Coop takes off where Truck, a love story left off—June 19, 2009
Small town life, according to author Michael Perry, needs to be approached with a reverence for what you can learn.
“Go to the café, order quietly and eavesdrop shamelessly. . .Drive the outskirts. Consider the look of the town in the rearview mirror as opposed to through the windshield, and think about how you feel. More to the point, if you find yourself trapped behind an old man doing thirty-five in a forty-five, don’t figure out a way to pass him, figure out a way to be him.”. . .witty and wise words from an author who grew up on a dairy farm and equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens – “Just keep shoveling and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice.”
Well, millions of people are noticing and fast becoming fans of Perry’s humorous, yet insightful, true tales from his hometown.
I was pleased to meet him a couple of weeks ago at a Lincoln bookstore, a stop on his tour to promote his newest memoir, “Coop.” As much a comedy routine as a look at rural living, Perry had me and the rest of an audience alternating between knowing nods and the kind of spontaneous guffaws that generate tears. . .much the same reaction his books evoke.
Perry lives and writes in New Auburn, Wisconsin. “What a privilege it’s been to write about a place that I love,” he says.
He is the author of the 2006 bestseller, “Truck, A Love Story,” which recounts a year in which he tries to grow his own food, restore his 1951 International Harvester pickup, get his love life in order and survive the daily drama of country living. His book delivers a truckload of gardening experiences, but for readers who are looking for a gardening how-to, Perry will refer them to Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”
“I write more of a gardening how not-to,” he jokes.
In the January chapter of “Truck,” Perry writes, “Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and “Playboy” combined. . .A pair of Bell Boy peppers reflect the light with a blue tinge that suggests the exact feel of the cool green lobes against your palm, and I am drawn straight into summer. It is as if the catalog ink is spiked with chlorophyll.”
Prior to “Truck,” Perry authored “Population: 485,” a comic, yet sometimes heartbreaking account of his life in New Auburn where he is a trained EMT, a registered nurse, a volunteer firefighter, a poet and through it all, a humorist.
“It isn’t the story of New Auburn,” Perry insists. “You could say it is one of at least 485 versions.”
A master at observation with a talent for storytelling, Perry’s writing flows naturally; his words heartfelt and carefully chosen but not to the point of seeming thesaurusly overworked.
“Coop” takes off where “Truck” was parked. It goes to the quieter corners of Perry’s heart, chronicling his family life and the birth of his child and delving some into his childhood: “I first perceived my father as a farmer the night he drove home with a giant lactating Holstein tethered to the bumper of his Ford Falcon. There was no cart, just a cow on a rope. And Dad, motoring real slow.”
Come to Hastings Public Library and check out Michael Perry’s books for a thick slice of American small town life and country-spun Perry wisdom. - “Never stand behind a sneezing cow,” Perry cautions.