Monday, August 31, 2009

Michigander Monday: John Perry

John Perry has written a dangerous book. As my son said just yesterday, "I don't know how this book got into our house -- but all that matters now is that we not let it eat anyone." Indeed. Thankfully, the book does not eat blogs, so we're safe today having John Perry here for Michigander Monday. Welcome, John!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

John: First of all, anything I say about myself is wholly speculative, and could change at any moment, for any reason (a siren, someone else's Google query, an insistent bit of song). Here's what I know for sure: I grew up roaming with friends through forests, meadows and swamps (especially swamps--I have the muddy boots and wet cuffs to prove it) somewhere between Lansing and Detroit, back when a cow could still wander up to your office window. These days I live in Ann Arbor with two little girls and a big one, I hardly ever go swampwalking, and I miss boxcar frisbee, perhaps the greatest frisbee game ever invented.

Debbie: And of course, we want to know all about your book!

John: There's another John Perry who's funnier, thinks faster and is more creative than me. I never know when he'll turn up (and I suppose it's possible it isn't really him at all, but some other tricky person like Mike or Millicent or somebody). Anyway, whoever it is showed up one morning while I was still asleep and told me a story that made me laugh until I woke up. That story is The Book That Eats People, more or less. And it's irresponsible, irredeemable, irreverent, unrepentant, toothy and peevish. The trouble with that other John is he doesn't stick around to answer questions, so I had to write The Book That Eats People using just what I remembered. I hope I got it right because I wouldn't want the other John to be upset with me.

Debbie: Other books and projects you (and the other John) have on the horizon?

John: Lately I've been comparing myself to pearl oyster farming (about which I know almost nothing, which keeps things simple). The way I understand it is you start with a bunch of oysters, each with a little piece of grit implanted, and you end up with these valuable accretions of concentric micro-layers... Which is one way of saying I'm working on a score of stories all at once--a fairy story, a musical about gods, a thing about a couple of girls in Illinois, something related to The Book That Eats People, and a dozen other pieces. They're all coming together as the currents come and go. We'll see if anyone likes any of them when they're finished.

Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?

John: I'm excited about the Kerrytown Book Festival coming up in September. I'm supposed to read on Saturday the 13th at 1 p.m. My friend Rich built a metal strongbox for the book, so I'm hoping that'll keep everyone safe. I'll also be reading on Sunday, October 4th in Cleveland at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association jamboree.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

John: There's the sentimental favorite, which is my Mom's old farmhouse with the wrap-around porch and all of the land surrounding it; the botanical gardens next to the Red Cedar at MSU; the beaches on Lake Michigan, especially around Sleeping Bear Dunes; the pier at Holland State Park where we fished; the bluff we camped on above the Manistee River; all of the zoos.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

John: I may be the only person who has ever reported on the "Rockstar" games that happen sporadically, where rocky-bottomed rivers empty into any of the Great Lakes. People with goggles, young and old, vie for the title "Rockstar" by searching for the most interesting/beautiful/oddly-shaped/intricately-patterned rocks. Everyone plays arbiter. Everyone wins eventually.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

John: Mike Anton who lives in Hazel Park writes Dylanesque-ish songs with surprising, caustic lyrics that make me smile (and cringe). Michael Anne Erlewine is an Ann Arbor artist I haven't seen in too long, whose work is amazing. I hope she'll show more of it, more often.
Rich Cox, my friend who owns Orion Automotive Services in Ann Arbor, has a head full of stories and insight everybody should hear some day.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

John: Look, lots of Michigarblers are going to make up stories about Michigan to try to scare you away. Don't listen to anybody who says the ground in Michigan is randomly electrified, or to the guys on Fox who dreamed up that wild story about "bands of frantic saxophonists" who deafen tourists. None of that nonsense is true.

Debbie: I feel better already. Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

John: Michiganite?

Debbie: Another new category - love it!

John, thank you for being here with us today. And I'm happy to report that I made it through this entire interview without being eaten by your book.

1 comment:

Abigail said...

I have Mr. Perry's book and it's already eaten half my library, three sofa cushions, and a small chihuahua. Thank you for your interview---I have new insight into the fiendish mind that created such a monster.