Friday, June 16, 2006
Redneck Intellectuals
From my current read, Population 485. I finished it yesterday:
How does one negotiate the terms of belonging? Speaking perhaps too broadly, I consider my loyalties divided between the Gun Rack Crowd and the Pale and Tortured Contingent.
The book was a find while on a used-book shopping trip with Justin. It really reminds me a lot of Lummox—a talented writer with a backwoods Wisconsin background. Lummox is Magnuson's novelized quasi-autobiography (Perry actually mentions going biking with Magnuson in his book—woah, Northwestern Wisconsin memoir worlds colliding, man). Michael Perry is a volunteer firefigher and EMT in New Albion, a tiny town in the northwest corner of the state—the state's poorest congressional district, the same one I'm from.

Perry's book is engaging. New Albion is presented like Lake Wobegon stripped of the nostalgia and romanticism. The town is filled with small-town eclectic souls, and no attempt is made to gloss over the hickishness—I particularly loved the section on customary lawn ornaments in the general locale (bent-over gardening grandmother and little boy peeing are meaningful to me because I remember them from my childhood).

But let me elaborate on the quote. This plays into my own concept of identity. In the Valley and in San Francisco, I'm surrounded by young professionals—products of suburban upbringings and ambitious peer groups. I too, admittedly, am the son of professionals, but from a small town where, last time I visited, I helped my dad scout turkey-hunting locations in rural Adams County, Wisconsin. I love what the Valley is—this crucible of tech, capital, and talent—but after reading the book, part of me wants to move to a small Wisconsin town, volunteer with the local fire department, and watch the Packers every Sunday.

Of course, nothing about me would thrive in that environment. Besides what little wear they get from guitar, biking, and boot camp, I've got typists' hands—pink, uncalloused things that can dance out code but wouldn't be all that good with a hoe—or a fire hose, for that matter.

Maybe I could telecommute...
It's a good book. I read it for a "Literature of Fact" class when I was an undergrad.

"When I was an undergrad." That still sounds funny.
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