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Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Jayber Crow (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Wendell Berry

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7162013,154 (4.46)17
Title:Jayber Crow
Authors:Wendell Berry
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Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (2000)



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This book is so full and so rich that I just wanted to wallow in it. I have never read a book so full of Life. I loved the writing, the characters, the atmosphere, the relaxed pace, the beauty, the sadness and the joy. I really wanted to sit on the porch and have a conversation with this man. Thank you Wendell Berry. You are amazing. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
What do I think of this book? I absolutely hated parts and other parts totally blew me over, the words were so perfect. The author IS an acclaimed poet. I was never indifferent to this book. Either I was furious or astounded by the quality of the writing. Should I give it one star for all the times I felt like dumping it immediately? I cannot give it two or three stars because they are lukewarm ratings. I was never lukewarm to this book. Yes, I liked it a lot, four stars it is. I will explain what I liked and what I absolutely hated.

When Wendell Berry describes nature - a river, a forest, a foggy morning – it is not just beautiful, it is completely accurate. A river is something you hear and see. You feel its presence, and all this is conveyed in his words. Me, I adore walking in the woods or along a beach so I felt very attached to Berry’s words.

Humor. There is lots of humor. Tongue in cheek humor and that is my favorite. Great dialogs too.

I look at the story as a whole and I feel the message the author wants to convey is perfectly demonstrated by the events, by what happens, particularly its ending. This is a book about a barber (Jayber Crow) in Port William, Kentucky. He tells us about his life living through the events of the 1900s. He speaks of not only his life but all the people of the town, since being the barber he comes to know everyone. This is not a book of historical fiction; you do not read this to learn about either of the wars or the Vietnam War or the Depression, all of which he lives through. He never went to war since his heart disqualified him. He was orphaned twice, but I will not explain that. Read the book instead. He was first educated to become a priest, but he realized it wasn’t his calling. He did have faith. He philosophizes and thinks and questions. All of the things he lived through shape his personality. Berry creates a character that is believable.

The author has a pet peeve and he speaks through Jayber. Agriculture has become big business and this is just not good in the long run! Natural resources are being wasted. Small town life, based on sharing and trade where everyone knows each other is always better than big business. Small scale is always better than large scale production. But it is here that I got so annoyed with the book. I agree with the author’s/barber’s point of view. I am not opposed to the message, but it is repeated and said over and over and over to the point where I just wanted him to zip his mouth. Enough! I get it. I agree. I am not an idiot. I don’t need a lecture. Will you shut up! Do you understand how annoyed I got?!

There. If you can stand a little too much philosophizing and preaching and religious talk, which I could not quite swallow, you will also be given a good story that holds together, where the characters feel real, with lines that will make you smile or laugh or chuckle and most everyone will agree with the message imparted. The author is a poet ……except in those parts when he is proselytizing through Jayber.

P.S. Paul Michael narrated the audiobook I listened to. I liked his southern dialect. I liked the speed, which is rather slow, but I did want him to hurry up when Jayber went on and on and on with his proselytizing soliloquies. The women all sounded the same, and that annoyed me because their personalities were different! ( )
1 vote chrissie3 | Aug 18, 2013 |
A quiet, contemplative book. Told in the first person narrative, Jayber was orphaned as a child, lived in an orphanage for a period and attended college before ending up back in his childhood community, serving as the town barber. It has some nice, thoughtful observations. Some may find it too slow. ( )
  creynolds | Jun 21, 2013 |
This story of a humble Kentucky bachelor born in the early 1900's warms me with its homely philosophy and the importance of community. Tho there are a few chapters in the middle that seemed to be just random tales of the community, better set in a book of short stories, the majority move the story forward--or sideways, as we learn about other folks in the area who have an influence on Jayber.
Some major themes are love and hate, loneliness and belonging, the effects of mechanization of farming and the destructive effects of being ruled by The Economy. I like Nathan's comment about Troy, who was continually "leveraging" his expansion with new equipment, new leased lands, and getting over his head in debt: "A lever has got two ends. Where is the fulcrum going to go?"
Knowing that Berry studied to be a priest, I appreciated the more that period of Jayber's life, and his eventual realization that he had too many questions to be a minister. Another reviewer felt that the book was unbelievable because Jayber "hadn't gotten past 8th grade". I, however, believe in the ability of any person in any culture to learn, think thoughtfully, and expand their knowledge and understanding through self-education or thru a natural bent towards observation and contemplation. At the end, tho I do not have the strength of faith to believe "that the Man in the Well is not lost" (p. 357), I would like to.
There were plenty of passages that I've marked to reflect on--always a sign of a good book, for me. While I can't say now what my favorite quote is, here is one at random: "There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things." (p. 210) ( )
  juniperSun | Apr 19, 2013 |
Pet peeves:

1.) Cars with dealer license plate frames. You bought the car, is it necessary to advertise where you bought it from? For free? This is America, you dumbass. Have some self-respect.

2.) Company vehicles that have an overhead dome light that has some sort of short in it that causes it to light-up whenever I go over railroad tracks, potholes, or spare change in the road at a speed of greater than 3 MPH and consequently makes me feel like the centerpiece in some hackneyed corporate motivational workshop complete with strobe lights.

3.) Novels written in the first-person that supposedly take place in the American South during the Great Depression that present a narrator that never made it past the eighth grade but somehow manages to sound like Truman Capote and John Waters had a baby and left it in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell. As cool as it may sound, it doesn't work.

This novel is unconvincing. As unconvincing as the bucolic America it conjures. It's sentimental pap and I couldn’t finish it. Couldn't really even begin it.

Bucolic America is a commodity. It's a shiny bauble that you don't need but which has been foisted upon you by a culture that thinks better of itself than it deserves.

Here's the good news: that culture is scrapping the bottom of the barrel if it's promoting the particular sentimentality this rustic boob is best acquainted with.

Lately, I've been inclined to think of Goodreads as some sort of psychological experiment; that all the personalities I interact with on here are really fronts for one or two graduate students somewhere. Graduate students who alternately fuck with and flatter me in some morbidly-algorithmic-impregnable manner such that I jump through my assigned hoops just so. This is a ridiculous notion, of course. But it is an easy explanation. And people, of which I am one, like easy explanations.

America is an easy explanation.

As you may have deduced, I drive a lot. For work, that easiest of explanations. I drive through and around a part of the country that many would absent-mindedly, if assuredly, consider bucolic. Once, late at night, I was driving down a quiet byway and nearly ran over a young man. He was sitting, cross-legged, square in the middle of the road. He looked placidly anesthetized. I missed hitting him by mere inches. His expression never changed as I, heart racing, palms sweaty, mouth cursing, eyes frozen wide, swerved around him in a mass of metal propelled at a speed that would have obliterated the human body.

I didn't stop.
  KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Magnanimous Despair alone

Could show me so divine a thing...
Virginia Berry


Requiescat in pace
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I never put up a barber pole or a sign or even gave my shop a name.
Persons attempting to find a "text" in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a "subtext" in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise "understand" it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.

I had a conscientious objection to making an exception of myself. p. 143
On pretty weekends in the summer...the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work. This resting involves traveling at great speed...These people are in an emergency to relax. (p. 331)
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