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Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator: Essays Paperback – April 12, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1ST edition (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060755504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060755508
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Perry, who chronicled smalltown life in Population 451, collects some previously published essays for this countrified collection. The author likes to write about bighearted truckers, country and blues musicians, itinerant barnyard butchers and other such characters. As he puts it, "I reckon I'm a pickup-truck-coveting blue-collar capitalist"; a guy who "wouldn't know tapis vert from Diet Squirt." But the wholesome subject of America's heartland doesn't jibe with Perry's sometimes crotchety attitude. He writes of being annoyed when he's cut off in traffic by someone driving "one of those yappy little four-wheel drive pickups" sporting a "No Fear" decal. What would that guy know about fear, he wonders? The incident prompts Perry to recall a sugarcane hauler he met while hitchhiking in Belize, a man whose situation—he was poor and held a dangerous job—made him, Perry assumes, intimately acquainted with fear. The book brims with alternately thought-provoking and pointless ramblings like these, as Perry visits the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington with 270,000 motorcycle-riding war veterans, stays at a hotel in Belize City and overhears a prostitute in the room next to his, and experiences other adventures. Generally, however, Perry's hit-or-miss writing combined with his "been-there-done-that" attitude ("I've seen a bunch of territory with my backpack right behind me. Fifteen or sixteen countries, something like that") make for a wearisome reading experience. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Perry has been a farmer, registered nurse, firefighter, cowboy, backpacker, and reporter. In a somewhat laconic, thoroughly enjoyable style, he introduces folks he has met on his journeys. The 33 solid essays, written over the past 10 years, convey the wonder of the seemingly ordinary. Whether riding along on the back of a Harley for a firsthand look at Rolling Thunder's annual tribute to soldiers who gave their life in Vietnam or contemplating the ways that Elvis has permeated the lives of people born after his death, Perry shows that everyone has a story. Convoy gives a passenger's-eye view of life as a trucker and paints a compelling picture of how American consumerism is tied to the 3.1 million or so truckers on the road. Fear This is the author's response to the arrogance of a nation that prides itself on No Fear slogans when it has not had to experience all that there is to fear in this world (written in 1997, the piece is even more meaningful after 9/11). The one flaw in the book is the paucity of recent pieces–only 10 were written since 2001. Perry shows such an uncommon mix of wisdom and humor that one feels a little cheated not to have been given a glimpse into more of his thoughts on the state of the world today. Reluctant readers will appreciate the scope Perry covers in only a few pages, and avid readers will enjoy getting to know him and a few of his friends.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Michael Perry has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Salon, and the Utne Reader. A contributing editor to Men's Health, he lives in northern Wisconsin with his family.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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He sucks you in and actually makes you feel part of his community and life!
David Stevens
You'll absolutely love Michael Perry if you like reading interests include humor, history and poignant insights into the human experience!
Charles S.
The diversity of this collection, as well as Michael's occasionally "crotchety attitude", are what make it a gem.
JTBooks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JTBooks on May 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think the editorial reviewers may have missed the point with this book. The diversity of this collection, as well as Michael's occasionally "crotchety attitude", are what make it a gem. We all generally live lives that are more diverse than we give them credit for and Michael illustrates that even the most mundane-seeming experiences can allow us to think about the world in new ways. And I don't think that writers are bound to only write about happy and amusing events, with happy and amusing attitudes; that would result in not much real writing being accomplished at all. And then what would we read?

All of the essays here are worthwhile and enjoyable reading. The "mundane entry about hair loss" is not, in fact, mundane at all - it's one of the lighter entries (although maybe not for Michael himself) and is as worthwhile a read as the "one highlighting the local veterans' color guard rehearsing for a funeral" which is, it's true, quite moving. You see - diversity. I have to say that my favorite is probably the one about fear in which he describes being cut off in traffic by a spoiled youngster driving "one of those yappy little four-wheel drive pickups" sporting a `No Fear' decal", which leads to a rumination of what fear actually is and the unlikelihood that this young person is acquainted with it. This sort of traffic incident happens to me a number of times every week, living as I do in a big city. What scares me is wondering who is raising these children with no appreciation of the life around them - that's what I find frightening. This collection is an appreciation of the life around us, whether we like it - or even see it - or not.

So, this is a different book from Population 485, as it should be. If you enjoy good writing with intelligence to spare, this will be a good investment for your (diverse) library.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Emily Liz on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Don't turn onto "Main Street" expecting another "Population: 485." These two works are entirely different - but both are equally enjoyable.

To me, the two defining assets of this book were the voice of its author and the singularity of its insights. I have often remarked to friends that Michael Perry could describe dirt and I'd find it interesting. His natural grasp of language is especially evident in this collection; every word carries weight and meaning. I'm far from being a country music buff, but I found his profiles of country musicians to be fascinating, enjoyable, and infinitely worthwhile. Moreover, the insights he draws from everyday things leaves me watching the world with new eyes. I guarantee that after reading this book, you will never look at water towers, kidney stones, or Elvis in quite the same way again.

"Population: 485" was a watercolor portrait; "Off Main Street" is more like a collection of pencil sketches. Highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reading my way thru life on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
The thing that I loved about this book is the author's voice. He is highly observant, funny and he has a great way with words. His use of language is so real and fresh and different(in a really good way). He really knows how to put a spin on a story, and it just leaves you wanting more! The essays are entertaining snippets on different subjects: being on book tour, hanging out with some country music people, and other experiences in his life.

-It's a great read. I was reading this thinking that I'd love to have a conversation with this guy! I loved his writing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathy K VINE VOICE on June 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Whether he's hobnobbing with country music's biggest stars, eavesdropping on a private conversation at a seedy Belizean motel, riding shotgun with a tell-it-like-it-is trucker, or delineating his own personal trials and tribulations, Michael Perry possesses the uncanny ability to transform everyday occurrences into uncommon slices of American pie. In Off Main Street, Perry waves his journalistic wand over rural America and metamorphoses the ordinary into the extraordinary. Portraying people who might very well be my neighbor or yours, Off Main Street beats with a small-town pulse that radiates with relatability.

My only gripe with this book is that Perry tries too hard to wield his literary chops and, in so doing, distance himself (readability-wise) from those very same common folk from which he draws his inspiration.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. Laack VINE VOICE on June 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays is a bit more eclectic than Population 485 but it showcases Perry's descriptive writing and thought-provoking observations well. Individual pieces were published between 1995 and 2004, and Perry has often updated the information through brief introductions or final notes. This approach reminds us that his stories are about real people whose lives go on even after the snapshot of a single essay or article. It is that intense personalization, along with his flair for unique description ("rawboned frame was swept by a list and sway, as if he were a cattail bumped by a breeze ") that leaves the reader ready for yet another collection of Michael Perry's work. The pieces are not arranged chronologically, but it is easy to see the development in the author's writing skills from some of the earliest pieces to the most recent--a good reference for any would-be essayist to study to see how even a good writer can improve his craft over time.
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