Sunday, January 31, 2010

A bit of bragging and a review of Michael Perry's TRUCK: A LOVE STORY

Let me start out breaking my role not to talk about family and work here and brag about my daughter. I’ve told about how, as a 6th grader, she made the State Middle School Honor’s Choir. Last weekend was their concert and before hand, we were warned against taping it as it was against copy law and professional tapes would be available for an arm and a leg…. Someone didn’t obey and this week, the concert showed up on You Tube--a set of seven segments for her group. With such a large choir, it would be impossible to point out my daughter, that said, to prove I didn’t have anything to do with this unauthorized taping, my daughter is one of the girls hidden behind the post holding a mounted microphone! There’s some great music here and I’m providing the link to three of the songs: “Can You Hear Me", “Turn the World Around", and “For the Beauty of the Earth. "

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)


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  2. Congrats to your daughter for doing so well!

  3. Ditto congrats.

    I can understand the author's mindset. I'm so loathe to get rid of anything that has a useful life remaining. Like Perry, I blame the Scots ancestors from way back.

    BTW, the river guide's comment is true in virtually all human endeavors.


  4. You pretty much had me with the title. Restoring an old truck/car has always been something I would like to do someday. I've just never had the time or space but someday, I will. It's on my list. Thanks.

  5. Mr. Bot, how did you get through the word verification?

    Charles, Thanks.

    Randall, you're right about the river's guide comments!

    Ed, I think you'll like the book--both of you are from farm backgrounds.

  6. That sounds like a really good book...


    p.s. Congrats on your musically talented daughter!

  7. Wonderful talent! Thanks for another great review as well.

  8. I have a low opinion of Wal-Mart but continue to find myself drawn there just because everything is so cheap and I'm so poor. I'm weak...

  9. Loved that last line and because there's a love story and humor thrown in there, I'd probably enjoy this book.

    Congrats to your little girl! I'll be back to click on the link.

  10. A Southern Yankee? What part made him a Yankee? Was it that he had all his teeth in the required author picture on the back of the book? ;-)

  11. Sage: I didn't know there was such a thing as a Southern Yankee. But this book sounds colorful all the way around! :)

  12. Sage, congrats on your daughter's musical talent. I'm listening to thr choir's performance now, and it's really beautiful and i can imagine how proud you must be.

    Funny thing the Southern Yankee paradox -his language seems very funny-. I can't give an opinion about Walmart (never visited one of those, lol).

    I'm now into audio books. I have a very interesting one:"A short history of tractors in Ukranian", by Marina Lewicka (i can listen to it when I drive. It's better than the news on the radio!)

  13. So cool! Congrats to her, and you. I love that last quip about a j@#$ss on every trip...

  14. The choir was lovely. All girls ?.

    The writer is correct about the Seeds, I was to-day looking at little packets of Carrot and herbs with that narrow glint.

  15. Pearl & Kontan, thanks

    Jen, There is a Kmart here, so I seldom go to Walmart.

    Ily, there are a lot of great lines in the book, I think you'd enjoy it.

    Murf & Michael, I think I might have to do a post on Southern Yankees

    Leni, I'd never heard of Lewicka's book, but it's now on my wishlist--reading the Amazon review, it sounds like a hoot.

    Beau, another truth of the universe!

    Vince, it was a Soprano/Alto choir, but since these are kids in the 6-8 grades (11-14 years old), there were a few boys in the choir, but probably 90% girls

    Hal, thanks for stopping by

  16. Truck was the first of his books I read. I went in to get Pop:485 and it was out, so I picked up Truck. he definitely is slow and steady, for sure :)

    Did I ask if you'd read Bill Bryson? I think Nevada Jack should anyway :)

  17. TC, yes, I've read probably 1/2 dozen of Bryson's books

  18. That's a funny quote about a "jackass" on every trip. Nice review, Sage. ...and your daughter's choir is very impressive!!

  19. Dear Sage,

    I loved Population: 485. A truly fabulous work. Truck: A Love Story? Couldn't wait to get it; got it as soon as it hit the shelves. I hated it.

    Weird, huh?

    I found my way here through R. Sherman's fine site. I very much liked your post about hiking in NH's Presidential Range (I live in NH). I'll be skiing at Cannon, in Franconia Notch, tomorrow morning.