Michael Perry, Truck: A Love Story (New York: Harpers Perennial, 2006), 281 pages
Michael Perry must be a Southern Yankee. He tells stories in a slowly and deliberately with an eye on details. Often he’ll go off in what seems to be a tangent, only to slowly circle back to his original topic. He‘s in no hurry as he tells you about a year and a few months of his life, weaving together numerous strands. It’s the year he set out to restore an old International Truck. As a bachelor, he’s trying to cook better food and gets lost in the world of cookbooks. He plants a garden and goes on book tours, but getting thrown into the mix is Annalisee, a woman who he met at a book signing. The two of them develop a relationship after she texts him and invites him for coffee. The book ends with the resurrection of the truck and their marriage.
The truck was quite a project. Perry’s barber suggest that the best way to resurrect his truck is to jack up his radiator cap and drive a new one under it.” (85) But Perry and his friend Mark, who has a body shop and is use to making things he needs, sets out. They find another old truck to salvage parts and make parts when they find that both trucks parts are rusted out. Throughout this effort, Perry contemplates the purpose of trucks and of work. He’s thrifty, not flashy. His philosophy is utilitarian. He has no need to keep up with his neighbors. He drives an older car and lives simply. He considers his wants and needs, although he admits restoring the truck isn’t a thrifty activity and purposely doesn’t tell us what its costing him. In addition to thrift, there is a sense of doing things right with him. Early in the book, during his January introspection period, he wrote:
I blame this on my genes and my waste-not, want-not penny-pinching proto-Calvinists roots, which imbued me with the feeling that to be in possession of a useful thing and not use it is to allow the devil to wedge his big toe in the screen door of your soul. (24)
Perry often complains about things. He doesn’t like the way things are going in the world. After a triad of complaints on credit card debt, an attempt by International Trucks to build a super truck, and Spam in a pouch, Perry comes to this conclusion: “Since I have neither lobbyists nor sufficient mercenaries on retainer to handle the difficulties to come, I will have to satisfy myself with muddling along and engaging in manageable self-improvement projects.” (250) He thinks of the internet as the “devil’s mind-fryer” (28) and muses about seed catalogs being “responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined.” (30)
I really recommend this book. Slowly we witness Perry move from being a bachelor to a committed family man. I thank TC (who like Perry is a Cheesehead) for introducing me to Perry. This is the second of his books that I’ve reviewed (Population: 485 was the first.) . I especially recommend this book to my friend Ed Abbey. First of all, Perry shares Ed’s (and my) low view of Walmart, referring to the “cavernous aisles of the High Church of Cheap Consumption.” (52) An as Ed is the resident Colorado River expert in my blogroll, I thought of him when Perry tells about chatting with a 20 year veteran of Grand Canyon guiding and asking the river runner what he’d learned. “’There’s a jackass on every trip.’ Then he grinned. ‘And if you haven’t figured out who is it by day five… it’s you.” (251)