A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

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by Wendell Berry
     
 

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For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the author’s first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the

Overview

For more than fifty years, Wendell Berry has been telling us stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. In this new collection, the author’s first piece of new fiction since the publication of Andy Catlett in 2006, the stories date’s range from 1864, when Rebecca Dawe finds herself in her own reflection at the end of the Civil War, to one from 1991 when Grover Gibbs’ widow, Beulah, attends the auction as her home place is offered for sale.

It feels as if the entire membership, all the Catletts, Burley Coulter, Elton Penn, the Rowanberrys, Laura Milby, the preacher’s wife, Kate Helen Branch, Andy’s dog, Mike, nearly everyone returns with a story or two, to fill in the gaps in this long tale. Those just now joining the Membership will be charmed. Those who’ve attended before will be enriched.

The story of the community of Port William is one of the great works in American literature. Published in the author’s 78th year, this collection, the tenth volume in the series, is the perfect occasion to celebrate his huge achievement.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Berry (Hannah Coulter) returns home to Kentucky in his 10th volume in the Port William Membership series with 20 new interconnected stories of the sleepy farming community and its townsfolk. Told from various perspectives and in cadenced reflections, these quiet and meditative "relics and scraps of memory" speak eloquently of familial and romantic love, slavery and war, loss and time's slow but inevitable passing, all with a solemnity and candor often found in Faulkner or Twain. While each offering holds appeal, some are more striking than others. "Fly Away, Breath (1907)" visits Granny Dawe on her deathbed surrounded by kin and, despite the somber mood, a sudden "Hooo!" from the nearly departed lends buoyancy to the story. Reckless wonderment unique to adolescence runs deeply through "Andy Catlett: Early Education (1943)" as 10-year-old Andy gets an illuminating bird's-eye view of his mother while awaiting her corporal punishment after tramping through the house covered in chimney soot. "Stand By Me (1921-1944)" shows Berry's delicate treatment of tragedy as a stalwart father loses first his wife to illness and later his eldest son to the ravages of war. For longtime fans and those new to the series, this rich slice of evolving Americana is just as poignant and enjoyable as ever.
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Kirkus Reviews
The septuagenarian Berry makes a return visit to the genial farm community that much of his fiction has called home. When Berry (Hannah Coulter, 2004, etc.) hasn't been writing poetry or essays on farming life, he's written fiction set in Port William, Ky., which rivals William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County in terms of its breadth of imagined historical detail. These 20 new stories feature familiar characters from earlier novels and stories, but the reader needn't have read those to get pleasure out of these. That said, the pleasures of this book are modest: Many of these stories are slight fables, flickering with only the slightest plot then softly ending, consistently well-drawn but not always memorable. One of the most potent stories, for instance, is markedly subtle: "A Desirable Woman" tracks the intersection of a pastor's wife and a young farmhand shortly before the start of World War II, and the story turns on the young man's unrequited crush on the woman shortly before he's sent off to war. "Sold" has a similarly soft-focus, nostalgic cast, narrated by an elderly woman recalling the accumulations that are about to be sold at auction before she enters a nursing home. (The stories are arranged in the order of their chronological setting, from 1864 to 2008, but events largely cling to the WWII and postwar era.) The better, more energetic stories have the comic, homespun feel of tall tales, as in "A New Day," which climaxes in a competition between two horse teams dragging bricks, or "A Burden," about the antics of a drunk relation. Berry is a maker of beautiful sentences, lightly touched with Southern dialect and soberly concerned with the future of the agrarian spirit. But Berry's characters and tone alike feel muted.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619021884
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
08/06/2013
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
587,604
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.68(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author


Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal, the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya, in Kentucky.

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A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read but hard to describe.brought back memorirs of my childhood..some bittersweet