First, Jeff Fearnside interviews Wendell Berry. Unless you’re hopelessly urban and hip, you might want to find this interview and read it, not to mention reading all of Berry’s books.
“To make yourself a passive receptacle for information, or whatever anybody wants to pour into you, is a bad idea. To be informed used to be a meaningful experience; it meant “to be formed from within.” But information now is just a bunch of disconnected data or entertainment and, as such, may be worthless, perhaps harmful. As T.S. Eliot wrote a long time ago, information is different from knowledge, and it has nothing at all to do with wisdom.”
“Real reading, of course, is a kind of work. But it’s lovely work. To read well, you have to respond actively to what the writer’s saying. You can’t just lie there on the couch and let it pour over you. You may have to read with a pencil in hand and underline passages and write notes in the margins. The poet John Milton understood that the best readers are rare. He prayed to his muse that he might a ‘fit audience find, though few.’”
“Practice is essential. If you’re going to learn to write, it has to be your practice. I’ve been fascinated with the job of learning to write, which is unending. And I enjoy writing. Dealing with the problems it presents gives me pleasure. Sometimes there’s frustration, but if I get frustrated or hit an impasse, I just stop and go back to it later. I don’t like to hear writers talk about how they suffer for their craft. It it’s that bad, they ought to quit.”
There’s much more. I really do encourage you to find this interview and read it.
The issue includes two pleasant short stories. Neither is breathtaking, and both strike familiar chords, but there is still freshness. In “The Right Wind” by Laura Munson, an accident has taken the life of the narrator’s husband and she is left to raise their two children. The trope of the wind is lovely, here, not only the wind that blows across the prairie, but also wind as breath—breath that she shared with her husband, breath that was taken from him when the respirator was shut off. The story ends with the image of a kite held aloft by the wind, and that, it seemed to me, was just right. “The Fisherman” by Christian Zwahlen is about a boy acting out after the separation of his parents and his mother’s involvement with a man the boy doesn’t like. The boy is angry with his mother and protective at the same time, and this is the tension that propels the story to the end.
[Edit 7/8/08: The interview with Wendell Berry is now availalbe online: here. Also, check out the interviewer's website: Jeff Fearnside]