Cover image for That distant land : the collected stories
That distant land : the collected stories
Berry, Wendell, 1934-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Shoemaker & Hoard ; [Berkeley, Calif.?] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, [2004]

Physical Description:
440 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3552.E75 A6 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3552.E75 A6 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Originally published in 2005, That Distant Land brings together twenty-three stories from the Port William Membership. Arranged in their fictional chronology, the book is not an anthology so much as it is a coherent temporal mapping of this landscape over time, revealing Berry's mastery of decades of the life lived alongside this clutch of interrelated characters bound by affection and followed over generations.

This volume combines the stories found in The Wild Birds (1985), Fidelity (1992), and Watch with Me (1994), together with a map and a charting of the complex and interlocking genealogies.

Author Notes

Wendell Berry The prolific poet, novelist, and essayist Wendell Berry is a fifth-generation native of north central Kentucky. Berry taught at Stanford University; traveled to Italy and France on a Guggenheim Fellowship; and taught at New York University and the University of Kentucky, Lexington, before moving to Henry County.

Berry owns and operates Lanes Landing Farm, a small, hilly piece of property on the Kentucky River. He embraced full-time farming as a career, using horses and organic methods to tend the land. Harmony with nature in general, and the farming tradition in particular, is a central theme of Berry's diverse work.

As a poet, Berry gained popularity within the literary community. Collected Poems, 1957-1982, was particularly well-received. Novels and short stories set in Port William, a fictional town paralleling his real-life home town of Port Royal further established his literary reputation. The Memory of Old Jack, Berry's third novel, received Chicago's Friends of American Writers Award for 1975. Berry reached his broadest audience and attained his greatest popular acclaim through his essays. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture is a springboard for contemporary environmental concerns.

In his life as well as his art, Berry has advocated a responsible, contextual relationship with individuals in a local, agrarian economy.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This book collects all of Berry's short stories about the Kentucky farm community he calls the Port William membership and puts them in chronology according to the dates of their settings, from 1888 to 1986. Virtually every character in the stories appears in one or another of Berry's novels and narrative poems. Characters and Berry's simply worded, penetrating style are of a piece throughout. Berry knows one thing very well--a self-supporting, highly traditional community--and his mission in his fiction has been to show the richness and goodness of life within such a community. Tragedy, folly, and sin aren't excluded from the depiction; indeed, they are often as crucial to the stories as they are to Shakespeare's dramas. Yet there is an elegiac tone to the entire corpus, for the days of the Port Williams of the world would seem to be numbered; in the last story here, it is said that the membership is smaller than it has been since nearly its beginning. Indispensable to American literature collections. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in a small Kentucky farming village, this collection of Berry's Port William stories illuminates the evolution of rural American life over the course of the 20th century. In 23 stories, Berry chronicles Port William from the 1880s to the 1980s, evoking the connectedness of the small town's denizens to each other and to the land. In "A Consent," a memorable auction of home-baked cakes launches a romance between farmer Tol Proudfoot and Miss Minnie Quinch, the schoolteacher who becomes his bride. Their courtship, marriage and life together form the backbone of several other stories-in "A Half Pint of Old Darling," set during Prohibition, Miss Minnie goes on a brief but garrulous bender. "Nearly to the Fair" describes how Tol and Miss Minnie "went easy into the modern world" with their first motor car, a Model A coupe in which they're never as comfortable as they are with their horses. The most touching story in the collection is "Fidelity," about a terminally ill 82-year-old farmer whose son kidnaps him from the hospital so he can die on the land he worked and loved. Though many stories move at a glacial pace, Berry's writing is graceful, poignant and compassionate, and his feel for the inner lives of his quirky rural characters makes for many memorable portraits. A valuable work of literature and historical set piece, this collection vividly captures the fabric of a kind of all-American life. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Collected stories from three previous works plus four new stories combine in this capstone anthology by Kentucky poet and novelist Berry. Fictional Port William is located in the author's native state, but life there, as revealed in these interconnected tales spanning a century, is as far removed from today's hyperactive, uber-consumerist world as Mars. The fully realized town and its inhabitants-which include former schoolteacher Miss Minnie; her husband, giant farmer Ptolemy "Tol" Proudfoot; decent, thoughtful small-town lawyer Wheeler Catlett; and their friends, family, and neighbors-live in a world of hard work and simple truths. When old Jack Beechum dies in "It Wasn't Me," Wheeler tries hard to honor his final wish that tenant farmers Elton and Mary Penn be allowed to buy the farm they've tended so well. This plan, however, runs against that of Jack's worldly daughter and son-in-law, who are intent on selling the farm to the highest bidder. Berry is an American treasure; this collection belongs in all literary fiction collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.