Saturday, January 10, 2009

Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships by John T. Price

I wish that I wrote as well as John T. Price in Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships. I should not, however, envy him. He makes this clear in his revealing memoir about growing up and living in Iowa. He struggled with bullies, his family's expectations, and his talent to mess up badly. His relationships were strained. He often put off what needs to be done. He accepted jobs for which was not trained. He is not a model student, husband, father, or son, yet he is inspired by the incidents of his life to compose thought-provoking essays. Man Killed by Pheasant is the first book for the graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program.

I recommend reading all the stories in his collection. I felt only mildly curious after the first couple, but the intensity of Price's life builds through the book. Though I sometimes wished I could shake some sense into him, I could not stop reading. I was particularly impressed with "Why Geese Don't Winter in Paradise" in which he sees some of the sense in his grandfather's hallucinations.

One strong theme through the book is Price's connecting with the natural world. He points out that Iowa has lost almost all of its natural prairie and is in many ways a sculpted environment with big agriculture and industrial towns. Still, bits of nature survive and even threaten the state's inhabitants - the floods that reclaim floodplains and the birds that fly in car windows.

While Midwestern readers may more quickly connect to Price's book, I recommend it to all readers who like memoirs and personal essays.

Price, John T. Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships. Da Capo Press, 2008. ISBN 9780306816055

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