Picks and Pans Review: Home Economics

updated 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Wendell Berry

The author of these essential essays is a Kentucky farmer who is also responsible for The Wild Birds, a volume of exceptionally beautiful short stories published last year. Berry is concerned about what we are doing to our world in the name of "progress," and he's not buying any of the conventional arguments. He writes, "If our economic ideal is maximum profit with minimum responsibility, why should we be surprised to find our corporations so frequently in court and robbery on the increase? Why should we be surprised to find that medicine has become an exploitive industry, profitable in direct proportion to its hurry and its mechanical indifference?" By writing about religion and economics in the same article, the author sheds light on both. In his essay "The Loss of the University," Berry observes, "This idea of education as 'career track' diminishes everything it touches: education, teaching, childhood, the future." But if much of this book is devoted to our current destructiveness, Berry is a gentlemanly essayist, never shrill or preachy. In examining the past he finds all sorts of practices that made sense—the small, rural, mutually supportive community, for instance—and argues that we, in the pursuit of "the better life," have placed ourselves in conflict with nature. Here is a thinker who remains outside the hype that clutters our thoughts. He asks the right questions about the way we are living and how we treat the natural world, and he provides commonsensical answers. Berry is an engaging writer, a subtle essayist who asks nothing more than that we open our eyes and see what we are doing to our world. (North Point, $20; paper, $9.95)

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