Berry | Hall | Mason | McClanahan | Norman | TIMELINE

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Five Writers’ Journeys

Living by Words tells the stories of five writers, all from Kentucky, whose lives have intersected and interwoven over decades. Born in widely separated parts of the state—Gurney so far east that it actually happened in Virginia, though he soon moved to Kentucky—they first came together as students at the University of Kentucky. Their undergraduate years at UK were not simultaneous, but they did overlap considerably. And over those years and through their subsequent travels, Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman became fast friends, frequent neighbors, and lifelong colleagues in a company of writers.

Our interactive timeline is an attempt to track the trajectories of these lives as the five left home, explored something of the world, and then gradually came home again. It is certainly not comprehensive as to published works or even locales visited. And as you click through the dates, we would ask that you also keep this caveat in mind:

“Whatever dates and locales you come up with, don’t let it obscure the way bonds and friendships such as ours work: in the minds of each of us, and in our conversation. We’re very close neighbors in the world of art and in the world of history, wherever whoever was living, and that closeness is all the more remarkable because we’re so remarkably unlike personally. All these years Wendell, Ed, Gurney, Bobbie Ann, and myself have been keeping track of each other, increasingly invested in the increasing story, each according to his or her own style; there’s an intimacy among us that has been hinted at only occasionally in and amongst the facts and figures.... The connections, close here distant there, have always been cherished, protected, and kept active.”
James Baker Hall