More fine brushes with the rank and splendor of everyday life from Pickering (The Blue Caterpillar, 1997, etc.). Pickering is a barefoot observer of the quotidian who revels in the spectacle and its gift for surprise, prefers the rumpled to the starched, has raised puttering and messing about to an art form, and wrings from it a more than a pennyworth of happiness and a life well lived. “The stories I tell are stationary. The narratives don’t teach or inspire.” Dozy and comfortable as they are, his essays also urge readers to preserve the clarity of the moment, to stop looking for meaning and significance under every rock, to get of their duff, take a walk. Here are a dozen of his pieces, all Brownian and witty and melding fiction with nonfiction (he insinuates a homespun cast of characters from Carthage, Tenn.—a motley crew of the halt and the lame—as counterpoints to drive opinions home, as with “I prefer bright lies to drab truth.” One essay finds him summering in Nova Scotia, spending brambled days with a restless wife and two dogs that never get the drift about porcupine quills. In another, it is autumn and Pickering is at the losing end of a collision with a swimming pool wall, shaking loose intimations of mortality. There is a tour of irritability, the result of falling and breaking a few ribs (his wife, inured to his bumbling, greets him at the door with “My God! What have you done now, you asshole?”); and there is a celebration of crotchetiness prompted by the doldrums of February. These are all stories of the commonplace, but in Pickering’s hands they rise like yeast, a chemistry of clever writing that teases oblique pleasure from the mundane.