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Watch with Me

And Six Other Stories of the Yet-Remembered Ptolemy Proudfoot and His Wife, Miss Minnie, Née Quinch

List Price: $16.95

January 9, 2018 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 224 pages | ISBN 9781619028319
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This volume of six linked stories and the novella from which the book derives its title is set in Port William from 1908 to the Second World War. Here Wendell Berry introduces two of his more indelible and poignant characters, Ptolemy Proudfoot and his wife Miss Minnie, remarkable for the comic and affectionate range that–with the mastery of this consummate storyteller working at the height of his powers–here approaches the Shakespearean.

Tol Proudfoot is huge, outsized, in the tradition of the mythic. The three-hundred-pound farmer, personally imposing and unkempt, is also the most graceful of presences, reserved and gallant toward his tiny wife, the ninety-pound schoolteacher.

Their contrasts are humorous, of course, and recall the tall tales of rural Americana. In the novella Watch with Me, we are given a story of such depth, breadth, and importance it earns being listed as one of the most important short stories written in the American language during the twentieth century.

“Wendell Berry writes with a good husbandman’s care and economy . . . His stories are filled with gentle humor.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“Berry is the master of earthy country living seen through the eyes of laconic farmers . . . He makes his stories shine with meaning and warmth.” ―The Christian Science Monitor

“A small treasure of a book . . . part of a long line that descends from Chaucer to Katherine Mansfield to William Trevor.” ―Chicago Tribune

About Wendell Berry

WENDELL BERRY is an essayist, novelist, and poet. In 2010, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. He lives with his wife, Tanya Berry, on their farm in Henry County, Kentucky.

Praise for Watch With Me

"Wendell Berry writes with a good husbandman's care and economy... His stories are filled with gentle humor." --New York Times Book Review

"Berry is the master of earthy county living seen through the eyes of laconic farmers... He makes his stories shine with meaning and warmth." --Christian Science Monitor

"A small treasure of a book... part of a long line that descends from Chaucer to Katherine Mansfield to William Trevor." --Chicago Tribune

"With the simplicity of folk tales, these stories beautifully evoke a world where people live in relatively harmony with nature, the land and community, and where neighborliness and human scale still matter." --Publishers Weekly

"This charming collection examines the lives of Tol and Miss Minnie on their Kentucky farm from 1908 to 1941. Despite its universal appeal, this book is distinctly Southern, rich with delightful colloquialisms and the mores and attitudes of rural folk of that time. Some stories are framed... underscor[ing] the fact that storytelling and the past are integral to Southern society... Every reader deserves the opportunity to meet Tol and Miss Minnie." --Library Journal

"These seven stories relate incidents in the life of a very good man, Ptolemy--'Tol'--Proudfoot, towering final scion of a line of Kentucky farmers loved for their gentleness, intelligence, and gregariousness and their sense of and love for their place and work in the world... Their diction is as chaste as a Bible story's; they express a biblical reverence for life and community, yet they're funny, too, and so beautiful." --Booklist

"The local nature of their canny, comic tonalities, the old-timey subtitle, and the fact that all the action takes place before 1942 might lead browsers to take these Berry stories as merely quaint. That would be a mistake. In fact, like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Berry has been expanding by contraction, husbanding by close focus--in Berry's case, on the familiar demesne of Port William, Ky... The long title story, which closes the collection, is a masterpiece... The tale clarifies Berry's direction, as he moves way beyond nostalgia toward an immersion in other lives that expresses itself as a sense of intimate apartness--a willingness to follow his characters, but not necessarily to change them. Poetry nestled inside prose: startlingly and classically moving." --Kirkus Reviews

Praise for A Small Porch

"[Berry's] essays, poetry and fiction have fertilized a crop of great solace in my life, and helped to breed a healthy flock of good manners, to boot. As I travel this unlikely road of opportunity, as a woodworker and writer, sure, but most often as a jackass, I have his writings upon which to fix my mind and my heart, to keep my life's errant wagon between the ditches, as it were. Mr. Berry's sentences and stories deliver a great payload of edifying entertainment, which I hungrily consume, but it is the bass note of morality thumping through his musical phrases that guides me with the most constant of hands upon my plow." --Nick Offerman, New York Times bestselling author of Paddle Your Own Canoe

"Thoreau would be gratified . . . Here are Sabbath Poems that praise the given life."--Lexington Herald-Leader

