close,rnsummon the sheriff and the auctioneers.rnWhat will he tell his sons in twentyrnyears?rnHe cannot wholly blame the earlyrnsnows.rn(“The Failure”)rnIn fact, the one sentimental line in thernentire book, quoted by the author’s fatherrnat a funeral, is attributable not to TimrnMurphy but to that old prairie sentimentalistrnand windbag, Carl Sandburg. “Tornlive hard, work hard, and die hard andrnthen go to hell after all that would be toorndamn hard.” Now that is sentimentality,rnand of the 15 0-proof variety to boot.rnThe structure of this book, really thernproduct of four intelligences (Murphy, arnpoet, venture-capitalist, and farmer;rnCharles Beck, a woodcut artist; VincentrnMurphy, Tim’s father, who contributesrnhis recollections of the Great Depression;rnand Alan Sullivan, Murphy’s collaborator,rnwhom the author credits with havingrngathered and arranged fragments of narrativernand, where necessary, ghosted linkagesrnbetween them), is episodic ratherrnthan fragmentary: a single poetic fabric inrnwhich prose and verse, word and image,rnauthor and subject are closely interwoven.rnBorn in Minnesota in 1951 at thernheight of the blizzard of January 10 (thernworst in 63 years). Murphy went off tornYale where he studied under RobertrnPenn Warren, who advised him to returnrnto North Dakota and sink his toes deeprninto home soil. (“He was tutor to a lad /rnhe never really knew— / only the shockrnof red / like sunrise on a slough.”) Atrnhome, the young man went into his father’srninsurance business, while beginningrnto acquire farm properties of hisrnown. Combining business with farmingrnwith poetry, not to mention hunting,rnproved as conducive to artistic developmentrnas it did to material success andrneven survival, accounting for the hrmiorousrnstoicism, or stoic humor, that marksrnthe poetry even more strongly than itrndoes the prose.rnBrisding with fallen treesrnand choked with broken icernthe river threatens the house.rnI’ll wind up planting ricernIf the spring rains don’t cease.rnWliat ancestral cursernprompts me to farm and worse,rnconvert my woes to verse?rn(“Twice Cursed”)rnMurphy’s descriptions of the flood ofrn1975 when the Red River overflowed itsrnbanks, and of the drought that ensued thernfollowing year, are as harrowing as anyrnaccounts of natural disasters in the workrnof Laura Ingalls Wilder; more mundanerntribulations and challenges echo a recentlyrnpublished memoir by anotherrnNorth Dakotan author, Larry Woiwode,rnlikewise returned (albeit much later inrnlife) from the East Coast to grapple withrnhis unforgiving native heath. Whetherrnworking in prose or in verse. Murphy displaysrna marked ability to combine griefrnwith resignation, pathos with serenity:rnWe grieve for the twelve trees wernlost last night,rnpillars of our community, oldrnfriendsrnand confidants dismembered inrnour sight,rnstripped of their crowns by the unrulyrnwinds.rnThere were no baskets to receiverntheir heads,rnno women knitting by the guillotines,rnonly two sleepers roused from theirrnbedsrnby fusillades of hailstones on thernscreens.rnHer nest shattered, her batteredrnhatchlings drowned,rna stunned and silent junko watchesrnmernchainsawing limbs from corpses ofrnthe downed,rnclearing the understory of debrisrnwhile supple saplings that survivedrnthe blastrnlay claim to light and liberty at last.rn(“The Track of a Storm”)rnThis is rural wisdom, the husbandman’srnphilosophy at its most articulate,rntrenchant, and profound. Also proud,rnuncorrupted. Although Murphy is arnskilled portraitist (of hunting dogs, as wellrnas of men and women), nothing in thisrnline quite matches his father’s unassumingrngem of self-revelation in a small storyrnhe tells on himself.rnOne day I was walking behind fourrnhorses and a drag while the dustrnblew. I could hardly see and everyrnmuscle in my body ached. Wlien Irnpaused near the highway I saw arnman go by smoking a cigar in a bigrnblack car. I had been reading DosrnPassos and this prompted me torncall the driver a bad name. I wasrnleaning toward socialism and thinkingrnthere must be a better way.rnYears later I bought the longest,rnblackest Oldsmobile to show therernwas no bitterness in my heart. Irnnever did take up cigar smoking.rnNo, Tim Murphy doesn’t accept governmentrnsupport in maintaining, improving,rnand expanding his farms. His wonderfulrnlittle book wasn’t published on anrnNEA grant, either.rnChilton WiUiamson, ]r., is the seniorrneditor for books at Chronicles.rnBeyond Consiliencernby Scott P. RichertrnLife Is a Miracle: An Essay AgainstrnModern Superstitionrnby Wendell BerryrnWashington, D.C.: Counterpoint;rn153 pp., $21.00rnWhen I was a senior in high school,rna local Christian Reformed pa,storrnrecruited me and a few friends to playrnChristmas carols as his congregation filedrninto church during Advent. Since ourrnbrass quartet also played the recessional,rnwe would sit through the service. OnernSunday, the pastor—locally renowned asrna thought-provoking speaker—began hisrnsermon by declaring that theologians hadrnnever really been able to discover muchrnabout God; over the next century, however,rnall of tiiat would change. Physics hadrnbecome so advanced that we were veryrnclose to defining Cod in mathematicalrnterms. Physicists would succeed whererntheologians had failed.rnTo my 17-year-old mind, this was excitingrnnews. Since I intended to go on torncollege the next fall to study physics, I wasrnflattered. I had never thought of sciencernin such grandiose terms. Imagine thernpossibilities: I could win acclaim not onlyrnfor formulating the Grand UnifiedrnTheory, but for discovering God as well!rnI eagerly shelled out a dollar for a printedrnversion of the pastor’s words.rnI hadn’t thought about that sermon forrnwell over a decade, until flie release lastrnyear of E.O. Wilson’s Consilience, an at-rnNOVEMBER 2000/31rnrnrn