Friday, January 16, 2009

Let's Get Serious Just for a Moment

I think we're going to have much to talk about here. My head is swimming at the moment with all sorts of tidbits and tangents about Hannah and Wendell and Ivy and Grandmam and now Virgil!

I wish I could just spout them all out loud. It would be easier than trying to decide what to write.

I wonder if Wendell ever feels like his head is going to explode with words.

I'm not one to do a bunch of research on someone before I read their books. I don't know too many people who approach their reading that way. I think most of us read books because they're recommended and then they might research the author if they're curious.

My impressions of Wendell Berry have come from reading a few of his essays, the title of the specific collection escapes me. Unfortunately for me, his essays caused me to ignore his novels-- until yesterday.

I mention my torrid past with Wendell because Anna, in the comments, told me she left Oprah's Book Club to be here.

Are you with me?

When Anna told me she left Oprah's Book Club to be here, I went to Oprah's Book Club to see what she left behind and, you know, to see how Oprah does it.

Um, Anna? There's a lot of neato stuff over there! Lots of links and information and discussions and videos and professionals. And big words like dialectic. I found myself reading all of it--even the discussion questions for a book I have no intention of reading.

Those questions were pretty well-written, too. I noticed she got the author of the book to write them.

That's not going to happen here. So, Anna, I just wanted you to know that Wendell Berry won't be here nor will he be submitting questions about his book. (I found that odd, anyway.)

Visiting Oprah's site confirmed something for me. I'm easily influenced by first impressions. Reading about the book on her site made me not want to read it. I ignored Wendell for six years because his essays made me a little bit mad (mostly because he couldn't hear me asking him questions as I was reading them). So, I'm hesitant to give you a bunch of links about Wendell because I don't want to be responsible for causing you to read Hannah Coulter through a lens that's anything but pure and raw and honest and only your very own.

Except I found an intriguing interview that he did in 2004 with Sojourner Magazine. Hannah Coulter was published in 2004 and I noticed something as I read the interview. He speaks like he writes or he writes like he speaks. There are phrases spoken in this interview that are found verbatim in the text of Hannah Coulter.

I find this fascinating and I really hope I don't get sucked into reading every single interview I can find on the web because we're actually trying to do some schoolwork today and I'd like to have a hot meal ready when Chad gets home from work.

Click and read at your own risk.


We will be discussing Part One, Chapters 1 - 7, all next week beginning on Monday. I fully expect everyone to be in different places at different times and I fully expect that our discussions will overlap throughout the entire book. In other words, if we miss something that you wish to discuss you are invited and urged to bring it up no matter where we are in the discussion. Remember! The comments are the real blog here--don't miss them!

Now. Because I think you'll want to know, Hannah's savings of $162.37 is roughly $2500 in today's economy.

And one more thing, I keep hearing a man's voice (Wendell's, I presume, though I've never heard him speak) when I should be hearing a woman's. We'll be talking about "voice" next week but in the mean time, Donna made a great suggestion: read out loud to myself for a few pages to hear my voice instead of Wendell's. I'm sorry if by suggesting this I've now brought to your attention a problem you didn't know you had. Forgive me.

Did you notice Wendell and I are on a first-name basis? I've forgiven him for making a bad first impression and he's forgiven me for making hasty judgments.

His prose is making up for a lot of past mistakes.

:) Lynn


  1. Dear Lynn,
    You are a dream of a writer/blogger.
    So funny.
    So smart.

    I like your voice.

    Did you really look up the 'exchange rate'? Made me laugh.

  2. although oprah is all fancy with writers and all, i don't think she will ever mention me personally on her blog. :-) plus i like to talk to real people about books and how they are changed by reading them. i haven't left oprah forever. i guess you could say i am having an affair...

  3. Donna--you're a dream of a friend. You're going to make me cry.

    (Didn't you wonder how much money that was? I was curious. $2500 in six years on cream and eggs!)

    Anna--you just made my day! Thanks for making us your fling. :) We're definitely real people here.

  4. I might have to break down and buy the book this weekend. I don't want to be 7 chapters behind - I'll never catch up. Although I could just read the blog and comments and not the book. Would that be bad?

  5. Lynn-
    No. I just thought, that's nice.

    Now where did I put my marbles....

  6. Yes, Lori. That would be bad. The chapters are short--Donna's reading it...never mind. I'll let her say where she's reading it.

    I don't expect we'll be discussing all seven chapters on Monday, we'll definitely dole them out through the week. I just looked--it's a total of 58 pages.

    You could even go to Barnes and Noble and just read a shelf copy in a big comfy chair. Hey! That's a great idea!

  7. I popped into my library a little while ago and there it was - on the shelf, never opened. I'm the first.

    I hope you don't go gettin' all fancy like Oprah, because I'm just not that kind of a book clubber.

    Donna's right. You are a very natural blogger!
    And thanks for not messing up my impression of Wendell, because this is our first date.

  8. That's a great idea. I will look to see if either of our bookstores have it on the shelf before I go out again in this weather. Finally warmed up to 2 so now it has to snow.

