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Standing by Words

Paperback Book
May, 2011
$22.75 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

In these six essays, Wendell Berry considers the degeneration of language that is manifest throughout our culture, from poetry to politics, from conversation to advertising, and he shows how the ever widening cleft between words and their referents mirrors the increasing isolation of individuals from their communities and of their communities from the land. From the essay, “Standing by Words”:

Two epidemic illnesses of our time—upon both of which virtual industries of cures have been founded—are the disintegration of communities and the disintegration of persons. That these two are related (that private loneliness, for example, will necessarily accompany public confusion) is clear enough. What seems not so well understood, because not so much examined, is the relation between these disintegrations and the disintegration of language. My impression is that we have seen, for perhaps a hundred and fifty years, a gradual increase in language that is either meaningless or destructive of meaning. And I believe that this increasing unreliability of language parallels the increasing disintegration, over the same period, of persons and communities.

Standing by Words offers a masterfully written argument for the literary tradition. Here’s another jewel:

To preserve our places and to be at home in them, it is necessary to fill them with imagination. To imagine as well as see what is in them. Not to fill them with the junk of fantasy and unconsciousness, for that is no more than the industrial economy would do, but to see them first clearly with the eyes, and then to see them with the imagination in their sanctity, as belonging to the Creation.

To imagine the place as it is, and was, and—only then—as it will or may be. To imagine its human life only in harmony with its nonhuman life—as one, only one, of its possibilities. In that imagining, perhaps we may begin to see it in its sacredness, as unimaginable gift, as mystery—as it was, is, and ever shall be, world without end.

Among Wendell Berry’s many other books are Imagination in Place and Given.

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