Gravel Driveways and Kitchens in Chicago

Last night I drove down to Chicago to attend a book signing by Michael Perry at the Book Cellar, a really cool and atmospheric independent book store in Lincoln Square.  It was a great opportunity to see one of my favorite writers in person.  Perry is a great speaker, with a stand up comic’s timing and rhythm, and with a voice and a stage presence that heightens his beautiful and moving writing.  As a humorist and the leader of a band, he is comfortable in large venues; seeing him in such a small and intimate setting (there were about fifteen people) made it feel like we were all standing in a gravel driveway listening to him shooting the breeze.

He read some excerpts from Visiting Tom, did a very funny hour or so long monologue, and closed by reading my favorite passage from any of his books, from Visiting Tom, where he describes Tom and Arlene’s kitchen, and the depth of meaning he takes from its familiarity.  It’s a great passage because it goes beyond nostalgia and atmosphere and memory and gets to what the familiarity really means to him, and recognizing the same meaning in the woman who will later become his wife instantly deepens his bond with her.  It’s a wonderful example of Perry’s gift, the ability to find the profound in the every day, and hearing him read it out loud added another layer to its meaning.  I’d reprint the passage here, but you’re better off buying the book.

Afterwards, I had him sign my just purchased paperback copy of Visiting Tom, (I previously only had an e-copy of the book – it’s difficult to get one of those signed) and introduced myself as the guy who’d interviewed him for the 2nd First Look website (here is a link to the article and interview ).  He was gracious, and I was pleased that he remembered me, but I don’t know if I got across to him how grateful I was for him agreeing to do the interview.

Not that that matters much.  Interviews, it occurs to me, are a dime a dozen.  What I wish I had told him was how grateful I was that he let me into Tom and Arlene’s kitchen.