My first introduction to Michael Perry’s work was his latest publication, [b:Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy|34217513|Montaigne in Barn Boots An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy|Michael Perry|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1491691011s/34217513.jpg|55268410]. After reading that fine book I decided to go back to the beginning and chronologically read all the full-length memoirs Perry has written. Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time afforded him some well-deserved attention. But honestly, as popular as the book appears to now be, I was expecting much more. From the very beginning I found myself a little disappointed. For some reason I was not expecting so much about him being an emergency medical technician and volunteer fireman. But by Chapter 7 Perry had gotten me again with his simple take on community in the chapter My People. He speaks about humility and the assumptions writers sometimes have that they are better than what they are. How that same vanity can cause problems in relationships. But the fire department provided a point of access for him in meeting his neighbors more authentically. He admits, at this point of his writing career, to having written nothing of “considerable reputation.” And when asked at a reading, “What’s the secret to making a living as a writer?” he answers that he discovered the secret years ago while cleaning his father’s calf pens. A childhood spent slinging manure taught him that you just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice. I really admired his answer, and maybe it applies to all of us if we just keep working hard at piling up our body of work.
By the two-thirds mark I have matured in my thinking and wholeheartedly accept this memoir on its own terms. That of a brother and son, an emergency worker, a fireman, and serviceman to his county and community. Not exactly what I had in mind for the book that got Perry “in” and on the literary map. Thought it would be more about the quirky small town and its people, and it is, just not exactly. This entertaining and educational book is more about service and what that entails. It is the intimacy involved in getting to know death, disease, and destruction on a personal level sooner than most of us who generally carry on until the end comes instead to meet us. Perry confronts death straight on, and almost every day. Or what potentially could result in his own end, but certainly not without the instruction and details that accumulate in order for Perry’s benevolence to grow. It feels endearing to be in his company, and his character being one that will certainly last and predictably thrive through all the fated adversity to come. And this very good book was more than just a touching memoir. It has heart. And life. And hope emanating from a gifted and fascinating personality.
…Captive of my heart and feet, I’m a wandering fool, but I’ve got the sense to keep returning.