OFF MAIN STREET by Michael Perry


Barnstormers, Prophets and Gatemouth’s Gator
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Thirty-three previously published essays ruminating on the author’s childhood and painting word portraits of unique people he’s met.

Some of the pieces appeared in the two collections Perry self-published before HarperCollins released his memoir of life as a volunteer fireman in his Wisconsin hometown (Population 485, 2002); others appeared in various, generally very-small-circulation periodicals. They deserve wider release: Perry has a real talent for mining quirky humor from even the most mundane situations, and humor isn’t his only strength. He may write about Mrs. Oregon’s eyebrows looking as if they’d been applied with motor oil, but he also poignantly depicts such memorable figures as Mack Most, a meat-market worker whose six-year-old daughter experiences kidney failure. Perry’s description of the grinning slaughterhouse veteran, who has killed untold numbers of animals, leaves a lasting impression, as does his funny tale of dismantling Big Boy, the grinning, chubby-cheeked statue that adorned the front of many a Big Boy restaurant. This little vignette quite naturally leads to a discussion of other outsized restaurant creations, such as the 50-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Meanwhile, lying somewhere in tone between the gritty realism of the story on Mack Most and the shaggy-dog absurdity of the Big Boy piece is a perceptive profile of Aaron Tippin, a country singer obsessed with trucks who has quite an extensive collection of them. Aaron’s recollections of how he acquired each truck are warm and funny, and Perry perfectly conveys the singer’s character.

A delightful mix of humor and pathos, touching the heart and tickling the funny bone.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-075550-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2005


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