online great books

#79- Rooted in Community: Berry’s Jayber Crow


This week, Scott and Karl read Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. The role of community in the shaping of character is a recurring theme for Berry, who is the author of more than forty books that largely serve as an extended conversation about the life he values.

Berry is a writer, a novelist, an essayist, but also a poet, a farmer, and an environmental activist. He now lives and works on a 125-acre farm in the same community in Kentucky where he was born.

According to Scott, “There’s a kind of conservationist that sees the human as the parasite of the earth and the source of the problems. Berry sees the human as the steward of the earth and the source of good, or who can be.”

The backdrop for many of Berry’s stories is a fictitious town located in Kentucky, Port William. Jayber Crow, this novel’s narrator, shares his life story— from a young man who abandons his plans to become a minister and becomes the town barber instead, eventually earning membership into the Port William community.

Crow’s life, which begins as WWI is about to erupt, is emblematic of a century of upheaval, and Jayber’s episodic tales challenge contemporary notions of progress. According to Karl, “This is an anti-progress book. The difficulty with the concept of progress is that it’s undefined. It’s just continued movement, but movement to where?”

Tune in to hear more about Jayber’s journey of homecoming and one community’s resilience.

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