Andy Catlett: Early Travels

Andy Catlett: Early Travels

4.6 8
by Wendell Berry
     
 

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Andy Catlett is the latest installment in Wendell Berry’s Port William series, a distinct set of stories that Berry has been telling now for 50 years. Set during the Christmas of 1943, nine-year-old Andy Catlett sets off to visit his grandparents in Port William by bus, by himself for the first time. For Andy this is a rite of passage, his…  See more details below

Overview


Andy Catlett is the latest installment in Wendell Berry’s Port William series, a distinct set of stories that Berry has been telling now for 50 years. Set during the Christmas of 1943, nine-year-old Andy Catlett sets off to visit his grandparents in Port William by bus, by himself for the first time. For Andy this is a rite of passage, his first step into manhood. His experiences on this solitary voyage become pivotal points in the entire Port William epic. The old ways are in retreat, modern life is crowding everything in its path, and as Andy looks back many years later, he hears the stories again of his neighbors and friends. A beautiful short novel, now in paperback, Andy Catlett is a perfect introduction to the whole world of Port William, and will be a rich new installment for those already familiar with this unfolding story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers familiar with rural Kentucky novelist (A Place on Earth), poet (A Timbered Choir) and essayist (Another Turn of the Crank) Berry and his vast repertoire will feel right at home in this slim, memoirlike novel narrated by the elderly Andy Catlett. In the winter of 1943, at age nine, young Andy is allowed to set out alone by bus from his home in Hargrave to Port William, 10 miles away, where both his parents grew up. After coffee at the bus station (a nickel) and quick trip, he is retrieved by his grandfather Catlett's mule team, driven by longtime hired black servant, Dick Watson. Andy's observations of his grandmother's unfussy cooking and the men's work stripping tobacco in the barn is full of nostalgic, admiring detail. Dick and Andy visit Dick's wife, Aunt Sarah Jane, whose superstitions and acute perception of racial inequity "introduced the fester of it into the conscience of a small boy." At a visit to his mother's more modernized family farm, the absence of Uncle Virgil fighting overseas is grievously felt, and Andy is allowed to listen to the radio before sleeping. "The world I knew as a boy was flawed, surely," Berry writes wisely, "but it was substantial and authentic." (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This short, elegiac novel is the latest in Berry's Port William series. Port William is a fictional town in rural Kentucky. Narrator Andy Catlett is looking back, 60 years later, at his nine-year-old self enjoying his "last year of innocence" before the shocking summer of 1944 (chronicled in A World Lost, 1996). His memories encompass three days between Christmas and New Year's in 1943, when Andy embarks on his first journey alone, a ten-mile bus ride from his home in Hargrave to Port William, where both sets of grandparents live. He is met by his paternal grandfather Marce, his hired hand Dick Watson, who is black, and their mules and wagon. (Andy longs for his own mule and harness.) Marce, a tobacco farmer no longer active himself, has four employees. The Catletts do not have electricity, unlike Andy's other grandparents, the Feltners, who also own a car. The visit is uneventful. Andy is fed handsomely in both homes, despite wartime rationing. At Granddaddy Feltner's, he helps transform the tobacco barn into a sheep barn. Though the story is short on events, it is long on feeling. It amounts to an outpouring of gratitude (the novel's transcendent emotion) for the loving kindness he was shown, and the chance to have known a simpler era before it disappeared. These are good people living hard lives, but the group portrait is not saccharine. One of Grandpa Catlett's hands is a menacing loner. No excuses are made for the racism of the time, in which, as Andy will come to understand, all white people were "complicit." Memories hark back to the Civil War, "immediate as an odor." Nevertheless, the vanished Port William glows, a town content to be itself, unacquainted with modern restlessness.An eloquent distillation of Berry's favorite themes: the importance of family, community and respect for the land.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593761646
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
11/01/2007
Series:
Port William
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
8.92(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a surprise find on the shelves. Reading Berry's account of his early childhood travels will strike up memories of your own travels to Grandpa's. The story is rich with axioms and descriptions that will help you relive warm memories of your own upbringing. His colorful reflections of life in the 1940's and the transition from agrarian to industrialization of the US will leave you wishing for the simpler times of your childhood. That coupled with Berry's reflections on how World War II would change everyone's lives makes this a powerful novel. Pick this for your book club! You won't go wrong.
Jason_A_Greer More than 1 year ago
I am very grateful for this story because it has opened up a depth of humanity in simple, small things, that I am prone to forget. While I was born many decades after the events of this story, I have relatives who lived similar stories - visiting grandparents and relatives over the holidays, on small rural farms and towns and seeing the world as it was and as it was changing in some scary, uncomfortable ways. I can certainly relate to this story, because of other stories told to me from relatives who lived just the kind of events that young Andy Catlett did, and who now, decades later, understand and live those kind of events again. I understand this story as well, because I feel, but cannot not really articulate just how the world has changed, and knowing that something, and many things, are indeed missing in modern life. This little novel helps me a bit to articulate those things that are missing. Because this novel is set in the Christmas and New Year's season, I highly recommend it as a way to thoughtfully approach family, family and life that has gone and the days and new year to come. It is certainly a story worth rereading again and again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Morning everybody im leaving to grandma today!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yea...ill try to be on. Night:)