A Place on Earth: A Novel by Wendell Berry

By Wendell Berry

Half ribald farce, half lyrical contemplation, Wendell Berry's novel is the tale of a place-Port William, Kentucky-the farm lands and forests that encompass it, and the river that runs within reach. The rhythms of this novel are the rhythms of the land. a spot in the world resonates with diversifications performed on subject matters of switch; looping transitions from warfare into peace, wintry weather into spring, browning flood destruction into greening fields, absence into presence, misplaced into stumbled on. This brings the revised 1983 version again into print, the following publication in our software to place all of Wendell Berry's fiction into print in revised and corrected uniform variations.

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Example text

Consider the openings of the first and last chapters: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. The Chestnut tree was almost empty. A ray of sunlight slanting through a window fell yellow on dusty tabletops. 12 As Winston Smith enters his building (and the novel) he is isolated—in this draft, at any rate. An earlier version has him talking to “the aged prole who acted as porter and caretaker” (Ms, 3). But Orwell cut the caretaker, leaving Smith by himself except for the poster of Big Brother.

Is this part of Orwell’s satire? Or part of something else that the narrative could not contain or fuse? There may be several answers, several ways of construing the recurrent allusions to fatality. Viewed as part of the design, they are fully consistent with the circular structure of the narrative. For in a way, Winston’s first rebellion is his last, the determinant of everything that follows. ” Images of dust and water reinforce the theme of inescapable defeat and dissolution. Dust invades all surfaces: the cracks of people’s faces, the floor of the belfry where Julia draws her map, the tabletop where waiters set his liquor.

He modulates to lyric prose for scenes in the country and Winston’s last reverie at the window. 21 Yet in reading the novel you are far more aware of consistency than of variation. It is unified, not just by his political vision, but also by the method and angle of narration, which he seems to have determined quite early. The “layout” of 1943 (or 1944) begins as an objective list of items; its perspective is implicitly omniscient: PART I Build up of a. The system of organized lying... b. The ways in which this is done...

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