Michael Perry discusses books and life as a Midwestern farmer and writer during book talk

Michael Perry, a freelance writer from a ranch on Wisconsin, talks about his most recent book "Montaigne in Barn Boots" in the Storrs Center Barnes and Noble Wednesday evening. (Nick Hampton/The Daily Campus)

Author Michael Perry hosted a reading and discussion on Wednesday evening in the Storrs Center Barnes and Noble to talk about his latest book, “Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy,” a collection of personal essays that relates his own life to the writings of Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French philosopher. The discussion focused on Perry’s life and journey as both a farmer and writer.

Perry is a radio show host, songwriter and New York Times bestselling author. He currently resides in Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters, all three of whom are prominent in his writing. He has had a lot of experience with farming, between growing up on a dairy farm, to working on a ranch to pay his way through nursing school, to finally starting a pig farm with his wife, so this also has been a common theme throughout his writing.

Perry originally worked as a nurse, but eventually moved back to Wisconsin and became a freelance writer.

“I quit my last real job in 1992 and I have been writing ever since then,” he said.

Perry found his inspiration to write “Montaigne in Barn Boots” after passing a kidney stone. He began reading Montaigne’s essay “Of the Inconsistency of Our Actions,” which then lead him to read many of Montaigne’s other personal essays and medical journals. Throughout the book he often relates some of Montaigne’s quotes and beliefs to his own Midwestern life and experiences. He puts the philosopher’s work into layman’s terms, and does so in a way that is both relatable and interesting.

“Montaigne in Barn Boots” covers a range of topics including family, living in the Midwest and Perry’s absent-mindedness.

Perry credits his memoir “Population 485,” which he described as a “can you go home again book,” as being the book that brought him success and recognition as a writer.

“I simply wouldn’t be here without that book,” Perry said.

He also discussed his book “Coop,” in which he details moving to a farmhouse and starting his pig farm, and “Danger Man Walking,” which he described as “one of the most meaningful pieces.”

Perry also discussed singer Prince, who he credited as being one of his major influences with both music and life in general. He read one of his favorite pieces from “Montaigne in Barn Boots,” in which he covers the topics of aesthetics and his love of beauty. Prince has been a great inspiration with this aspect of his life.

“But then came Prince… my definition of masculinity, beauty and even my own Midwest changed,” Perry said.

The discussion was filled with humor, personal anecdotes and transparency. Perry entered the room and began the lecture as if talking to old friends, which immediately created a welcoming and warm environment.

I quit my last real job in 1992 and I have been writing ever since then.
— Michael Perry

Perry’s writing has a similar tone, he often uses many amusing anecdotes and has a certain realness about it - he doesn’t hold back and is an open book, even if it’s at his own expense. For instance, he shared an excerpt from one of his novels where he discussed an incident that led him to contract poison ivy in an unfortunate place.

“After listening to him I want to buy his audiobooks because I like the way he talks,” Dave Chandler of Coventry, Connecticut, said. “His novels have quite a bit of humor but can also get serious. Even if you didn’t attend the book talk, you should check him out.”

An overarching theme throughout of all Perry’s novels and his discussion would be his relationships with people and sharing their stories. He said, “My greatest privilege as a writer is not telling my own story, but telling the story of others.”

To purchase his books or learn more about Michael Perry you can visit his website sneezingcow.com, which was given this title based off a farming joke.

While explaining this, Perry said, “If you grew up on a dairy farm you know that’s not funny; just really serious.”

Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.