Distant NeighborsPosted: July 9, 2014
Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry & Gary Snyder
Chad Wriglesworth, editor
Counterpoint (May 13, 2014), 322 pages
Kindle Edition $14.99, Amazon Hardcover $22.44
I haven’t read much of either Wendell Berry or Gary Snyder, but I respect the work of both men and I pay attention when I see an article by or about them or when I hear either interviewed on the radio. What I didn’t know was that the two men were and are good friends.
What this book makes clear is the depth of that friendship and the long-standing mutual respect that Berry and Snyder have for each other. This is no small achievement. Snyder has long lived in the Sierra foothills, considers himself a hunter-gatherer and is a Buddhist. Berry has long lived in Kentucky, is a devoted farmer, and a committed Christian. Yet they both share strong values about ecology and the care of the planet, and this has led to a long-standing collaboration.
The first exchange of letters was in 1973, and the book takes us through forty years, up to 2013. Although published by a small, independent publishing house, the book is highly annotated and deserving of a place in any academic library.
This is a marvelous survey of the reflections of two of the most important American thinkers and writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
They appeared together on KQED Forum recently discussing the book, their friendship, and a variety of other topics.