The Way of Ignorance: And Other Essays

Overview


• In a democratic commonwealth, what are the costs and consequences of rugged individualism?
• What, in the fullest sense, is involved in our National Security?
• When considering Weapons of Mass Destruction, does our inventory include soil loss, climate change, and ground water poisoning? And should we add Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction to our list of targets?
• Whose freedom are we considering when we speak of the "free market" or "free enterprise"?
• What is the price of ownership without affection?

...

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The Way of Ignorance: And Other Essays

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Overview


• In a democratic commonwealth, what are the costs and consequences of rugged individualism?
• What, in the fullest sense, is involved in our National Security?
• When considering Weapons of Mass Destruction, does our inventory include soil loss, climate change, and ground water poisoning? And should we add Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction to our list of targets?
• Whose freedom are we considering when we speak of the "free market" or "free enterprise"?
• What is the price of ownership without affection?

These and several other questions lie at the heart of Wendell Berry's latest collection of essays, writing "motivated by fear of our violence to one another and to the world, and my hope that we might do better." Setting aside abstraction in favor of clarity, coherence, and passion, this new book provides a setting of immediate danger and profound hope. The core of this collection — "Imagination in Place," "The Way of Ignorance," "Quantity and Form," "The Purpose of a Coherent Community," "Compromise, Hell!" — consists of some of the finest essays of Wendell Berry's long career, and the whole offers an exhilarating sense of purpose and a clear call to action.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Called "the prophet of rural America" by the New York Times, Berry has spent the last 40 of his 71 years simultaneously farming a hillside in Kentucky and issuing a stream of poems, novels and essays (including The Gift of Good Land and The Long-Legged House) that are probably the most sustained contemporary articulation of America's agrarian, Jeffersonian ideal. If the tone of the book's mostly brief 19 essays is sometimes angry and despairing ("We are destroying our country," begins one essay), one can hardly blame Berry. The mere title of one of the essays, "Some Notes for the Kerry Campaign, If Wanted," brings the reader up short-memories of the last presidential campaign are receding so quickly into the past that Berry's amorphous call for a return to "our traditional principles of politics and religion" is both quixotic and sad, a remnant from a vanished era. Many of the essays are taken from talks given to such organizations as the Crop Science Society of America and the Land Institute, and an air of preaching to the converted hangs over the book. The collection is not without its qualities, chief among them Berry's always well-honed prose, but if the agenda he proposes is to ever reclaim its rightful place in the body politic, it will have to be reframed in much more forceful and contemporary terms. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Many of the ideas we prize are dangerous and self-destructive; many of the values we profess to cherish we do not practice. Prolific septuagenarian poet, novelist and essayist Berry (Citizenship Papers, 2003, etc.) returns with another collection of essays, most published (or delivered as speeches) in 2004. The astonishing thing about these pieces is not their lucidity and grace, not their plain profundity, but the variety of his subjects, the dimensions of his knowledge, experience, interest, passion. This is not to say that there are no common denominators. Respect for the land, for one another, for God-these appear on virtually every page in some form-as well as essays that focus on politics. Berry does not like what the Republicans are doing, but he chides Democrats for arrogance (behaving as if religious folks are ignorant and stupid), for allowing "values" issues like gay marriage to dominate the discussion, for caring more about winning than about crafting and promulgating a sensible agenda. There are other essays that focus on agriculture and its enemies: arrogance and ignorance and agribusiness. We believe, says Berry, that we can defeat Nature, that there are no deleterious consequences when we lift the lid of a mountain to extract what's inside, that the social consequences of agribusiness (lost farms, decimated towns) are inconsequential. There are essays that focus on spirituality, perhaps none better than "The Burden of the Gospels." Berry asks there: Would we have followed Jesus had we heard him during his lifetime? Are we strong enough to follow his most difficult teachings? There are times when Berry comes across as a bit sanguine, even romantic, about our ancestors'husbandry of their resources (consult, for comparison, Jared Diamond's Collapse), but he is fiercely loyal to his region, to his agrarian roots. "We need to quit thinking of rural America as a colony," he declares. Berry appends two forgettable pieces by others. Provocative, pellucid prose from a master.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593761196
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 816,135
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Part I
Secrecy vs. Rights 3
Contempt for Small Places 7
Rugged Individualism 9
We Have Begun 13
Some Notes for the Kerry Campaign, If Wanted 17
Compromise, Hell! 21
Charlie Fisher 29
Part II
Imagination in Place 39
The Way of Ignorance 53
The Purpose of a Coherent Community 69
Quantity vs. Form 81
Renewing Husbandry 91
Agriculture from the Roots Up 105
Local Knowledge in the Age of Information 113
The Burden of the Gospels 127
Part III
Letter to Daniel Kemmis 141
Daniel Kemmis Replies 151
The Working Wilderness: A Call for a Land Health Movement, by Courtney White 159
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