Athenaeum reads Wendell Berry, mayhem ensues

Seems like a distant memory when we warmly ruminated in the placid cockles of shared bonhomie of the fair Barbara Tuchman and her maiden ballad retelling the epic tale of the opening days of The Great War.

But when a farmer waxes curmudgeonly about things scientific, the Athenaeum battle lines are drawn, gauntlets are thrown, sabres rattled. Tobacco smoke roiled and plumed, and the beer in every glass churned like a storm tossed sea.Obama Confers Nat'l Medal of Arts And Nat'l Humanities Medal To 20 Honorees

“The elder hermit from Kentucky speaks rightly,” quoth one. “The sins of the scientists hath brought woe and ruin over all the land.”

“The cad!” quoth the other. “Thinks he to know the hearts and minds of others? Aye, and mine own heart forsooth! This gray-haired earthworm speaks beyond his ken.”

The melee continued throughout the night until dawn. In the swirling clouds of rhetoric and phraseology the night creatures cowed and fled: the graceful doe shielded her young, the jackal and she-ass sought shelter, and the great horned owls gasped and covered their mouths, as vorpal blades went snicker-snack.

But happily by the lights of rosy-fingered dawn, a cooler temperament prevailed. The reckless blanket statements and dismissals of the farmer, as well as the unwarranted reductions, were both forgotten. Men of goodwill found dispassion and humility. Grace was extended. Offenses laid by the wayside. And all fell upon one another’s neck, shedding tears of reconciled brotherhood.

The vote for November went to a three-way tie between Bleak House, The Last of the Mohicans and The Dispossessed. The Last of the Mohicans won the tie breaker vote to general approval.

October’s book is The Grapes of Wrath. Submit your t-shirt ideas to John ASAP.