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'He is unlike anybody else writing today ... After Donald Trump's election, we urgently need to rediscover the best of radical America. An essential part of that story is Wendell Berry. Few of us can live, or even aspire to, his kind of life. But nobody can risk ignoring him' Andrew Marr
'Wendell Berry is the most important writer and thinker that you have (probably) never heard of. He is an American sage' -James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life
Wendell Berry is 'something of an anachronism'. He began his life as the old times and the last of the old-time people were dying out, and continues to this day in the old ways: a team of work horses and a pencil are his preferred working tools. The writings gathered in The World-Ending Fire are the unique product of a life spent farming the fields of rural Kentucky with mules and horses, and of the rich, intimate knowledge of the land cultivated by this work. These are essays written in defiance of the false call to progress, and in defence of the local landscapes that provide our cultural heritage, our history, our home.
In a time when our relationship to the natural world is ruled by the violence and greed of unbridled consumerism, Wendell Berry speaks out to defend the land we live on. With grace and conviction, he shows that we simply cannot afford to succumb to the mass-produced madness that drives our global economy. The natural world will not withstand it.
Yet he also shares with us a vision of consolation and of hope. We may be locked in an uneven struggle, but we can and must begin to treat our land, our neighbours, and ourselves with respect and care. We must, as Berry urges, abandon arrogance and stand in awe.
Berry's graceful essays have long been models of eloquence, insight, and conviction, as Kingsnorth's selection of some of his most important pieces reminds readers. Berry's writings traverse topics from agriculture to economics, but always circle back to the values of a small, local economy and to the wastefulness fostered by corporate greed. In a 2011 speech, Berry proclaims, "Our fundamental problem is world destruction, caused by an irreconcilable contradiction between the natural world and the engineered world of industrialism." In "The Total Economy," Berry names neighborhood and subsistence the main features of a local economy. In one of his most famous essays, 1989's "The Pleasures of Eating," he declares eating "inescapably an agricultural act" and proposes seven ways of eating responsibly e.g., "participate in food production to the extent that you can" and "learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home" that look ahead to today's local food movement. Since all of these essays are readily available elsewhere, Berry's fans won't find anything new, but newcomers will find the works exceptionally timely, and the book as a whole a thoughtful introduction to Berry's writing. Correction: A previous version of this review misspelled the last name of the book's editor.