The author of Population: 485 returns, delivering a truckload of humor, heart, and . . . gardening tips? Think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, complete with stock cars, sexy vegetables, and a laugh track.
"All I wanted to do was fix my old pickup truck," says Michael Perry. "That, and plant my garden. Then I met this woman. . . ." Truck: A Love Story recounts a year in which Perry struggles to grow his own food ("Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Penthouse combined"), live peaceably with his neighbors (one test-fires his black powder rifle in the alley; another's best Sunday shirt reads 100 PERCENT WHUP-ASS), and sort out his love life. But along the way, he sets his hair on fire, is attacked by wild turkeys, takes a date to the fire department chicken dinner, and proposes marriage to a woman in New Orleans. As with Population: 485, much of the spirit of Truck: A Love Story may be found in the characters Perry meets: a one-eyed land surveyor, a paraplegic biker who rigs a sidecar so that his quadriplegic pal can ride along, a bartender who refuses to sell light beer, an enchanting woman who never existed, and half the staff of National Public Radio.
By turns hilarious and heartfelt, a tale that begins on a pile of sheep manure, detours to the Whitney Museum of American Art, and returns to the deer-hunting swamps of northern Wisconsin, Truck: A Love Story becomes a testament to the surprising and unintended consequences of love. 1006
A part-time emergency medical technician, Perry delivers the latest account of his somewhat idiosyncratic life and times in a small Wisconsin town ("I am happy to live in a place where I can chuck a washing machine out my back door and no one judges my behavior unusual"). Here, he focuses on two main events over the course of a year: fixing up a 1951 International Harvester pickup truck and developing a romance with a local woman after a long stretch of failed relationships. Never cloying, Perry is a wry observer of how success in both areas "is the result of a modest accumulation of lucky breaks and the kindness of others," and displays the storytelling and observational skills that made his first book, Population: 485, such a success. One of his most memorable descriptions is of an ex-patient, Ozzie, a motorcycle-loving ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, who gets to ride again after his wheelchair is hooked up to the cycle of his paraplegic friend Pat--"You haven't really explored the outer limits of health care until you've watched a Hell's Angel suction a tracheotomy tube." (Oct.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry
I have the hots for Irma Harding. I wish I might couch my desire in more decorous terms, but when our gazes lock, the tickles in my tummy are frankly hormonal. My feelings are beyond ridiculous and destined to remain profoundly unrequited, but I draw a wisp of comfort from the fact that I am not squandering my libidinous yearnings on some flighty young hottie. Irma Harding radiates brightness and strength. She furthermore appears to have good posture. As a younger man, I would not have looked twice at Irma Harding.
As a younger man, I was a fool.
A man learns to tune his sensibilities. Consider the eyes. Your callow swain will be galvanized by coquetry and flash; your full-grown man is taken more by the nature of the gaze. A powerful woman's eyes are charged not by color but by intent. The strong woman does not look at you, the strong woman regards you. Irma's gaze is frank, with a crinkle of humor at the crease of each eye. She knows what she is looking for, and she knows what she is looking at. She has a plan, and should she encounter events for which she lacks a plan, she will change gears without fuss.
In the one picture I have of her, Irma is grinning. The grin is well short of goofy, but it does pull a little more to one side than the other. Her lips are full and gracious, although some might suggest she back the lipstick down a shade. Her teeth are white and strong. The left upper incisor is the tiniest tad off plumb, but as with the faintly lopsided grin, the net effect is to make her more human, more desirable. Irma's grin is an implication, the implication being that while she would never tell a naughty joke, she would quite happily laugh at one.
Irma is the product of a time when a woman--even a strong woman--strove mostly and above all to please her husband. There is a danger here, a danger that you will form an image in your head of Irma as a servile drone. Look at those eyes again. They are the eyes of a woman who willingly mixes an after-work highball for hubby, but when she delivers the tumbler it is snugged in a napkin wrapped tight as a boot camp bedspread, and hubby will not underestimate the consequences pending should Irma later discover a water ring on the end table. He will droop home slack-tied and gray from the desk-job day, and she will meet him at the door crisp as a celery stick, her cheeks bright, her backbone straight. She will kiss him and take his briefcase, but he will be left to fetch his own slippers. When he settles in the big living room chair, he will turn an ear to the kitchen, from which will emanate the sounds of dinner under way. Not the clownish clatter of pans, or the careless jangle of cutlery, but the smooth whizzz of a blender, the staccato snickety-crunch of the carrot being sliced, the civilized tunk of the freezer door dropping shut on its seal. Lulled by these muted vibrations of efficiency, the husband will drift in the aura of provision and comfort, and his mind will ease.
But just as he is about to drowse, he hears the meat hit the pan, and he rouses to the idea that food is being cooked. He is reminded that he must daily--like any caveman--use his hands to put food in his face. He feels juices release, and his gut rumbles. And that's why Irma gets me bubbling. She may be cast as the stereotypical nuclear housewife, she may be complicit in the premise that a man is to be served, but when I lock on those eyes, I hear the sizzle in the skillet, and I know Irma knows: no matter how you tweak the parsley, eating remains a carnal activity.
Two winters back, a man knocked at my front door. I like to look folks over before I step into the open, so I paused a moment to study him from behind the glass. He had backed away from the porch and was standing on the short patch of sidewalk beside the driveway.