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Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy

Fans of Michael Perry (The Jesus Cow)--author, musician, pig farmer, EMT volunteer and radio host--know that his book on Montaigne will be a look at the 16th-century French philosopher through a 21st-century Midwestern lens. Readers new to Perry will soon feel he's an old friend, as his conversational style makes Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy thoroughly accessible and entertaining.

"The journey began on a gurney," Perry writes, explaining how the Wisconsin storyteller became fascinated with the French nobleman. They shared an affliction, and once Perry discovered Montaigne's kidney stone essay, he was hooked, "all thanks to a crippling pain in my flank." He pairs his study of Montaigne with personal experiences and reflections, and thinks the nobleman would approve. "He shares up-culture and down-culture with equivalent alacrity," but also notes, "the desire to write about Montaigne puts me in heavy traffic on a tricycle." His reflections circle back to what he knows. Of aristocracy, Montaigne writes it is "inhuman and unjust to make much of this accidental privilege of fortune." Perry applies this to America's "blithe riche." Ambling from Montaigne tales to anecdotes about Perry's days on the farm, the parallels always surface. A hilarious, self-deprecating bit on Perry's absentmindedness in the chapter "Confound the Fool" quotes the Frenchman, "I change subject violently and chaotically. My pen and my mind both go a-roaming."

Perry's down-to-earth take on centuries-old writings invites slow reading, perhaps not straight through, with equal time for reflection and laughter. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco