Author: Michael Perry
Synopsis: Loosely joined essays about being a professional writer and a volunteer EMT in a small Wisconsin farming town. And hovercrafts. (no eels.)
Bug Rating: membracid.jpg

I read and really loved the book Truck (my review here), so when I noticed a new Michael Perry book on the library shelves, I snapped it up. I was hooked from the first sentence:

“Summer here comes on like a zafig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun.”

Like Truck, it’s as much about the people and the land he lives with, as the fires and disasters that bring the volunteer fire department running.

I work with a lot of pre-med students, and I am trying frantically to figure out how I can make them read this book. Anyone who has an entire chapter titled “puke is the great constant” has a great deal to tell them about the reality of working with the sick and injured. :)

The book bounces back and forth from the emotional intensity of finding a friend at the end of an ambulance run to hilarious descriptions of “cheesehead Deliverance feebs” and other local characters.

He does a wonderful job of showing, not telling, how hard and dangerous farm work is–something too few of us appreciate as we’ve evolved into an urban society. It’s a book about belonging, and trying to belong. I hate to use the “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” tag line, but….you will.

Because I’m more of a show, not tell gal myself, I’ll end with this quote of his about writing:

The whole scene [poetry readings] makes me peaceful, although I throw a systolic spike whenever someone introduces a piece “given to me this afternoon.” As if poems drop from the sky pre-formed, like sparrow turds. In my experience, art is not to be awaited; it is to be chased down, cornered, and beaten into submission with a stick.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go beat up a manuscript this afternoon.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!

2 Comments

  1. “like sparrow turds” ROTFL! Thank goodness I wasn’t sipping any coffee at the moment, or it’d be all over my MacBook.

    That quote reminds me of something our stats prof used to glibly inform the class (he didn’t teach, he informed, it was wisdom handed down blahblahblah). He’d begin describing the next humongously messy equation with how it was created (I didn’t give a damn; no one but statisticians gave a damn), referred vaguely to when we’d use it (it was of course, obvious to him), and then begin a story example with the classic:

    ” … and then data rains down from heaven …”

    Cue disbelieving snort from the front row, where an older student is taking copious notes while getting used to wearing bifocals.

    If data rained down from heaven, all of us graduate students and postdocs wouldn’t be working our asses off!

    Don’t get me wrong — I actually have a great appreciation for the value of statistics in helping sort out human biases from our data analyses. But neither poems nor data sets nor manuscripts come fully-formed, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus.

  2. Perry’s got a collection of essays called “Big rigs, Elvis & the Grand Dragon Wayne” that’s great. My favorite story in that one draws a parallel between the insoluble toxins in chicken livers and the habits of the past that we can’t rid ourselves of. He’s got a magnificent way of being simultaneously course and sensitive.

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