Saturday, September 1, 2012

a good turn of word in the lathe of literature

This is a review of TRUCK, A LOVE STORY by Michael Perry.

Don't you think the title of this book TRUCK, A LOVE STORY seems a little hokey, maybe even manipulative? It's as if its author — or more likely, the book's editor/publisher, who most often does the naming — wanted to broaden the book's market appeal. How many women would read a book titled TRUCK? How many men would read A LOVE STORY (setting aside that old romance novel by Eric Segal, which was made into a movie)? However, I guess it could be said that this particular book appeals to broader audiences than those just enamored of a particular vehicle or of touchy-feely stories of romance and love.

Well, all of that is beside the point. The book is good, worth reading whether you're a male or female or somewhere in between. Michael Perry writes well, even if it seems sometimes he has too much on his mind. I happened to read this with a book club comprised primarily of women. They generally outnumber the men in the group three or four to one. Many of the books we read could be considered more or less feminine oriented and sometimes I've even heard the women themselves utilize the term chick lit. Because they outnumber the men so far this is the dynamic we men in the group have to live with. But truthfully, we cover a broad swath of interesting fiction and nonfiction, mostly fiction, which brings me to this book.

Is TRUCK, A LOVE STORY fiction or nonfiction? It reads like a memoir, but I never did really see anywhere where it claims to be nonfiction. Perhaps, Michael Perry realizes that imaginations always figure into memories and experiences anyway. (The author after all writes, "Fortunately, the eye is an organ capable of deception. In collusion with the brain, it convinces you to ignore what you see — or don't see.) Or perhaps I just missed where it says what it is.

This is a slow reading piece, a work you want to take your time with, a book you might start reading in bed at night if you want to go to sleep. Now I don't mean by that to say that it is boring or anything derogatory. But don't compare it with today's fast-paced fare, which seems targeted at hyperactivity disordered readers. This isn't calculated to keep you on the edge of your seat, shrieking, or covering your eyes in order to cope. Instead it'll make you want to languish like you are in the Bahamas on the beach with unlimited time and plenty of food and drink by your side with the most charming companion.

Where does a truck come in to all of this? Perry is restoring an old International Harvester truck with his brother. The restoration ticks off the time in the book. Perry's attitude is communicated in this manner: "In 1951, a man bought a pickup truck because he needed to blow things up and move them. Things like bricks and bags of feed. Somewhere along the line trendsetters and marketers got involved, and now we buy pickups — big, horse-powered, overbuilt, wide-assed, comfortable pickups — so that we may stick our key in the ignition of an icon, fire up an image, and drive off in a cloud of connotations. I have no room to talk. I long to get my International running in part so I can drive down roads that no longer exist."

Who is Perry? He describes himself: "At thirty-eight, I'm still a few follicles from a Category Cue Ball." This is one of his obsessions, besides his truck. He says, "I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian sect that not only frowned on vanity but viewed long hair on a man as sinful." He also describes himself as follows: "No matter our vocation, we so often find ourselves living life as a form of triage. I need more time with the dirt, the sense of the soil with its plenty." So gardening is another of his — I don't want to say obsessions — passions.

Family is another honored subject for the author. Speaking of his grandmother, he says "this time she raised five children of her own and took in another twenty-eight foster children. She did her baking with a .22 rifle at hand and was known to step away from the stove to snipe feral cats and once an incautious woodchuck."

And what of the love story part of the title? Well, there is Anneliese. But I can't say more without spoiling it for you, so I'll shut up and just recommend that you pick up the book, especially if you appreciate a good turn of word in the lathe of literature. If you like anecdotes stacked within the framework of car restoration and raising turnips while discovering a love interest, then find a beach in the South Pacific or Caribbean and languish away with TRUCK, A LOVE STORY in hand.

No comments: