October 22, 2009

Population 486


I dismissed Michael Perry at first as some local hero, a Wisconsin-boy done reasonable so that's why his books are everywhere in this town. When his new one, Coop, came out, I think you could buy it at gas stations around here. Turns out, it's because he's awesome.

Population 485 wasn't a funny collection of misadventures, though comedy is found within. Nor is it some ode to small-town life, but small town life is always paraded, rarely dismissed. Nor is it a "ain't working as an EMT grand?", though you get the impression Perry believes being an EMT is darn cool. Those were my concerns coming into this book that it was just going to glorify all things Wisconsin, small-town and EMT. And yes, they do get cheerleaded some, they are just a couple of steps in what turns out to be an intricate dance. Overall, it's full of anecdotal material that somehow woven together to produce a weighty book dealing with worries of death, loneliness, progress, and blue-collar artistic guilt among other interesting themes.

If I were to complain about the book, it would be that all of the essays seem to have this "One time X thing happened" which then dovetails to "Another time Y thing happened" but that's just mimetic of conversation, now isn't it? And a guy with these kind of stories, not to mention the good sense to patch them together into a cohesive point, well, you want to hear him talk. You want to buy him a beer, and let the old boy keep telling you stories, like he's one of the old-timers at a bar you hear so much about.

Also, I bought this book for a dollar, and, of all things, Mike Magnuson shows up in one of the essays (it's just one sentence, but it still surprised me...Perry calls him a "grunt novelist.")

If you have the time (and who doesn't?) I would read this one. Makes for an excellent toilet book.

viva el mustache

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