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Nathan Coulter

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  750 ratings  ·  71 reviews
This, the first title in the Port William series, introduces the rural section of Kentucky with which novelist Wendell Berry has had a lifelong fascination. When young Nathan loses his grandfather, Berry guides readers through the process of Nathan's grief, endearing the reader to the simple humanity through which Nathan views the world. Echoing Berry's own strongly held b ...more
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Published May 28th 2008 by Counterpoint LLC (first published 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,193)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”Grandpa had owned his land and worked on it and taken his pride from it for so long that we knew him, and he knew himself, in the same way that we knew the spring. His life couldn’t be divided from the days he’d spent at work in his fields. Daddy had told us we didn’t know what the country would look like without him at work in the middle of it; and that was as true of Grandpa as it was of Daddy. We wouldn’t recognize the country when he was dead."

There is this moment in time, with proper longe
...more
Mike
Nathan Coulter: Wendell Berry's Creation of the Port William Community

This novel was chosen as the Moderator's Choice by Laura Webber, "The Tall Woman", for On the Southern Literary Trail for December, 2014.

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4a time to weep, and a time t
...more
Diane S.
I think one of the best compliments one can pay an author is to say I felt like I was right there, in Port Williams his made up town, and with Nathan and all his other characters. I felt like I was with them walking through the woods, fishing and coon hunting. At the fair watching Uncle Burly and his ducks, picking tobacco and watching the fight between his brother and father.

The book opens with Nathan and his older brother always together, and then felt the anguish of Nathan as his brother out
...more
Connie
A reverence for the land is evident in Wendell Berry's first novel, set in the fictional Port William. Narrated by Nathan Coulter, this is a 1930s coming-of-age story of a boy in a Kentucky family who grow tobacco on a riverside farm. Nathan's father and grandfather are hard men whose lives revolve around working the farm, driving themselves and their family members. The tension between the fathers and sons is broken by Uncle Burley, a relaxed nurturing man, whose vices provide a humorous contra ...more
Josh
A nice break from the typical coming of age books I tend to read that have hard lines; journeys that spiral into dysfunctional behavior. This book hits the same points probably, it just does so in a "days gone by" way.

Nathan Coulter is a young man growing up in the transitional period where likely the agrarian lifestyle is waning into a more industrial one. His strongest influences include (in increasing order) his father, his grandparents, and his Uncle Burley (and associates). Lessons from al
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When life is work, the rest of the details have to fit around the long days spent farming tobacco, hunting racoons, and fishing. That's basically what this book is, and well written.

I have always meant to read Wendell Berry and would like to read more.
Diane Barnes
I think I love Wendell Berry's books so much because they always make me feel like there's much more to life than my petty little concerns. Nature girl I am not, but even just reading about the working of the land, the turning of the seasons, and good people maintaining connections with land and family makes me feel the whole "circle of life" thing. It sounds like such a cliché, but it's real. As Uncle Burley comments on a day when an old woman dies and a baby is born: "They put one under, and p ...more
Jane
Nathan Coulter is a novel about growing up yes, but more importantly about how we grow into the land and our relationship to Nature. It’s a novel about accepting this land legacy or not for working with the land brings responsibilities and sacrifice; it necessitates unflinching dedication and this process can’t be rushed because if there is one thing that we can be certain of it is that our time to own it, work it and lead offspring along its arduous path will come when it is meant to not before ...more
RK-ique
Wonderful writing. More than another coming of age story. The series of vignettes that make up the book piece together a landscape portrait of rural life in early 20th Century Kentucky. We know the land, the rivers, the wildlife and the people. The story unfolds slowly against this sometimes harsh, sometimes pastoral background. Part Faulkner. Part Stegner. Part the land. Beautiful and moving. Thanks for the recommendation William!!
William
I enjoyed this very short novel made up of five chapters, but the only thing holding it together is the title character. Each chapter is a vignette describing an event or scene in the young boy's life. I suppose it is a coming of age piece, at least that is what the fly leaf says. If you like Southern literature, this just might be your cup of sour mash.
Jon Biggerstaff
Berry wields profundity amongst the simple things. Earth, hard work, family. Not a lot happens and when it does Berry does not sensationalize it. Rather he causes the reader to focus less on the event and more on an underlying meaning, like this paragraph -- "While daylight came we sat and looked at the black pile of ashes. We hadn't accepted the fire; we'd been able to fight that as long as it burned. But now, in the daylight, in our tiredness, as if we'd fought all night in a dream, we accepte ...more
Tim
More like 3.5 stars (and again, Goodreads, please update your software--a 3.5 is vastly different from a 3).

Kind of interesting to go back and read some of Berry's earlier stuff. Next to Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, Nathan Coulter--in my opinion--does not compare. Doesn't have that sleepy quality; in fact, it seems almost cut up and choppy. Never felt like I knew Nathan as I did Jayber and Hannah. If anything, Burley steals the show.

Whatever the case, I press on with reading the rest of Ber
...more
Thing Two
Reminds me a lot of reading Ferrol Sams. His work has been compared to writings by Sherwood Anderson. Like sitting at the feet of your old Southern grandfather and listening to him yarn, except I didn't have an old Southern grandfather ...
Margaret
This first in the Port William, Kentucky series is about Nathan's boyhood. Having already read Hannah Coulter, I am now ready to try some of the in-between books. Berry is a wonderful writer. His descriptions slide in amongst the tales of Burleigh Coulter to his young nephews and carry you away to another time and place.
Bria
I don't know for sure why I am giving this book four stars. A quiet, slow, brutal-but-still-hopeful-and-not-graphic, real coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in Kentucky. Not much action, but a good, satisfying read.
Aeisele
Berry writes simply and directly. You can never get too much of that.
Northpapers
It's difficult to think of this book outside of the context of Berry's body of work. So I won't bother.

