Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading and Writing: Wendell Berry


“What I have learned as a farmer I have learned also as a writer, and vice versa. I have farmed as a writer and written as a farmer.”


"Real reading, of course, is a kind of work. But it’s lovely work. To read well, you have to respond actively to what the writer’s saying. You can’t just lie there on the couch and let it pour over you. You may have to read with a pencil in hand and underline passages and write notes in the margins. The poet John Milton understood that the best readers are rare. He prayed to his muse that he might a “fit audience find, though few.”

"It’s awfully hard to have an idea that somebody else hasn’t already had, you know. The French writer André Gide worried that he wasn’t original enough, and then he finally consoled himself by realizing that the same things need to be said over and over again, because the times change, and the context shifts, and the language changes, and ideas need to be expressed again in new ways, to be submitted anew to the test of sentences. But I don’t have much gift for abstract ideas. I’m usually moved to write by practical problems that I’m interested in.
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Read Ann Kroeker on the most recent Wendell Berry: last wee
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3 comments:

Sara said...

Reading is a kind of work....I love that kind of work! Pencil in hand, of course!

L.L. Barkat said...

I love the words of Wendell Berry. I find it so hard to finish his books, because I slow waaaaay down to appreciate even single sentences. :)

Musing on the "originality" piece, my daughter asked me to read the literary intro to Sylvie & Bruno last night. It was remarked that Carroll had probably been too original in that work, which influenced another too-original work (Finnegan's Wake). Interesting to consider.

Ann Kroeker said...

Wow, I am coming to this conversation late, but I love your Wendell Berry quotes!

I really like the last one, where he mentions Gide's conclusion that the "same things need to be said over and over again, because the times change, and the context shifts, and the language changes, and ideas need to be expressed again in new ways."

Like Berry--though I don't mean that I'm comparing myself to him as a writer in any other way--I feel like I'm not good with abstract; that I'm best when I stick with practical matters.

Thanks for sending readers my way to hear about my Wendell Berry road trip at annkroeker.com!