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That Distant Land: The Collected Stories

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  574 ratings  ·  73 reviews
That Distant Land includes twenty-three stories from Wendell Berry's Port William membership. Arranged in their fictional chronology, the book shines forth as a single sustained work, not simply an anthology. It reveals Wendell Berry as a literary master capable of managing an imaginative integrity over decades of writing with a multitude of characters followed over severa ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 24th 2005 by Counterpoint (first published August 1st 2002)
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The Best of Wendell Berry's Port William
3rd out of 16 books — 12 voters
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32nd out of 42 books — 4 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,122)
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Sherry
This book covers about a century of time in the community of Port William, an imaginary town on the Kentucky River, where it joins the Ohio River on Kentucky's northern border. There are stories starting from the 1860s and carrying up to the 1960s, about the families who lived in the area. There is a great map in the back of the book that shows where these families lived, and a geneology of several families and how they related to one another.
It's poignant and funny, and a view of a land of farm
...more
Drew
I would give it more stars if allowed. Wisdom, humor, laughter, tears, longing, sorrow, gratitude, pride. A collection of short stories covering a period from the 1890's to 1975 set in an imaginary county in Kentucky about farming, neighbors and a distant time with now distant values. Beautiful descriptions of the land, the air, the smells. I laughed so hard during one story that I couldn't breath for a bit. There is a deep underlying goodness in these people that I hope, hope, hope we are not l ...more
Sylvester
It's difficult to review Wendell Berry. I have too many thoughts, too many things to say.

There have been mentions in the reviews of "That Distant Land" that Berry slips into sentimentality. I thought a lot about that as I was listening to the book. If sentimentality is an appeal to shallow, uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason - I don't think Berry is guilty. Although the stories are reflective, slow-paced, and focused on the interweaving of time, relationships and the land, and are d
...more
Dpdwyer
I have long wanted to like Wendell Berry, but I never had any luck with either his essays or his novels---until now. These twenty-some linked stories cover five generations (1880s to 1980s) of people living in the fictitious small town of Port William, Kentucky. I found them riveting: the language, the descriptions of place, and the depth and variety of the characters. He evokes a simpler time when the relationships with the land, family, and neighbors were paramount. In one story a young man is ...more
Joe
This is a wonderful collection of short stories, all taking place in or around a fictional place in Kentucky invented by Berry. By the end of the book, you've become familiar with so many of the names and stories that characters reference, you begin to feel like part of this community Berry has created; like you're hearing your grandparent tell you stories about your distant relatives. Really a touching collection of life-affirming stories. These are slices of everyday life -- usually farm life ...more
Josh Barkey
This book dragged me kicking and screaming back through time and space into the more measured pace of an agrarian society. I got distracted from time to time, by my modern obsession with ACTION, but ultimately fell in love with these stories, which allowed me to follow a group of people as they were born, grew up, grew old and died. I actually shed a few tears for these people, which I've rarely done since way back in the day when I read, "Where the Red Fern Grows".

I highly recommend that you r
...more
Shannonpresler
I have thrown Berry's books while reading them. Because they're so beautiful! I can't believe a writer of this caliber is still living and we haven't drawn his blood yet so that we can clone him. That said, this book continues his practice of writing beautifully. Mostly. Some of the stories in here will break. your. heart. Certainly. Quickly. Thankfully.
But some of the stories seem a bit.....nostalgic. As if people in the 'old days' farted anecdotes and spoke in folksy iambic pentameter.
Berry i
...more
Aaron Van Fleet
Best book I have ever read. Nothing is even close to it. Read it.
Hope
From the very first paragraphs of the book I felt as though I’d been given a rare privilege. Not only did Berry's narrative style draw me quickly into the story, but the people he described were so believable in their weaknesses and strengths, that I soon forgot they were fictional characters and felt a secret pleasure at eavesdropping into their lives.