  9. I just sent the boys outside to get a little Vitamin D before sunset. No wind and -5! Woohoo!

  10. My book won't be here until Monday but I will join in after I read the chapters.

  11. Yea, my book just arrived from Amazon. Now I won't be behind.

  12. Wow, Junebug! It's as if they knew...

  13. The chapters are delightfully short which is wonderful for those of us who don't have time to actually sit and read long novels.

    I hadn't thought about the voice thing though. Now I just know I'm gonna start hearing Wendell talking instead of sweet Hannah....

    Tammy ~@~

  14. Lynn - You are a wonderful blogger!! I got the book today and will start tonight.

    Thanks for your research! I really appreciate your input and the links.

    As for the voice... when I read The Gun Seller, I could totally hear Hugh Laurie's voice the whole way through. It was like listening to a British House in my head, which really wasn't such a bad thing. Just sayin.

  15. Yeah, me too about the voice thing. I was thinking, hey, this is a guy writing for a girl....

    and I tried to remind myself that this happens in lots of other books I've read. But I'm gonna try what Donna said...about reading aloud to see if I can fool my brain :)

    and i'm gonna make a link on my sidebar, so i dont miss more entries

  16. For those waiting on the book, Google books has pages 1-37 (Chapters 1-most of 5) online at:,M1

    I didn't have the problem with Wendell's voice but maybe because I'd already read his other novels, all of which were told from the point of view of male characters? In fact, later in Hannah Coulter, I found myself wondering how Wendell could understand how women think because he described my feelings exactly. (I'll share that when we get to it.)

    I do see Wendell's socio-political views coming out in the book (especially his nearly pacifist view on war). I don't always agree with his views but on the whole, his ideas about community have impacted my thinking a great deal. I've only read a few of his essays and several interviews online including the Sojourner one, which I agree with you is excellent. I didn't enjoy his essays as much as his fiction either.

    Can't wait for more book club talk next week. Thanks so much for taking Donna up on this challenge. I agree, you are a natural blogger/writer.


  17. Thank you, Sandy. I'm so glad you're here.

    I didn't even think about Google Reader.

    I didn't even know about Google Reader until last week.

    I don't think Wendell would approve of Google Reader, do you? But, he's not here so what the hey, what the heck!

    (And I'm glad I'm not alone on the essays.)

  18. My book just arrived! I just ordered it Thursday night from Amazon. I wonder if the Amazon people are wondering why it's flying off their shelves....

    I hope I can knit and read at the same time.

  19. Dot--I can knit and read at the same time but only when it's an audio book. :)

    Enjoy your weekend.

  20. LOL, Lynn - I'm guessing my almost 50-year-old brain will only be able to handle one thing at a time. I will just read!

  21. Amen to Google Reader! I've never heard of such a thing until today. Time to start reading...

  22. OH, and I spend a lot of time each year in Asheville, NC - and the best antique store in town is called the Tobacco Barn -- after tobacco drying, they parcel it out for a massive antiques mall.

    Apart from my mother's 3-pack-a-day habit, that's all I know about tobacco.

  23. I know exactly what you mean about Wendell's voice. Mine hit me when her father-in-law was driving her to the hospital. Wendell said Hannah had a "pain" and focused more, I think, on how her "FIL" drove the car..."gently". I thought the same thing Lynn!

    Tammy - I am a huge House fan! Can't wait until Monday for the new episode!

    Lynn- thanks for the savings update. I thought of it for a split second while I was reading, but I knew it would take me a while to do the math, so I just kept reading. We should do a "Hannah Challenge" and see how much we can save until the end of this club. I'd be happy if I could save enough to get the knife Ree just gave away on her site! That's my problem, I'd save it then spend it! Hannah didn't do that, and I think that's why I love this book so much!!

    It's like Ina, Barefoot Contessa, back to basics. Who's the country singer who sang..."maybe it's time we got back, to the basics of love"? I need to get back to the basics of life!!

    I'm really loving this book. How did you guys come about it? Did Donna first recommend it to you 3 or how did this all start?

  24. My favorite article about Wendell Berry on the web is here:

    Berry writes about sex, asserting it is neither safe, private nor free.

    One of the things I love about Wendell Berry's writing is how he writes about sex. Always understated, but always beautiful with a touch of mystery.

  25. No sweat and slips, Lynn. It's understated (-:

    No brain for anything but smarty mouth comments today. John is currently reading Hannah, but I'll sneak it away for some catch up reading tonight. Hopefully I'll be back with intelligent comments about voice, literary devices, and Wendell's views on agriculture, sex and technology. Do.not.hold.your.breath.

  26. Lynn,

    you do have a cheerful voice. I've only read two of your blog entries so far, but I can already tell you are fuN! with a capital N! (I don't know why I put that in there, the capital N was actually just an accident. It would have been faster to go back and edit that to a lower case...)

    Anywho, I just wanted to chime in and say, I hope it's not too late for me to join. I noticed it (the book and your new blog) in Donna's comments and it's taken me a while to jump over here. I ordered Hannah C. on Friday, and I hope it's in today so I can catch up!

  27. Di--tell John he's welcome to chime in anytime. I fully expect intelligent comments from both of you. :)

  28. Wendy--it's not too late. Welcome!