A Review of
Telling the Stories Right:
Wendell Berry’s Imagination of Port William
Jack R. Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro, eds.
Reviewed by Allan F. Brooke II
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks. These are the instructions for telling our stories right, and stories told in this way compel us to tend the splintered life of goodness that shines through the cracks of our wounded world.
– “Introduction,” Telling the Stories Right, xiv
Wendell Berry, respected author and essayist, is also known for his fiction, including eight novels and over fifty short stories which form an overlapping composite history of the fictional Kentucky farming community of Port William, and the “membership” of individuals and families who have lived and died there since the Civil War. The narratives need not be read in order, and the reader will find accounts of the same events from different characters (or the same characters) at different times and with different emphases. Several of the novels focus on a single character (e.g. Nathan Coulter, Jayber Crow, Hannah Coulter, Andy Catlett), and track the whole, or a part of his or her life in the community. Berry’s first novel was published in 1960 and his most recent in 2006, though he has continued to produce Port William short stories up through last year. (Consider the breadth of a life of fiction spanning from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Dog Stars.)