How could I not love gangly Tol Proudfoot who married late in life and never ceased to adore his bride? Or faithful Jack who kept a vigilant watc
...more
Aguess
This book enveloped me in the pace of Berry's imagined town of Port William, Kentucky. All of the inhabitants of this hand wrought landscape of farms, fields, and hollows are so fully realized that I ceased to think of them as characters, just people that would pass in and out and through the various stories. Nothing much happens in these stories, yet they depict occasions of great moment. In a pace that is almost geologic they illustrate moments that are universal in human experience at the sam ...more
Steve
Trying something a little different with Berry. I am reading all the novels in "chronological" order according to the chronology given in the ToC of "That Distant Land." The TOC shows where the other novels fit into these collected stories so whenever I come to one, to pull aside and read that complete novel "where" it fits. Its been really good so far.
Dianne
Reading Wendell Berry is like floating down a peaceful river. These beautiful short stories of farm life in KY kept me the best of company while I sat with my mom during the last week of her life. Berry writes of a rural culture that embraces the presence and wisdom of those members no longer with us - such good timing for reading this.
Amy
As my husband, children and I drove through Kentucky last month, I got in the habit of looking up in the AAA tour book the little towns we went through. One such town was called Carrollton and actually had attractions. It also stated that the town was founded in 1793 as Port William, the name changing in the mid-19th century. I had just started reading this wonderful book at that time or I would have made my husband stop so I could look around. I suspect if I were there now, the feeling I'd have ...more
Caleb Zahnd
The short story "Fidelity" may be one of the finest pieces of modern fiction literature ever penned.
Kathy Weitz
Wendell Berry never disappoints.
Larry
It is possible this is not my all-time favorite collection of short stories. But if it's not, then it's certainly close enough to be standing on its toes. On several occasions, tears came to my eyes while reading, not from a particular scene's sadness, but from the sheer beauty of the depth of humanity revealed. I've tried to describe this book to others, citing the fictional Port William location somewhat reminiscent of the old TV show, "The Waltons", but that comparison fails miserably to avoi ...more
Gail
Another Wendell Berry book I would give 10 stars if I could. I loved reading this collection of stories after having read all the Port William novels plus "A Place in Time." I didn't expect to be introduced to new characters that I'd love as much as any of the Wendell Berry characters I had already come to know, but oh my goodness, Ptolemy and Miss Minnie Proudfoot just stole my heart. They are delightful and their relationship is so sweet. And "The Discovery of Kentucky" has to be one of the fu ...more
Carrie
May 28, 2013 Carrie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Love Wendell Berry. Favorite passage, p. 433:

"In a time when farmers had been told and had believed that they could not prosper if they did not "expand," as if the world were endless, Danny and Lyda had never dreamed beyond the boundaries of their own place; so far as Wheeler knew, they had never coveted anything that was their neighbor's. In a time when farmers had believed that they had to take their needs to market or they could not proposer, Lyda and Danny ate what they grew or what came, fr
...more
Sally
This book is a collection of short stories related to the people in Port William, Kentucky, a community that Berry has been writing about for many years. I loved seeing them again in this format: the stories are arranged chronologically, and the table of contents shows how they fit into the time frame of the other Port William novels. But it was sad to see the passage of time. At the end, it appears that only Danny Branch and Hannah Coulter's grandson are going to maintain the farming tradition ...more
Joy
This was a wonderful collection of short stories with characters from Port Washington, KY. I'd read several of the stories before, but the great thing about this collection was that they were in chronological order of when they happened (including the year). I liked reading about plowing with horses before the grandson plows with a tractor. It just helped fit everything in the space time-wise. Tol (Ptolomy) Proudfoot is one of my favorite characters. He's a farmer who loves his work and his wife ...more
Jill
Really great writing, but short stories are hard for me to enjoy. If I like them, then I don't like them to end quite so soon. I like Bildungsroman lit, so I prefer hefty character development. My two favorites were It Wasn't Me and Fidelity. I like very much Berry's concept of the compilation of short stories that span generations of a town and the inhabitants' relationships to one another. The chronology of the layout and maps were a nice touch. Berry writes in such detail, that it sounds more ...more
Laurie
I've been reading this book of short stories about families farming life in Kentucky in the early 1900s with ward book club. The details about emotions, relationships and the experiences of these people is quite enjoyable. You come to quickly appreciate and understand the characters. Some of the story lines are brief and some are carried through multiple stories. Lessons of forgiveness, friendship, companionship, family bonds, neighborly kindness and service are woven into the stories. It's over ...more
Josh
First taste of Wendell Berry. I very much enjoyed these short stories.
Jeremy
Read all the Wendell Berry you can get your hands on.
Marnie
3.5 stars

I feel very mixed about this review. On one hand, I really enjoyed the story telling. The flow of his words brought back the feeling of an earlier time. I loved the sense of community, or membership, that went beyond just friends and family. The only reason I went with 3.5 stars is that the book didn't grab me and keep me reading. In fact, I stopped part way and read another book. I hardly ever do that. Maybe that is because it is a collection of short stories. Anyway, I liked the book
...more
Sara
Tender, true, transporting. Just excellent.
Gregg Koskela
A perfect introduction to Wendell Berry, this includes all of his short stories, written over four decades and covering more than 150 years of the fictitious history of the small, fictional town of Port William in Kentucky. An embrace of the good life and simplicity and a constant critique of the modern world.
Dave
A terrific set of stories. Each provides a tale that enriches the tapestry of Port William. Many are more somber than the novels I've read, with several telling the story of the passing of several of the main characters from the novels.

My only quibble was arranging them in chronological order of the time each story purportedly took place. I'd prefer to have had them in the order Berry wrote them, for a further glimpse into the evolution of the families and place in his mind.
Fruitbake
I am a nostalgic fool and I love Wendell Berry. This was my introduction to him. I laughed. I cried. I missed the home farm.
Chinwe
More of the same goodness about the dear ones of Port William. I'm always enriched after spending time with them.
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
More about Wendell Berry...
Jayber Crow Hannah Coulter The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture The Collected Poems, 1957-1982 Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

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