Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator

Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator

by Michael Perry
     
 

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Whether he's fighting fires, passing a kidney stone, hammering down I-80 in an 18-wheeler, or meditating on the relationship between cowboys and God, Michael Perry draws on his rural roots and footloose past to write from a perspective that merges the local with the global.

Ranging across subjects as diverse as lot lizards, Klan wizards, and small-town

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Overview

Whether he's fighting fires, passing a kidney stone, hammering down I-80 in an 18-wheeler, or meditating on the relationship between cowboys and God, Michael Perry draws on his rural roots and footloose past to write from a perspective that merges the local with the global.

Ranging across subjects as diverse as lot lizards, Klan wizards, and small-town funerals, Perry's writing in this wise and witty collection of essays balances earthiness with poetry, kinetics with contemplation, and is regularly salted with his unique brand of humor.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Perry, who chronicled smalltown life in Population 451, collects some previously published essays for this countrified collection. The author likes to write about bighearted truckers, country and blues musicians, itinerant barnyard butchers and other such characters. As he puts it, "I reckon I'm a pickup-truck-coveting blue-collar capitalist"; a guy who "wouldn't know tapis vert from Diet Squirt." But the wholesome subject of America's heartland doesn't jibe with Perry's sometimes crotchety attitude. He writes of being annoyed when he's cut off in traffic by someone driving "one of those yappy little four-wheel drive pickups" sporting a "No Fear" decal. What would that guy know about fear, he wonders? The incident prompts Perry to recall a sugarcane hauler he met while hitchhiking in Belize, a man whose situation-he was poor and held a dangerous job-made him, Perry assumes, intimately acquainted with fear. The book brims with alternately thought-provoking and pointless ramblings like these, as Perry visits the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington with 270,000 motorcycle-riding war veterans, stays at a hotel in Belize City and overhears a prostitute in the room next to his, and experiences other adventures. Generally, however, Perry's hit-or-miss writing combined with his "been-there-done-that" attitude ("I've seen a bunch of territory with my backpack right behind me. Fifteen or sixteen countries, something like that") make for a wearisome reading experience. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Perry has been a farmer, registered nurse, firefighter, cowboy, backpacker, and reporter. In a somewhat laconic, thoroughly enjoyable style, he introduces folks he has met on his journeys. The 33 solid essays, written over the past 10 years, convey the wonder of the seemingly ordinary. Whether riding along on the back of a Harley for a firsthand look at Rolling Thunder's annual tribute to soldiers who gave their life in Vietnam or contemplating the ways that Elvis has permeated the lives of people born after his death, Perry shows that everyone has a story. "Convoy" gives a passenger's-eye view of life as a trucker and paints a compelling picture of how American consumerism is tied to the 3.1 million or so truckers on the road. "Fear This" is the author's response to the arrogance of a nation that prides itself on "No Fear" slogans when it has not had to experience all that there is to fear in this world (written in 1997, the piece is even more meaningful after 9/11). The one flaw in the book is the paucity of recent pieces-only 10 were written since 2001. Perry shows such an uncommon mix of wisdom and humor that one feels a little cheated not to have been given a glimpse into more of his thoughts on the state of the world today. Reluctant readers will appreciate the scope Perry covers in only a few pages, and avid readers will enjoy getting to know him and a few of his friends.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Thirty-three previously published essays ruminating on the author's childhood and painting word portraits of unique people he's met. Some of the pieces appeared in the two collections Perry self-published before HarperCollins released his memoir of life as a volunteer fireman in his Wisconsin hometown (Population 485, 2002); others appeared in various, generally very-small-circulation periodicals. They deserve wider release: Perry has a real talent for mining quirky humor from even the most mundane situations, and humor isn't his only strength. He may write about Mrs. Oregon's eyebrows looking as if they'd been applied with motor oil, but he also poignantly depicts such memorable figures as Mack Most, a meat-market worker whose six-year-old daughter experiences kidney failure. Perry's description of the grinning slaughterhouse veteran, who has killed untold numbers of animals, leaves a lasting impression, as does his funny tale of dismantling Big Boy, the grinning, chubby-cheeked statue that adorned the front of many a Big Boy restaurant. This little vignette quite naturally leads to a discussion of other outsized restaurant creations, such as the 50-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Meanwhile, lying somewhere in tone between the gritty realism of the story on Mack Most and the shaggy-dog absurdity of the Big Boy piece is a perceptive profile of Aaron Tippin, a country singer obsessed with trucks who has quite an extensive collection of them. Aaron's recollections of how he acquired each truck are warm and funny, and Perry perfectly conveys the singer's character. A delightful mix of humor and pathos, touching the heart and tickling the funny bone.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061852800
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
337,035
File size:
0 MB

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