I was boarding the metro yesterday when a phone call came telling me an appointment had been moved back an hour, leaving me with a block of time that was useful for neither turning back nor pressing on. What to do? Well, thank the heavens I had my Secret-Santa present of Michael Perry’s “Truck: A Love Story.” I hunkered down into a slouchy, dingy yellow metro seat, cracked the binding (because I love the sense of ownership that action brings), and read while I road the Green line from start to finish and half-way back again.
Two things to note:
1) Metro-reading is well-positioned to become my new hobby of 2008. The rhythmic shlunk shlunk shlunk of the train on the tracks, the ever-changing scenery, the people-watching potential…it was fantastic. A mobile lounge. I do miss the coffee, though.
And 2) I have a dorky, rednecky, literati crush on Michael Perry. Anyone who has read “Population:485,” heard him on NPR, or read his essays and interviews will give a knowing nod when I say that his writing is charm, heartbreak and humor laid bare by an exceptional vocabulary and a feed-bag of literature references from which to draw. “Truck” is no exception. The same mix of present-time narrative and 20-20 hindsight, snort-inducing laughter, frankness and longing and, of course, tiny-town nuance.
Here’s a short snippet that somehow combines all elements:
In part to mitigate the barren state of the earth, I have decided to order seeds for my garden. I possess the perfect armchair for the task, a saggy old green thing that came from my grandmother’s basement and now sits on a rug beside my homemade bookshelves. Sinking into the worn cushions, I spend the remainder of the afternoon leafing through seed catalogs and recharging my chamomile tea. It is as if a sunlamp has been turned toward my soul. My winterbound spirit thaws, releasing sense memories–the shink, shink sound of a hoe cleaving sandy soil, the press of a hard seed between the pad of thumb and forefinger, the scratchy hiss of squash leaves moving in a warm breeze. I am this close to writing a poem. See catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined.
This a writer whose cadence I can only dream of imitating on my best of days.
Go. Enjoy. Happy winter reading!