Not Too Late to Meet (and Hear From) Mike Perry

perry2.JPGI had met Michael Perry before he visited River City Books this afternoon. Twice before, actually. Once at a book convention, the other time after Perry appeared for Northfield Reads! two years ago. Doubtless he didn’t distinguish me from the thousands of other readers who have pumped his fist after literary events.

Yet I feel like I know Perry. It’s the way he writes. Makes you feel like you’re being given a behind-the-scenes tour of an interesting mind at work. His books, first Population: 485 and now Truck: A Love Story, are found in River City Book’s biography/memoir section. But I consider them like collections of personal essays woven into a larger narrative. And Perry’s prose is so appealing it scarcely matters the topic at hand; I know I want to read whatever he pens next.

Perry’s persona on the page is of a self-effacing, comfortable-in-his-skin, and likable kind of guy. In the small amount of time I have spent with him, I have seen nothing to think it’s not who he really is. Besides, he writes so true he could hardly fake it. I think that’s why people stopped by the store on Wednesday afternoon to talk to Perry and have him sign their books. One customer remarked to me, “I can’t wait to get home and start reading.” I know the feeling. It’s like hearing from an old friend.

Read Perry’s prose and you’ll feel like you know him, too. To tempt you, here are some of the memorable lines I jotted down during my reading of this affecting book:

truck.JPG“The story begins on a pile of sheep manure the size of a yurt.”

“Somewhere along the line trendsetters and marketers got involved, and now we buy pickups — big, horse-powered, overbuilt, wide-assed, comfortable pickups — so that we may stick our key in the ignition of an icon, fire up an image, and drive off in a cloud of connotations. I have no room to talk. I long to get my International running in part so I can drive down roads that no longer exist.”

“Putting me in charge of seeds is like dropping your kids off with a weird uncle who feeds them Funyons for breakfast, then sends them out back for an unsupervised game of Jarts.”

“For forty years she has raised a constantly fluctuating passel of tots, drawing on her wits, fifty-pound bags of oatmeal, and a fistful of coupons the size of a bad UNO hand.”

“We plunge into love with a naiveté that ignores all prior humiliations. Thank goodness, I guess.”

Perry’s also the rare author who knows how to present his material. Below is an excerpt from “Truck,” read by the author. Thanks to Mike for his time — and for granting this humble little bird permission to use the audio file.

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