Art at Work
Perry exemplifies creativity in diverse new collection
Measha Vieth, photos by Andrea Paulseth |
Awakening with a moment of revelation is rarely how one discovers what one wants to pursue in life. It’s difficult to know, in the moment, where life will lead you. Instead, taking what comes your way and working with what you’ve got can create the most surprisingly beautiful stories. Work that may seem like an ordinary task to some could be totally captivating for others. You just have to dig a little to reveal these moments, or – if you’re author Michael Perry – it may just be another day up to your ankles in cow manure shoveling heifer barns with your father.
“I try to sneak art into what I do, and strive for some beauty, rhythm, and tone – but if you’re going to freelance, you also take the work as the work is offered. Sometimes I write about puking because I need to pay the mortgage. Writing about puking can be interesting and fun and you can sneak some art in there.” – Michael Perry on his latest collection, Danger: Man Working
In his newest book, Danger: Man Working: Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch, the New York Times best-selling author shares a collection of essays and stories pieced together over the past 15 years. The collection travels through some of the dirtiest jobs to crazy adventures that pull at your heartstrings.
Perry said some might look at his latest as an “uneven” collection, but as a freelance writer, what does that even mean? “Freelance writing is an uneven life,” Perry said. “I should be honest about what freelancing really is. I’m not always able to write some in-depth, heartfelt essay.” In fact, the collection includes a detailed piece about the physiology of vomiting. “I try to sneak art into what I do, and strive for some beauty, rhythm, and tone – but if you’re going to freelance, you also take the work as the work is offered. Sometimes I write about puking because I need to pay the mortgage. Writing about puking can be interesting and fun and you can sneak some art in there.”
I initially thought conversing with this illustrious Wisconsin native would be fairly intimidating. However, my nerves were eased as Perry spoke humbly about his newest venture – or should I say, 15-year venture. It’s not all about puking, I swear. Danger also immerses the reader in a piece on Iraq war veterans who were badly injured climbing Mount Rainier. Perry said this was an adventure he was truly privileged to be a part of and entrusted to tell. This story, along with others pertaining to faith and music, had a profound impact on Perry’s life and felt natural to include in the collection.
While many stories easily found a spot within Danger, others had some uncertainty attached. “There were lines that I’m not that proud of … but I left them in because I hope they would stand as testament to the idea that we can change and we can try to improve ourselves.”
Danger gives readers a way to explore a variety of stories about Perry’s life and the people that have inspired, impacted, and bewildered him over the last decade and a half. A lot of these works take place away from home and on the road, while staying true to his rootsy style by doing work as the work is offered.
Gratitude fills his voice as he reminisces about all of those involved in this collection. “I remember when we finally made all the selections for this book and I sat down to read through for some of the final proofs and in that moment, I’ll admit, it was nice to pause for a moment and go ‘Gosh, we put a lot of miles on this.’ ” Perry said. “It’s been a lot of wonderful experiences and what a privilege to be able to try to type them up in some manner.”
His work isn’t finished yet: Perry is set to release a book in November about the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne called Montaigne in Barn Boots and is currently working on a sequel to The Scavengers, his young adult novel.
“I’ve never gotten over the idea that it’s a marvel that someone would take the time to sit down with something I’ve written and read it, and read it with care,” Perry said. “That’s a great honor. I just never take it for granted.”
Danger: Man Working can be preordered on Perry’s website, sneezingcow.com, and will be shipped by Aug. 29. All orders from the site come signed. The book will also be available at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.