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The Carletonian

Acclaimed author to sign book at Northfield Arts Guild

<itically acclaimed writer Michael Perry will read from and sign copies of his new book, “Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting,” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 5, at the Northfield Arts Guild. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Monkey See, Monkey Read bookstore.

Perry, the author of “Population: 485,” a previous Northfield Reads! selection and “Truck: A Love Story,” another local bestseller, is a popular author in Northfield. This will be one of the first stops on his book tour, as “Coop” will be published days before the event.

“This is a special reading for my store because for years I have been recommending Mike Perry’s books to customers,” said Jerry Bilek, owner of Monkey See, Monkey Read. “I’ll read anything he writes—and ‘Coop’ is vintage Mike Perry.”

Last seen sleeping off his wedding night in the back of a 1951 pickup, in “Coop” Perry finds himself in a rickety farmhouse. Faced with acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their baby at home, Perry plumbs his childhood for clues as to how to proceed as a farmer, a husband, and a father. And when his daughter starts asking about God, Perry is called upon to answer questions for which he’s not prepared. He muses on his upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian sect and weighs his childhood faith against skeptical alternatives. (“You cannot,” he writes, “toss your seven-year-old a copy of ‘Being and Nothingness.’”).

Whether Perry is recalling his childhood (“I first perceived my father as a farmer the night he drove home with a giant lactating Holstein tethered to the bumper of his Ford Falcon”) or what it’s like to be bitten in the butt while wrestling a pig (“two firsts in one day”), “Coop” is filled with the humor Perry’s readers have come to expect. But he also writes from the quieter corners of his heart, chronicling experiences as joyful as the birth of his child and as devastating as the death of a friend. Hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, “Coop” is suffused with a desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning and, of course, with chickens.

In a starred review of “Coop,” Publishers Weekly says that “Perry writes vividly about rural life; peck at any sentence — one of the [chickens] stretches, one leg and one wing back in the manner of a ballet dancer warming up before the barre — and you’ll find a poetic evocation of barnyard grace.”

Perry is a contributing editor to Men’s Health, and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Salon, and the Utne Reader. He lives in northern Wisconsin with his family.

Monkey See, Monkey Read is a new and used bookstore open seven days a week at 425 Division Street. Information: 507-645-6700 or

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