What literary title do I love that has been under-appreciated? A tough one, in part because it’s hard to decide exactly what “under-appreciated” means. I confess that I don’t read a lot of book reviews. I used to, and then just found that the books everyone was telling me I should read were not really the books I enjoyed. My first thought for this question was Small Island by Andrea Levy, which is a book I fell in love with. But it won the Orange Prize, the Whitbread Prize and was made into a BBC film, so probably not really under-appreciated.
So I’ll have to go with Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. In my little corner of the world, everyone reads Jayber Crow and Wendell Berry because he lives just down the river. But I think other folks might know Berry for his essays or his poetry, if they know much about him at all. Jayber Crow is the book I wish I could have written. It is simple and lyrical and beautiful and made me cry and think of my grandfather. There’s nothing exciting or novel going on here…just the story of a barber and his long life in one very small corner of Kentucky. But that’s just Berry’s point. There’s a whole world in the life of a small community and one person in that community. I guess all I can really say about how much I love this novel is that it was in my wedding, and here’s the quote: “I have got to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here. And when I think about it, it can seem strange beyond telling that this particular bunch of us should be here on this little patch of ground in this little patch of time, and I can think of the other places and other times I might have lived, the other kinds of man I might have been. But there is something else. 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 another and with the place and all the living things.”