideas.

1 comment:

brian said...

That sounds good. I'm looking for a fiction book to read (I'm going to need a break if I ever finish "Doubt"). Maybe I'll pick this up.