Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Memory of Old Jack [With Earbuds]” as Want to Read:
The Memory of Old Jack [With Earbuds]
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Memory of Old Jack [With Earbuds]

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  1,158 ratings  ·  143 reviews
"In a rural Kentucky river town, "Old Jack" Beechum, a retired farmer, sees his life again through the shades of one burnished day in September 1952. Bringing the earthiness of America's past to mind, The Memory of Old Jack conveys truth and integrity of the land and the people who live from it. Through the eyes of one man can be seen the values Americans strive to recaptu ...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Playaway (first published February 1st 1974)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Memory of Old Jack [With Earbuds], please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Memory of Old Jack [With Earbuds]

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,856)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Reading this book is like dreaming coherently--it just unfolds in front of you like liquid, with images so clear and so simple that you're instantly standing in the bodies of the characters--treading the dirt they walk on, breathing through their mouths... It is a patient book, and you must be patient with it and trust its pace. Wendell Berry is incredible in many ways, and this book is beautiful. It is a journey through Old Jack's life, but the imagery and ideas an ...more
I believe this to be one of Wendell Berry's finest. In it, he recounts the memories of an old man at the end of a long and eventful life. A man who spanned a good bit of the history of the fictional community of Port William, Kentucky. As he remembers or greets different characters, he remembers some story about that character and each one comes alive for those few, brief pages it takes to recount the tale. I cried at the end, but they were tears of recognition of a life well-lived.
Jack Driscoll, my MFA advisor, recommended this book to me and I recommend it for many reasons: long lines, ambling and ample rhythms, and full-mouthed words like ripe fruit, anabashedly poetic in their slowness but never showy. I agree with the reviewer in Library Journal that the chapter about Jack’s courtship of his wife is especially beautiful, and so sad: “He was misled not by Ruth but by his own desire, so strong for her that it saw possibilities that did not exist, and believed in what it ...more
Full of himself, confident and cocky as a young man, Jack belongs to a farming community where families and neighbors work side by side to plant the fields, raise a barn or harvest the annual tobacco crop. Confusing lust with love, Jack plucks from a distant town a wife, Ruth, taking her into a marriage doomed by misunderstanding to leave both lonely and alone for all the years they share the farm house. You can't help but sympathize with both of them even as their walls grow thicker by the day, ...more
Berry's poetic sensibilities really allow the prose to sing. There's a rhythm to the language that seems to follow the rhythms of natural things--seasons, rivers, harvests.

Berry uses memory here in a couple of intertwining ways. On the one hand, the book follows the memories of "Old Jack" Beechum as he reflects back on the eight-plus decades of his life. While they build slowly, his courtship with Ruth and the episode with Will Wells take the book in surprising and heartfelt directions.

The Memory of Old Jack is a two-part love story; a love affair with the land he lives and works on and the lost love in his failed marriage. Berry is beautifully poetic in his description of Jack's deep connection to the land. Although I am not a farmer I have a deeper sense of appreciation for those that survive by their own hands, working hard sun up to sundown in their land in the midst of unpredictability and instant destruction by weather. Berry paints a clear picture of rural America and t ...more
Wendell Berry is a true poet of the land, and imparts its cadences to every word he puts to paper. What in another might be a maudlin seriousness is crafted by Berry into a heartfelt beauty. What might otherwise be taken as a pointless sentimentality for times and ways long past is transformed by his deep affection for and knowledge of his characters into the communication of a deep yearning for connection. Those of us so thoroughly urbanized that such a connection to the land is purely theoreti ...more
For me, unhappy marriages and affairs pretty much never make an enjoyable story. Which is one of the reasons that I didn’t care for this book.

