Classics Club, Book #19: The Memory of Old Jack (August 2015)

This is my fifth post about 2015’s books for The Classics Club.  I’ll be reading one classic book a month through 2018.  Track what I’m reading for the Classics Club here.  I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.  

The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry

IMG_1681 (800x800)

  • Year Published: 1974
  • Reread? Or new to me?:  new to me
  • Number of Pages: 324
  • Date Finished: just before the end of August
  • Number of Days it took me to read it: about a week(?)
  • Page/Day ratio: ??
  • Will I reread this?:  I hope so.


Please forgive me for the briefness of this review.  I’ve fallen WAY behind on reviewing my Classic Club books, although I have kept up with the reading. So I’m remembering my experience reading this from a few months ago. Thankfully, I posted a short review of this on Goodreads the day I finished it. This is that review, slightly expanded.

Near the end of August, I realized that I had forgotten to choose (i.e. request from the library) a Classic Club book.  So I searched our shelves for a book older than 25 years and came up with The Memory of Old Jack. It’s one of my brother Eric’s favorite books and having always wanted to read it, was glad for this push to get me to actually do so.

I was immediately entranced by Jack, his memories, and the community of Port William in which he has spent his entire life. Although I loved it from the beginning, it still took me a few days to get through it because of its deep and all-consuming sadness. Periodically while I was reading it, I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to grieve for myself and my own failed relationships (as Jack was).  I found myself washing dishes, grieving for Jack and what could have been. [Spoiler] Particularly sad to me was the hollowness of his own marriage, especially because that hollowness came from unrealistic expectations on both sides, a problem that could have potentially been solved if he and his wife had just talked to each other. Even despite all that, I loved seeing how deeply respected and loved Jack was by the younger generations in the community.

It’s an incredible book. Please read it and embrace the tears, which started for me in chapter 1.

How about you?  Have you read this? If yes, did you cry the whole way through as I did? If not, do you think you’ll brave the tears to read this one? (I hope so!) Have you read any of Wendell Berry’s other Port William books? The only other one I’ve read is Hannah Coulter, which I also recommend highly.  Now I want to read all of them.


P.S. This review of Memory of Old Jack is so good (much better than mine).

P.P.S. Jack’s critique of TV is perhaps the best I’ve ever read: “That a whole roomful of people should sit with their mouths open like a nest of young birds, peering into a picture box, the invariable message of which is the desirability of Something Else or Someplace Else…all that is strange to him, unreal; he might have slept long and waked in a long of talking monkeys.”


In January, I’m reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. So far, I’m finding it quite funny.  Want to join me in reading it?

IMG_1682 (800x800)“You’re not supposed to be in these pictures, Ellie!”

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1 Response to Classics Club, Book #19: The Memory of Old Jack (August 2015)

  1. Pingback: Favorite Books of 2015: Fiction | Salmon and Souvlaki

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