Population: 485

Review  population485 Population 485 by Michael Perry, HarperCollins 2002, 234 pages

Citizen Reader’s latest Book Menage inspired me to check out this book from the library.   I enjoyed it very much.

**** crickets ***

Oh, man, let’s try that again, shall we?

I’m a big fan of Citizen Reader’s nonfiction book blog and when I failed to read the books required of the latest Book Menage, I thought to myself “SO WHAT?” and decided that it was not really an obstacle to participating.   The discussion questions were insightful and the intelligent positive comments had me hooked;   I just had to get my hands on this book!

So I checked it out from the library and I enjoyed it very much …

Mr. Perry lives in a small town and is a writer.    and oh what a writer, he is!     He crafts a lovely metaphor.    He writes about his job as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder – yep, that means intensity!   and gore!   and medical terminology!!    it’s GOOD.   And he writes about small town characters and small town ways and just miscellany about his small town and why he loves it.

He writes a bit about his family and his friends and about the full circle of life and death.   and about what it means to be a part of a community.    Given that one of my latest reads was about HAPPINESS, I must say that Perry’s book does a lot to contribute to how a sense of trust in your community adds to that sense of well-being where ever you may be.    Laugh out loud funny, this book is heartwarming and heart-breaking, too.

Perry does tend to use some BIG words.   You know — words that are multisyllabic that you don’t usually hear in conversation.    If I had any complaints, it would be that I didn’t know all the words well enough to let myself jump right by them.   Enjoy:

desultory – lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm

otiose – “I did slap together a booklet of otiose homilies entitled How to Hypnotize a Chicken…” – serving no practical purpose or result

atavistic – “As a dyed-in-the-wool farm boy, I find Ihave an atavistic urge to poor-mouth anything more theoretical than a bag of feed.” – relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient orancestral

alacrity – brisk and cheerful readiness

palimpsest – something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form

abattoir – “Emerging from a relationship that ended in a way that simply brings to mind the word abattoir, ...” –  a slaughterhouse

rattamacue – “The mamba loosed a final spasm, executed a triple rattamacue death dance down my anterior tibial ridge, then went still.” – [I couldn’t find this spelling;  perhaps only one T?   ratamacue]

biffy – A toilet; An outhouse

contrapuntal – “I crave a contrapuntal mix of shiftlessness and stability.” – of or in counterpoint

spavined – “I am getting hints – yes, even here in this spavined place – that if we work at it, we can learn to achieve stasis in the moment, even as time ripsaws by.” – a disorder of a horse’s hock

bathyscaph -“It seems the day always comes when the Significant Sweet Other says something, or casts a certain gaze, and as if someone bumped a toggle switch in the bathyscaph, all the oxygen shoots from the room.” – a manned submersible vessel of a kind used by the French deep-sea explorer Auguste Piccard

exculpate – “And so, when it comes to my marital phobias, let me exculpate my parents.” – show or declare that (someone) is not guilty of wrongdoing


THEN today!   I was browsing the sales cart and saw the paperback – it’s a sign!   I have to pass it on!     To enter my book giveaway, please leave a comment here telling me anything personal about a small town you either live in now or lived in once, passed through, anything!    Here’s my story:    I had just moved to Tipton Missouri (pop approx 3000 according to 2000 census) and was signing up for utility service at the town office.   When I tried to tell the clerk who I was, she already knew!       She didn’t know my name but she knew the number and street of my new house address.    IT TOTALLY FREAKED ME OUT.   But she was very nice and I have to say, living in Tipton was a mighty special time in my life…     Contest closes midnight Sunday August 23rd, 2009 EST and winner will be picked at random.   Be sure I have a way to contact you (the WP comment sign in requires your e/m, yes?)


27 thoughts on “Population: 485

  1. When we moved to a small town in AR, I could barely understand many of the locals. One day in Dollar General a little boy leaned over and whispered loudly to his mom, while pointing at me “Is she from TV? She talks like them.”

  2. I am NOT entering, because I’ve already read this one. Why did I read it? Because I once lived in a small town in Oregon called Dufur, pop. 500. My dad liked to say the town motto was, “Ask not what you can do for Dufur, but what Dufur can do for you.”

    Perry has two more books out, Truck and Coop.

  3. Ooh I have wanted to read this one!!

    Hmm let’s see. My grandfather lives in a very small town, but it’s a resort island, so it’s not exactly what you think of when you think of small-town America. When my grandmother died suddenly, my whole family was a wreck. But something beautiful happened out of all of that too, because we realized what a wonderful community we lived in. Everyone from the cleaners to the baker to the church knew what was happening in our lives, and though that seems a bit nosy, it was also great because they helped out more than they could ever know. It was just so nice to see the little kindnesses people did, from cleaning my grandfather’s suit for free to bringing more than enough dinner for my large family every night. It made a tragic experience hopeful in some way.

    That all sounds really cheesy, but it’s true 😉

    1. Lu, that’s what they say, all right. The pro and con of living in a small town is that everyone knows your business. and I think it’s more pro than con unless you are into illegal activities, I guess.

  4. My parents have 10 acres of land located two hours south of our suburban home. We/they go down once a month or more for a weekend or longer, and spend quite a lot of time in the town of 500 nearby. I remember very clearly going in one hot summer night to the one-screen $1 theater, and meeting 8 or 10 people I knew – just from random weekends and hardware store trips! And they all keep tabs on me now through my mom. That community is wonderful!
    Your review sounds really appealing – thanks for sharing the book w/us!


