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Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow: Christ Came to Found an Unorganized Religion

leave a comment »,r:3,s:0,i:134&tx=97&ty=51I am, maybe, the ultimate Protestant, the man at the end of the Protestant road, for as I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temple into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here.

Well, you can read and see what you think.

(Jayber Crow, Chapter 29)


Written by kirkistan

January 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

Peace for the Promiscuous Reader

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Coming to grips with one’s naughty habits

PilesOfBooks-12202012By my favorite, well-lit chair are stacks of books. Actually five stacks. Why stacks of books? It’s a quirk of borrowing—one library allows me three weeks (six when I renew, which I usually do). Another library allows me three months or so (an amazing primary joy of teaching at a college, for which I am daily thankful).

In the past I’ve felt guilty for all these books lying around partially read. But yesterday I realized, “No, this might be what my reading life looks like. Maybe reform is not possible.” (Maybe reform is not needed?)

I currently adhere to the discipline of reading one book (at a time) straight through, from cover to cover. Right now I’m reading “The Dignity of Difference” by Jonathan Sacks which is an amazing, readable argument for why anyone should care about the outsider. I am completely intrigued by how Sacks pits Moses against Plato in a knock-down, drag out fight on purity vs. practicality. OK, yes, I’m also reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow on the fiction side of the equation.

“Adhere to the discipline” because it is easy to fool myself into thinking I’m reading them all from cover to cover. I’m not. Many are there for research on this notion of the Other (Levinas) and various philosophical/theological tangents arising from an easily distracted mind. Some are there because of something I want to learn about or to try to backfill one of the many holes in my education. But with the cover-to-cover book, I also try to finish at least a chapter at each sitting.

So I read one fiction/non-fiction book from cover to cover as I sample from many. And then I pick the next cover-to-cover book from those I am sampling.

And I’m OK with that.

I’m OK with that because of a tweet from John Wilson (@jwilson1812) about his reading habits. As editor of Books & Culture, I imagine his office and home (Garage? Car? Boat? Scooter?) awash in tidal waves of book stacks. And that makes me feel not so bad.

But, well, judge me if you must.


Written by kirkistan

December 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow Predicted Storytelling in the Twitterverse

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Good story always depends on silent remembered chunks

Athey was a storyteller too, as it took me some while to find out, for he never told all of any story at the same time. He told them in odd little bits and pieces, usually in unacknowledged reference to a larger story that he did not tell because (apparently) he assumed you already knew it, and he told the fragment just to remind you of the rest. Sometimes you couldn’t even assume that he assumed you were listening: he might have been telling it to himself. With Athey you were always somewhere in the middle of the story. He would just start talking wherever he started remembering.

           (Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. Beginning of Chapter 21)9781582431604_p0_v1_s260x420-12192012

That’s why Hemingway wrote and then returned to remove as much text as possible to make the story as spare as possible:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

(Hemingway’s self-proclaimed best work)

Our minds need to leap and grasp their way through a narrative to fully engage.


Written by kirkistan

December 19, 2012 at 8:53 am

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