I wanted to like it. I thought Wendell Berry’s collection of short stories entitled Fidelity had some truly beautiful moments in it. It was well written and had characters that I connected with. So I had high hopes for this book. My expectations were also shaped by the fact that several people I deeply respect have been impacted by Wendell Berry’s works. B
Mar 14, 2008 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Brian Russ
This is actually the second time I've read this book, which says a lot about how much this book means to me as I rarely re-read books. This is one of my all-time favorite books, although it is probably not for everyone. I just read it with a book group this time, and we talked a bit about Wendell Berry's unique writing style. Suffice it to say, it's not for everyone. Everything he writes is like poetry, and as such some may find him a bit ponderous, maybe even opaque. Nonetheless, I think this b ...more
Yes, yes, yes. Each sentence is a jewel from this farmer/poet/novelist. Read it carefully and within a few days' time. Don't miss it if you value land, relationships, reflection, drama.
"Margaret's words have made an occasion of his departure; that, he will realize later, was her gift to him. She has reached deeply into him, into that luminous landscape of his mind where the past lives, where all of them - some who are now dead - are together, and where they will all still be together long after many of those now living will be dead. She has shaken him out of what might have been the simplicity of his leaving and has made it as complex as it really is, as she would have it be. ...more
Matt Beard
Wendell Berry is a wonderful teller of stories. He is particularly masterful at recounting the whole of a person's life in the midst of a few pages while never leaving his reader feel as though they have missed any of the substance that makes up that life. Even here when he sets the life of Jack Beechum against the backdrop of a single day, not a single word is wasted and one feels as though not a single word is missed. From sunrise to sunset on Old Jack's last day, we get to know him as he was ...more
This little book deals beautifully and gracefully with some of the biggest and most divisive issues in modern american society. It delves into those opposing forces of the "getting ahead" and the idea of a sense of place and the deep sense of unease many of us feel at ebing pulled between the two.

I agree with a review that noted, the respect Berry gives both his subject and his reader, which makes reading him a singular pleasure.
This is a deeply satisfying read. Old Jack's memories of more than 90 years of life are tough. He had a hard life as a farmer in the late 19th and early 20th century. You feel his numerous disappointments as he relives them in him memory. Just as the reader starts to cast judgement on his life as lonely and futile, a shift happens. Jack's memories turn to the people who mean the most to him and to the work that gave his life meaning.
This book reminded me of the Frank Capra movie "It's a Wonderf
Once again, Wendell Berry knocks it out of the park. With flawless insight and remarkable brevity, Berry touches on everything that is important in human life (forgiveness, art, betrayal, family, love, work, loyalty, place, hope, redemption...) and draws out the connections and tensions between them all. On top of that, this is just a lovely story. Read it and read it again.
Another beautiful book by one of my favorite authors, an eloquent writing surrounding Jack who in his old age reminisces about his life, in particular his marriage. There is a common thread that explores not only marriage but relationships in general which also includes the relationship of these people to the land.
Betsy Alles
May 26, 2008 Betsy Alles rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Wendall Berry is delicious food for the soul. Simple, deep and brilliant. This is my second novel -- first was Jayber Crow.
Jan 26, 2009 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody, but especially someone who values work well done, especially the old kinds of work
Once again, I loved Berry's writing. This book has a lot to say about marriage, comparing Old Jack and Ruth's to Hannah and Nathan Coulter's. At first, I didn't know where Berry was going when he seemed to change gears and started talking about Hannah but it soon became evident that he was contrasting the two marriages. I don't want to be a spoiler so I won't say more, but if you read this book (and read Hannah Coulter) you will get a very good picture of the effect of a woman's love and respect ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
I picked up an audio version of The Memory of Old Jack for two reasons. First, Berry came highly recommended by Wallace Stegner, an author I very much admire. Second, Berry is scheduled to speak at the Wisconsin Book Festival in the fall,and I wanted to have read some of his fiction before hearing him speak.

The story unfolds slowly, no fast action here. Jack Beechum is the main character, an old farmer, whose life remembered makes up the book. The story takes place on the last day of Jack's lif
Although I don't always agree with his political writing (some being sensible, some downright noodle-headed), his fiction is beautiful. Set in the farm culture he continued to live in himself, the books communicate the slowed down sense of time and the un-sentimental depth of connection between the people who lived and worked together in rural Kentucky. I get the same feeling from his work as I do sitting under a tree in the woods. It feels real and good.