  5. My parents both grew up in small towns. When I got older, I alternated between wanting to buy my grandparents house in a small town in Iowa or my great-grandparents house in a small town in Nebraska. But neither one of them has a Target, movie theater, a grocery store, a mall, a real restaurant…guess I’m a city girl! My grandpa was that guy that knew everyone in town. If you went any where in town with him, it took forever because he had to talk to everyone we saw!

    1. My hub might get/inherit/be offered? land in SE Nebraska but now I’m a bit addicted to living close to the ocean… the older I get, the less I think I need a close Target, tho.

  6. I think your dictionary must be better than mine – your definition of palimpsest is easier to understand. Whenever I read about a really small town, it sounds romantic to me, but I don’t think I’d like it in real life. My in-laws live in a very small town and sometimes when we’re there, people will ask us who we are, almost like we don’t belong there.

  7. Palimpsest twice in one day? I must need to know it. ha. I’ll try to remember it. I like reading books that expand my vocabulary. You had a great list.

    1. I always have to look up this word! It just doesn’t sound real, or something. I need to try and use it over and over again. I’m pretty sure I’ve had it in a prior Wordful-Wednesday post.

  8. I have never really lived in a small town. However, I think that my neighborhood in Natick comes close. When we were purchasing our house, we did not like the broker who was working with the sellers. Yesterday, he sent out a postcard advertising his services. At the top of the mailing he said, “Meet your neighbors at {our address}.” I thought that was surprisingly nice and a bit charming.

  9. Wanda

    I come from a tiny little town of only about 50 people. It was fun to grow up there but I’ve since become a city girl and can’t imagine living in such a small town anymore.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  10. I’ve never lived in a small town, but my mom spent her high school years in a very small town in Idaho. She left for college and never looked back. We were just back there a couple of years ago for my grandma’s funeral, and it was an odd experience, being among a town full of strangers who not only knew who our family was but had kinda kept up on every detail of our family history.

  11. i’ve never lived in a small town…but would love to. i currently live in a ‘resort’ town at the beach and our population swells to epic proportions during the summer months. it makes life a bit of hassle, but the local shops depend on tourism so i can’t really complain.

    my hubby and i travel a ton and i’m smitten with bozeman, montana, cody, wy, woodstock, vt for small(er) town life. it would be reaaaally hard for me to leave here, though. i’m seconds from the beach and an hour or so from new york city and philly. everyone always mocks new jersey…but we do have beaches, mountains, farms, and two major cities nearby.

    as for the novel…sounds interesting and i only knew 2 of the words on your list!

  12. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for such a long time. I’m doing the Literary Road Trip and want to write about Michael Perry, but no time! Bur if you liked this book, then I bet I will too.

    As for a small town story… I went to college in Morris, MN, which is a town of about 5,000 people. We had one movie theater, a bowling alley, and one coffee shop downtown. And one 24-hour grocery store — that was the only thing open after about 11 p.m. Anyway… being a small town and small college, you get to know people, especially your professors. At the end of senior year, last year, the professors started going out to the bars to spend time with seniors — something they don’t do during the year for obvious reasons. One particular professor, one of my favorites, invited all of us over to his house after at evening at the bar and made us grilled cheese sandwiches at about 3 a.m. two days before graduation. It was one of the most surreal things, but one of my fondest memories of Morris.

  13. I think I have a copy of this one buried somewhere, so don’t enter me. I loved your small-town story. I’ve never lived in a town that small, but my hometown had a population around 29,000 and absolutely everyone seemed to know my dad. I was never just me; I was “Lyle’s daughter” till I moved away. I liked it, though. People loved my dad, so when they found out I was Lyle’s daughter, they were always friendly and enthusiastic.

    Boy, you weren’t kidding about his vocabulary. I saw your comment on Good Reads about the author using big words!

  14. A little weird at the utility office-but maybe also good-I will have to have a dictionary by my side for this one.


    chocolateandcroissants at yahoo . com

  15. Ruth Ann

    My dad grew up in rural Southern Wiscosin but moved to the Detroit area, where I grew up, after he graduted from college. We would regularly return to Wisconsin to visit his family. I was always amazed at the differences between suburbia where I grew up and the small town he was from and where my cousins lived. The school lunch menu was published in the local newspaper (which was the size of my high school’s newspaper). We couldn’t go “into town”…the three blocks of shopping area…without running into someone my dad had gone to school with. For fun, people went to the roller rink or, in the winter, ice skating on the frozen pond. Going to the movies or stopping by a fast food restaurant involved a 30 minute (one way) drive.

    As I grew up, I came to appreciate the small town atmosphere, laid back pace and community feeling of the area. But I realized that I never wanted to live anywhere quite that small.

  16. Pingback: [TSS] Big List of Book Giveaways – Aug 23 Edition - Ms. Bookish

  17. I’m so, so glad you liked this one, and touched you are passing it forward. Please do read “Truck,” and “Coop,” (they are both great) although I would suggest leaving a little bit of time in between reading them…as great as he is, after you read all three, it actually starts to be a little too much Michael Perry. I know, seems weird. But they’re rich reading and sometimes you have to spread that out.

    The hilarious thing? I come from a small farm community that I didn’t really enjoy, and I know I wouldn’t fit into any small communities if I tried. But I think that made me appreciate what Perry did all the same. Thanks so much for reading this one!

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