Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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

I enjoy autobiographical books by Michael Perry, and I enjoy reading essays. So, why had I not read Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets, & Gatemouth's Gator, Perry's collection of essays published in 2005? The "too many books, too little time" excuse seems insufficient. We make time to do things we want to do. I knew I'd like these essays. Perhaps last week was my appointed time to enjoy what I knew I would like. And I did. How could I not like passages such as this about a funeral in the essay "Catching at the Hems of Ghosts"?

... and then we all joined in on Hymn 495, as posted. Your average Wisconsin Lutheran can turn "Sweet Georgia Brown" into a funeral dirge, so the appropriate mournful tones were achieved without great difficulty, although we did tend to thin out and break down a little when we hit the high parts; but like an old farm truck wheezing over a hill, we'd pick up speed and volume on the downslope.

You can see a lot about Perry right in this passage. He is a Wisconsonite, raised in a religious home on a farm, now a respectful doubter with a good sense of humor. He loves music and knows a lot about truck. He knows "although" is better than "though." His three memoirs Population: 485, Truck: A Love Story, and Coup let you know much more about all of this. What I particularly enjoyed about Off Main Street was reading another side of Perry, the freelance writer on assignment. He traveled across the U.S. with truckers, hung out with country musicians in Nashville, and ventured into Central America. He was on a quest, on the surface to practice his craft of writing, but ultimately to discover what was real and moral.

Off Main Street did not get nearly as much attention as Perry's other works, which puts it in a good position to be a welcome find for his fans and others who enjoy essays. Librarians should put it on display.

Perry, Michael. Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets, & Gatemouth's Gator. Perennial, 2005. ISBN 0060755504.


Citizen Reader said...

I've already read this and your review made me want to read it again! He's got a couple of earlier collections of essays too...wonder if there's any repeats from those books in this one.

ricklibrarian said...

CR, Michael does say that there are some pieces repeated from the older collections. I hope you enjoy a second read. Rick