This particular book was amazing in the w
Dale Barlow
WOW, what a poignant story of Old Jack’s last days and the honor Jack displayed to others/was displayed to him. Definitely not a saint, as Jack (married)was in love with another woman, who deceased—other than that, I can’t think of a fault. I read this book and often (& I do mean often) thought of my Grandfather Warren as my own old Jack. I would read a chapter at night, start another but be unable to finish the 2nd chapter, wake up in the middle of the night, finish the 2nd chapter (I did t ...more
About as simple as can be, this slim and leisurely paced novel-- written to be savored in quiet moments-- finds a man in the twilight of his years, spending a day lost in reflection over the life that he has lived, both its high points and its lows. The story is melancholy, but warmly so; crucially, it is not nostalgic. It's a character study of real complexity, and Berry's own natural love of the land and of nonviolent living shine through, somehow, in the gentleness of the prose.
Kathi Mckeown
This is the second Wendell Berry book I have read, and it won't be the last. I lived the first 15 years of my life in a small rural town and understand and appreciate the close knit community and respect of elders. His marriage to Ruth was painful, which would probably have ended in divorce in today's world. Old Jack's work ethic and so much of Mr. Berry's message is so well received by me.
Wow. Just lovely.

I've read so many novels lately that I can just zoom through because they're pretty good but just all right. Then I read something like this, and I slow ~~way~~ down and copy down one quote after another since the language is so wonderful. A book like this could change a person's life! Thank you, Mr. Berry!
Another wonderful Berry book with a favorite character from Port William, KY. It's the last day in Jack's life, with the usual flashbacks. These books most remind me of the Jan Karon series, but with better and more varied characters and super quality writing. I love that small town atmosphere. About Jack: "Anyone who looked at him in those days sensed that he was a man who would do unflinchingly whatever he thought necessary, whatever affection or loyalty or obligation demanded. He had become a ...more
Jim Leckband
The title is overloaded with a poetic touch. The "Memory" of Old Jack is first of all the memories of an old farmer living out his days in a rest home, being uncontrollably swept back through his life. The second "Memory" is the remembrances of his family and friends of Old Jack. The final "Memory" is the book as a whole - a memory of Old Jack as he was and lived out his last days.

The metaphor is probably overused, but the prose of Wendell Berry has to be a lot like the land and people he writes
Tim Miller
As with other Wendell Berry books, this was beautifully written - sometimes like reading poetry. I can see why this book would be a slow read (though not long) for some, as there is not much of a plot. But for me, it was personally very meaningful on two counts. First, having grown up on a farm I can relate to many of the farming memories described. (Also to some of the interpersonal problems Jack encountered.) The second meaningful area was the taking stock of a life near its end. I'm hopefully ...more
I enjoyed the writing so much I was disappointed when the story ended...and it was such a rich ending. The characters had such depth and the values we are losing as children grow away from putting such energy into running a farm. Wonderful!
Wendell Berry requires his readers to savor as they read. Not to rush but to reflect and take it slow. This is my second book and I have come to enjoy Mr. Berry's simplicity of a time that is changing. The memory of Old Jack is a reflection of his life and his way of life which was farming. I think he was misunderstood by those that were suppose to be the closest to him; his wife and daughter, however, those that saw life in the same way, felt kindered to him. Some people reading this might thin ...more
Ben Patterson
Berry's fiction is deeply involving and instructive. His poetic instinct is evident throughout. I discovered him at a time when I more readily would have identified as a christian, and although Berry is a christian the scope of his art is not, in my opinion, damaged by that affiliation.

This story is emotionally challenging. We see the town of Port William through the eyes of a man too old to be of any practical use at work, yet living and full of memory. The narrator moves the story between the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 61 62 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Parchment of Leaves
  • River of Earth
  • Storming Heaven
  • Becoming Native to This Place
  • Fishboy: A Ghost's Story
  • The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination
  • The Son of Laughter
  • Bucking the Sun
  • Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia
  • The Pastor: A Memoir
  • Remembering Laughter
  • Last Go Round: A Real Western
  • The Song Of The World
  • The Same River Twice: A Memoir
  • The Christmas Letters
  • Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight
  • Far Tortuga
  • Holy the Firm
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

Share This Book

“The work satisfied something deeper in him than his own desire. It was as if he went to his fields in the spring, not just because he wanted to, but because his father and grandfather before him had gone because they wanted to - because, since the first seeds were planted by hand in the ground, his kinsmen had gone each spring to the fields. When he stepped into the first opening furrow of a new season he was not merely fulfilling an economic necessity; he was answering the summons of an immemorial kinship; he was shaping a passage by which an ancient vision might pass once again into the ground.” 3 likes
“Now when he walked in his fields and pastures and woodlands he was tramping into his mind the shape of the land, his thought becoming indistinguishable from it, so that when he came to die his intelligence would subside into it like its own spirit.” 1 likes
More quotes…