Midwestern Gothic : First things first, tell us about your Midwestern roots. Michael Perry: I was born in Wisconsin Rapids. My dad worked in the paper mills in Port Edwards.
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When I was two he bought a farm a few miles north of New Auburn, and thus I grew up a cheddar-head farm boy. Milking cows, cleaning calf pens, baling hay, logging in the winters. MP: There is a residual stoicism coupled with a wry observational humor. For instance, nothing was funnier to the folks who raised me than nonfatal injury. Also there is a certain tendency to hunch your back and get the work done without fancy clothes or drama. That said, any Midwestern memoir writer who invokes stoicism must then explain how he came to write page after page about his feelings.
What do you think characterizes the Midwest? Depends on geography the inner city Milwaukee experience is every bit as Midwestern as me standing in front of red barn beside a milk cow and time the Sioux and Ojibwe were Midwesterners before we were.
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And of course we are all being ineluctably drawn to a digital center…we may still eat lutefisk in the basement of the Lutheran church, but we are also mostly totally wired. In particular he was referencing conversations he used to have over coffee in an Iraqi bookshop.
We get so busy bashing each other over the head with the minutiae of the day that we forget: sometimes the most beautiful thing that can happen on any given day is for pretty much nothing to happen. Ultimately, if I have any hope for my writing, it is that it might somehow lead to some contemplation of the priceless quiddity of small moments. Then there is the fact that my everyday is filled with bonehead moves apparently relatable to a small but loyal—and apparently similarly afflicted—readership.
MP: Yep. So in an updated version of the book I told her side of the story. The thing is, it abounds in quiet places. Not in the headlines or in the pageant of popular culture. They would never claim to have anything to teach the rest of us, but of course they do. How do you think your other pursuits have influenced your written work? Grammar and punctuation, for instance, are not my forte. But I have done a lot of things and seen a lot of things and hung out with people of all persuasions and possess some combination of word masonry and echolalia that allows me to portray them with some baseline accuracy.
Why do you think this style of writing and revision works best for you?
Gotta pin it down in a physical sense. But more to the point, my children help me focus less on being the man I think I am and more on the man I oughta be. MP: Right this second? Gotta go to my fire department meeting and learn about this new CPR. Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wound up writing by happy accident.
He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an amateur pig farmer. He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues , is currently finishing his first young adult novel, and can be found online at www. Read the full review. And for more information on Above All Men , click here. I distinctly remember writing stories instead of journaling in fourth grade. Journaling was too boring. But I started writing more seriously in high school and undergrad, especially after I discovered I could major in Creative Writing.
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I grew up in the Midwest; I moved back and forth between Iowa and Minnesota for 28 years. My parents grew up there, and my immediate family is still there. And my characters have Midwestern traits. There is this thing in the Midwest—a compulsion, maybe? Except of course you would know because the whole town knew. So my characters struggle with problems on their own. My undergrad, Southwest Minnesota State University, holds a literary festival every few years, and I got to hang out with and talk to some amazing writers. But some of those communities and writers seem to be a secret outside of the region.
But the Midwest, as a region, is defined by what it is not. There are plenty of states that no one will argue about—Iowa is definitely the Midwest. But what about Missouri? I think social media is a great way for people to promote their writing. I use it a lot as a reader to find new writers. I need to use it more as a writer. The English Patient , by Michael Ondaatje.
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My sister made all the flowers for my wedding out of pages from The English Patient. Sausage corn chowder, made from the Fokken family recipe. Oh man.
I think Jeanette Winterson would be really interesting to talk to. I tweet at emphasisjess. Eric will be at the table signing copies as well. Details of our AWP trip. A great chance to hear Eric read from his novel, hang out, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Seattle. John has quit his book group over dirty teacups, and Ed is spending most of his time at the zoo. Nevertheless they manage to find things to say about the most respected profession, a very special subgenre of metal, the pleasures of Queens, and whether they or their friends are narcissists.
Episode Ferns, Ficus, Private Benjamin. It's Father's Day, and Ed is wondering when he'll go to the movies again. He and John discuss how the ninteen-seventies have influenced them, whether it is possible to like both Ferrante and Knausgaard, the similarities between a list of poems and a list of snacks, and the unhinged horribleness of the present-day Lucky Charms elf, who is no longer played by Cormac McCarthy.
Ed's bored in the suburbs but is preparing to enjoy parades on the land, sea, and air. John has had a traumatic experience at the post office. Nevertheless, they manage to talk about the rappers of upstate New York, propose a reality show in which Arnold Schwartzenegger visits fruit festivals, sample kava, and debate the laws governing pool-noodle ownership. Episode Raised Creamy. Ed is lost and alone in the sub-suburban wilds of Vancouver, and John is slightly less anxious than he used to be in his clean house.
They hold forth on the pleasures of summer, fear of foreign travel, the names of babies and old women, sheriffs on horses, and bringing a toddler into a cave and turning out the lights. Ed has moved into the Reflections in the Park apartment complex, and John's AWP cold is gone, so it's time to talk about John's Armenian Pastry Shop dream, Lincoln Michel's misremembered shaggy dog joke, reheating french fries with steam, Nell Carter, repeating yourself, cheese disappointment, and erotic feelings for the waitress on the cover of Supertramp's "Breakfast in America.
Episode Nutty Grindz. Ed and John try to decide in this episode that also features an abortive zoo trip, a missing bacon web page, New York eateries, a movie of a novel, contorted mannequins, and sending grandma's collector spoons to India. It's been a long three weeks of leaky roofs and pinkeye, but Ed and John are back to talk about vaporwave music, makin' a livin', fried chicken, marriage patois, brewpubs, and Ed's dreamlike reading before the Seattle village elders.
Ed's wide awake for a change, and he and John discuss Spotify, why people don't say what they want, pop album nomenclature, popcorn preparation methods, and what trains should and shouldn't do in songs.
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John and his friend Skoog 2. Episode Butter Is Too 'Picy. Ed is back from Minnesota and is looking for information about the conclusion of the Super Bowl.
John is trying to start a commonplace book and has solved the problem of work meetings. They discuss highly organized murder, Rachel Cusk, midwestern cuisine, quoting writers in conversation, and free ebooks. Episode Dr. Pepper's Less Credentialed Cousin. Ed starts out quietly, but gets gradually louder, in this episode featuring stolen cars, novel revisions, cafe con leche, bowling alley food items versus bowling alley snacks, the four points of view in fiction, and possible locations for the Okey-Panky AWP meetup.
It's early for Ed, as usual, and that puts him at a disadvantage, like the giraffe that doesn't realize he's in a race with Carl Lewis.