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A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port…

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership (edition 2012)

by Wendell Berry (Author)

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A collection of twenty short stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time.
Title:A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership
Authors:Wendell Berry (Author)
Info:Counterpoint (2012), 267 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership by Wendell Berry


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This book is my introduction to Wendell Berry's Port William world and,
while I also deeply mourn the loss of all that was good,
it's hard to understand why people didn't help each other more,
like taking care of Old Jack in his log cabin...? ( )
  m.belljackson | Jun 5, 2021 |
Okay, this now makes three novels and forty-three short stories I have read by this author on the fictional "Port William Membership." This short story collection is the most recently published of the five books I have read, and this one more than any of the others seems very absorbed with looking back at a way of life at a "place in time" that applies to a mere subsection of America. The author sees a past life that he tries to capture in these writings and makes it clear he misses it greatly, and I'm not at all sure he really grasps the full reasons it no longer exists. In my mind, skip the Fox News promoted books and the Hillbilly Elegy type volumes, and read about Port William. It's my belief this is what is separating a large chunk of America from the rest. This shows what people think about what they had and why they are so upset they no longer have it. Okay, maybe that's somewhat of a stretch, but I really don't think I'm that far off target. As somber as this analysis may seem, I would not be fair to the author, if I did not mention that I burst out laughing several times while reading these stories. (That's laughter of pure amusement, not ridicule, in case you were wondering.) The man has a real gift. ( )
  larryerick | Jan 30, 2021 |
Wendell Berry has been writing poetry and essays on farming life for more than half a century. But he has also written fiction set in Port William, Ky., which rivals William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County in terms of its breadth of imagined historical detail. A Place in Time includes 20 stories that feature familiar characters from earlier novels and stories, but it is not necessary to have read those to get pleasure out of these.

This is a good introduction to many of the families that inhabit Port William. The Catletts and Feltners are prominent in several stories. While individual characters like Burley Coulter, Elton Penn, and Andy Catlett stand out. The stories span more than a century and a half of history from the opening story, set in the Civil War era to the titular tale that ends the book during the first decade of the new millennium.

The stories are not plot driven but focus on character, including the character of Port William itself. The relationships of characters are as important as their actions in these beautiful vignettes of small town life. As someone who was raised in a small town I found moments that resonated with my own experience. "Andy Catlett: Early Education" reminded me of my own schooldays while also bringing my reading of books like Tom Sawyer to mind. One of the most potent stories, for instance, is markedly subtle: “A Desirable Woman” tracks the intersection of a pastor’s wife and a young farmhand shortly before the start of World War II, and the story turns on the young man’s unrequited crush on the woman shortly before he’s sent off to war. “Sold” has a similarly soft-focus, nostalgic cast, narrated by an elderly woman recalling the accumulations that are about to be sold at auction before she enters a nursing home. Some of the stories are suggestive of homespun tales or Twain (again), as in “A New Day,” which climaxes in a competition between two horse teams dragging bricks, or “A Burden,” about the antics of a drunk relation.

Throughout the collection Berry's writing style is poetic as he shares episodes of loss and love, achievement and angst; all set against the backdrop of the evolution of Port William through time. The historic context was omnipresent but not overwhelming. It intruded with tales of soldiers returning or not returning from war and notes of other events, although the focus was continually on the families -- their follies, their foibles, and their faith. Berry is a writer whose beautiful sentences are imbued with an agrarian spirit. That and a concern for both time past and time future make this a fine collection. ( )
  jwhenderson | Nov 14, 2016 |
I've read jayber Crow,Hannah Coulter and the Andy Catlett books in the Port William series. Each of these abt an indiviudal living in Port William and the townpeople they reside among. This particular book, A PLACE IN TIME is 20 short stories about different people in town.It was nice to fill in the gaps or see a conclusion or continuation of characters. Love Berry's writing.This book is good on its own,but might be a better compliment after reading some of his other Port William series. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
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