As a reader familiar with Port William and the ideas that flow through its characters, I found this to be one of Berry's most elegant, understated stories.

The themes of generational tension, the community of living things, and the impact of technology on a community are all woven into a coming-of-age story that rarely stops or slows to discuss its meaning or implications.

Reading this in one si
...more
Kristin
I just finished reading this. It is an excellent coming of age book about a boy in a small town in Kentucky. Wendell Berry is a masterful writer. This is a very quick read. I read it in two sittings. I loved the depth of the characters. They are very real. For example, the father has a complicated personality. He loves his work (farming) and devotes himself to it. He can be a very hard man and often takes this out on his kids. That said, he also has a big heart and is sorry even when he cannot e ...more
Michelle
I fell in love with Wendell Berry's writing while listening to him read his poetry on the radio. Like his poetry and essays, this is beautifully written. It is simple but profound. It is pleasant, like taking a quiet walk in the woods. The characters are relatable because they are imperfect, human, and so honestly written. I especially loved Grandpa who reminded me so much of my own grandpa. In short, this was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to reading more of Wendell Berry's writing in t ...more
Suzy
Tells of the coming of age of Nathan Coulter, who grew up to marry one of my favorite Port William residents, Hannah Feltner (Coulter.) Berry doesn't sugarcoat the life of a farmer pre-World War Two, but he portrays it with a great deal of respect and dignity. After Nathan's mother dies, he and his brother are sent to live with their grandparents on the neighboring farm. Nathan is profoundly influenced by his idiosyncratic, free-spirited Uncle Burley (one of Berry's best characters.)

This is one
...more
Philip Alexander
This is a classic, and a novel that I re-read every couple of years. I suspect it had some influence on writers like Tony Earley and Kent Haruf. Nathan Coulter is a coming-of-age tale set in the fictional Kentucky town of Port William. The story is spare and the writing has a homespun poetry about it. There are also similarities to Carver, not in content or the approach to the story, but in the sharp details and pitch-perfect dialogue. There is also humour in this book(and other Berry novels) wh ...more
Milo
I have been so fascinated with Berry's essays that I didn't know he wad written fiction. So, I see a book on my son's bookshelf called Nathan Coulter by Berry and discover it was his 1st published book. Damn....
Very well written, interesting plat and characters, and enough humor for 2 or 3 books. One highly suggested read.
Andrew Hoffman
Nathan Coulter is the first of the series of stories about the Port William membership. Spare and efficient, the richness is in the simple metaphors and uncomplicated observations. When on the last page Berry relinquishes the plot it is like a mother gently laying a baby in a cradle. Deeply gratifying.
Nathan
Berry's first book in the Port William membership is a fun reminiscence for readers already familiar with this literary locale. Like "Andy Catlett: Early Travels," it centers on the challenge of growing up in a small rural community while the outside world hungrily presses in. I especially enjoyed fresh glimpses of Burley Coulter's character - I'm certain that everyone knows and loves a real-life Burley. Overall, a relaxing, non-plot-driven, episodic read.
Tom Hailand
four stars

for the story, but one star for the macabre streak of brutal animal cruelty that Wendell uses either to be accurate or because he gets a perverse pleasure from it. have to read another to see what is what
Diana
I love all of Wendell Berry's novels. This is the first in the wonderful series set in fictional Port William, Kentucky. Stories about farming people, of family, of growing up in that part of the country.
Pastor Ben
This is my first foray into Wendell Berry and I loved it. What I liked is that it created a feel for a time and a place (rural Kentucky in the 30s.) It didn't try too hard. It just let the little details build up and after awhile the flavor of it all really started to come through. In many ways I couldn't identify with the characters, they were harder and rougher than it's been my experience to know, but still there are universal experiences: relationships, coming of age, and death. This book wa ...more
Andre Satie
It' hard for me to imagine giving any of Berry's novels anything less than five stars.
Hilary
My first foray into the fictional world of Wendell Berry. I absolutely loved the novel, especially Uncle Burley! What a character. Living in Kentucky and traveling its rural roads as part of my job, I have seen many of the hollows, farms, countryside so vividly described. Gotta read more in the series!
Catherine Blass
I love Wendell Berry. I love Nathan Coulter (the character). I read this one after reading most of Berry's other Port William novels. This one was Berry's first novel, and I think he just hadn't quite figured out what Port William looks like or means. His portrayal of Nathan and Burley Coulter are not as full or beautiful as in his later novels, nor does this book contain the sense of community, memory, or membership that give his later novels their beauty. Still, I was very happy to read the or ...more
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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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“Grandpa’s farm had belonged to our people ever since there had been a farm in that place, or people to own a farm. Grandpa’s father had left it to Grandpa and his other sons and daughters. But Grandpa had borrowed money and bought their shares. He had to have it whole hog or none, root hog or die, or he wouldn’t have it at all.” 0 likes
“It seemed to us that we’d never thought of him before as a man who would die. He never had thought of himself in that way. Until that year, although he’d cursed his weakness and his age, he’d either ignored the idea of his death or had refused to believe in it. He’d only thought of himself as living.” 0 likes
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