"[Berry's poems] shine with a gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder of life." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Wendell Berry is one of those rare individuals who speaks to us always of responsibility, of the individual cultivation of an active and aware participation in the arts of life, be they those of composing a poem, preparing a hill for planting, raising a family, working for the good of oneself and one's neighbors, loving." --The Bloomsbury Review

"Berry's craftsmanship remains impeccable. Few other poets have such chaste and precise diction or manage line and stanza with such unaffected serenity." --Booklist

Praise for It All Turns on Affection

"These powerful, challenging essays show why Berry's vision of a sustainable, human-scaled society has proven so influential." --Publishers Weekly

Praise for Imagination in Place

"Berry's latest collection of essays is the reminiscence of a literary life. It is a book that acknowledges a lifetime of intellectual influences, and in doing so, positions Berry more squarely as a cornerstone of American literature... a necessary book. Here, Berry's place as the 'grandfather of slow food' or the 'prophet of rural living' is not questioned. This book ensures we understand the depth and breadth of Berry's art." --San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] stellar collection... Berry turns over well-tilled, ever-fertile ground in Imagination in Place. His ideas flow beyond the channels of agrarian enthusiasm. Foodies, architects, transportation engineers, and other writers are adopting and adapting his concepts, perhaps leading to what he envisions will one day be 'an authentic settlement of our country.'" --The Oregonian

"For those who've already come to admire Berry's moral clarity and closely argued critiques of contemporary society, Imagination in Place is a welcome chance to continue the conversation." --Christian Science Monitor

Praise for The Hidden Wound

"A profound, passionate, crucial piece of writing... Few readers, and I think, no writers will be able to read it without a small pulse of triumph at the temples: the strange, almost communal sense of triumph one feels when someone has written truly well... The statement it makes is intricate and beautiful, sad but strong." --Washington Post

"Berry has produced one of the most humane, honest, liberating works of our time. It is a beautiful book. More than that, it has become at one stroke an essential book. Every American who can read at all should read it." --Village Voice

"One of the most impressive aspects of Berry's book is the authentic simplicity of his style, the directness with which that style can accommodate Tolstoy, Malcolm X, work songs, anecdotes, speculation, and polemic indignation... The strength of this book is its connecting America's two major problems: the exploiting of men and land; it deserves as wide an audience as possible." --Louisville Courier-Journal

"One of the most touching and true personal testaments concerned with our country's racial dilemma." --Publishers Weekly

"The brunt of the book is to wake us up, page after page, from stupidity. 'It is a kind of death, ' Montaigne said, 'to avoid the pain of well doing, or trouble of well living.' Wendell Berry makes that observation rip the air like an alarm clock." --Guy Davenport, author of The Death of Picasso

Praise for A Continuous Harmony

"This book is broad and leisurely and important. Something like the river itself on which Wendell Berry lives. It is full of wide and flowing thoughts and one thing leads to another in the manner that nature intended--or used to. The language ranges from the grave and beautiful to the sharp and specific, depending on the need to express the vast variety of subjects he presents." --The Nation

Praise for Citizenship Papers

"The courage of a book, it has been said, is that it looks away from nothing. Here is a brave book." --Charlotte Observer

"Berry says that these recent essays mostly say again what he has said before. His faithful readers may think he hasn't, however, said any of it better before." --Booklist, Starred Review

"His refusal to abandon the local for the global, to sacrifice neighborliness, community integrity, and economic diversity for access to Wal-Mart, has never seemed more appealing, nor his questions of personal accountability more powerful." --Kirkus

Praise for Another Turn of the Crank: Essays

"Read [Berry] with pencil in hand, make notes and hope that somehow our country and the world will soon come to see the truth that is told here." --New York Times

"The rarest (and highest) of literary classes consist of that small group of authors who are absolutely inimitable... One of the half-dozen living American authors who belongs in this class is Wendell Berry." --Los Angeles Times

"Berry is a philosopher, poet, novelist and an essayist in the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau . . . like Thoreau, he marches to a different drummer, a drummer we would do well to be aware of, if not to march to." --San Francisco Chronicle

"The best serious essayist now at work in the United States." --Edward Abbey, author of Hayduke Lives

"Berry is the prophetic American voice of our day." --Christian Science Monitor

"A Kentucky farmer and writer, and perhaps the great moral essayist of our day, Berry has produced one of his shortest but also most powerful volumes." --New York Review of Books

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