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Searching for Wendell Berry
The Book Bin, Corvallis, Oregon, June 13, 2005
I know Wendell's close by–not in Kentucky's blue fields, but among the shelves of aged books that smell of time and loss. He's seated on a step-stool, body bent forward, bony elbows on knees, hands dangling, fingers calloused from farm tools.
thousands of books
A laughing clerk, stooped like a giant crane, informs me Wendell is under the plaster duck in (where else?) Nature, but he's not. Maybe his are the books no one trades; the ones people keep to quote from or reread when they're discouraged. He's not in Poetry either; I scan A through D, in case he's been thoughtlessly shelved. There's Emily though, not at all shy in her tight white binding. I wave off her catcalls and whistles, my budget to consider. Wendell continues to elude me in Politics and Spiritual Traditions.
In a New York hail-a-taxi voice, a woman asks the clerk if they have books on mental illness–the small boy at her side doesn't smile or shift his feet. Is she concerned about him, or his father, or a grandmother who's taken to eating double-stuffed Oreos instead of sorting darks and lights into neat laundry piles?
The clerk patiently explains to the woman that she'll have to be more specific, mental illness has categories, after all; she needs more to go on. The woman hesitates. I race ahead of her toward Psychology, toward Jung and Freud and every frustrated desire, toward where Wendell isn't; scent of hay and horse manure lingering.
reviews my past