Book Review: Word Made Fresh: Essays on Literature and Culture by Larry Woiwode

Words Made Fresh: Essays on Literature and Culture

Crossway Publishers, Wheaton IL. 2011.

Words Made Fresh by Larry Woiwode  has compiled ten essays he wrote over a period of time in the late 20th century on a  variety of topics, world and literary issues and he did it while considering his vast expertise and knowledge of literature and critical thought as well as Scripture. The book covers topic such as secular education to modern literature phenoms such as Wendell Berry, the faith of Shakespeare and more.

Born in 1941, Woiwode has spent the greater part of his life as literary giant writing short stories, essays. memoirs and poems. He is the Poet Laureate of North Dakota and is writer in residence at Jamestown College.

The Review

Now if you haven’t tried to step outside your comfort zone in reading, I will forewarn you: this book will push you to think, analyze worldviews, and learn to appreciate an art form. I have been yearning to learn how to write, as an avid reader it only made sense to read good writing, and some writing on the topic of writing in particular. The ironic thing is it would seem almost impossible to make the topic of writing about writing be appetizing to someone other an a literature prof, but Woiwode accomplished the task.

As I have become exposed to more and more literature, theology and looking for God’s glory in culture I have developed an appetite for books like this. This is not your hokey fluffy, bed of roses Jesus is my girlfried type of Christian reading. This is critical analysis of literature and culture, worldview analysis and some pretty enticing prose might I add. I was simply drawn in to one essay in particular by Woiwode’s writing and have been irrevocably enticed to appreciate literature.

Admittedly I haven’t made it through every essay in the book so I will refrain from elaborating on anything but the essays I engaged with.

I would like to say with some amount of embarrassment that before Words Made Fresh, I had not heard of Wendell Berry. Really no lie. So after reading “Views of Wendell Berry: On Life against Agribusiness” I was hooked. I am not certain but I had the pleasure of conversing with Woiwode about his intent with this essay I would anticipate his response would be to encourage folks, especially Christians, to read Berry. Well good sir, mission accomplished.  He spent a few brief pages introducing the readers to the mysterious man named Wendell Berry whose life and convictions are easily seen as counter-cultural to most Americans, farmers and agriculturalists in particular. Berry is shown by way of an astutely written biographic opinion piece of his fellow author and farmer to be one who has an authentic God-given talent with the author’s pen and someone who truly understands the vast glory of God seen in His creation. Certainly an essay worth investing time in thoughtful study.

I believe Woiwode has done the literary community and Christian culture a service with this book by refreshing some timeless essays about the state of this fallen world we live in. The most remarkable outcome of this read has been the trigger to go and read the the authors he spoke of.

This review was done as part of the Netgalley program, the Kindle book was provided free in exchange for an honest review by Crossway publishers, a positive was not required to participate in the program.


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