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Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy

Review

Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy

MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS is a rare sort of blue-collar philosophy book --- introducing readers to the concepts of Michel de Montaigne in a fun way and from an unexpected perspective. Author Michael Perry somehow juxtaposes his own life as a man on a Midwestern farm with that of one of the most major thinkers of the French Renaissance.

The barn-booted Michael Perry’s father was a paper mill worker, while Montaigne was studying law at age 14. They could not be more dissimilar, but Perry sets out to prove just how much they have in common theoretically. Even though at times it may seem that Perry is poking fun at a heightened version of his working-class persona, it is done in the name of good humor and makes the book accessible to readers who never would have had exposure to Montaigne or any other philosopher.

"MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS is a rare sort of blue-collar philosophy book --- introducing readers to the concepts of Michel de Montaigne in a fun way and from an unexpected perspective."

Perry is a self-proclaimed amateur ambling through philosophy, so in the course of his thoughtful ramblings, one could say there is contained a fair share of, albeit lovable, bumbling. But within the emotional ups and downs revealed in his daily life, there is talk of serious topics: class, anxiety, politics, race, depression, sex, the online world, norms and mores, among many others. There is also some intellectual talk of intersectionality that one might expect to find in a college classroom. It is an eclectic mix appropriate to his life.

Perry draws from his everyday experiences, like feeding chickens or trying to fix a truck, and bolsters them with oddities such as once grabbing an electrified fence --- the likes of which I sincerely do not recommend imitating. He is an off-kilter kind of guy who writes from a room above his garage, yet he is fooling no one --- what he puts into words gets to the root of what it means to be a citizen and human being in the honestly unpretentious way he understands so well. Despite his slightly brash style, he appears to grasp Montaigne’s philosophy and shows humility in the way he translates it for everyday readers. Montaigne was known to connect storytelling to theories of knowledge, just as Perry opens his world up to piece together a deeper meaning to day-to-day living.

There are cultural, historical, personal and modern references that prove that Perry, the self-proclaimed “bumpkin,” knows far more than people would assume he does. He is not attempting to be the most profound or groundbreaking philosopher. In fact, he lives with his family in rural Wisconsin, and his work is displayed online at SneezingCow.com. What is memorable, though, is how a smart, regular guy is able to convince readers that he can channel Montaigne while merely overlooking his farm’s pigpen.

No, Michael Perry will not go down in history next to Michel de Montaigne, yet MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS shows how a perhaps not-so-average guy can show flashes of brilliance enough to have it considered a personal characteristic. In some ways, nobody has more in common with the essays of Montaigne than an ostensibly coherent, working-class guy from the Midwest.

Reviewed by John Bentlyewski on November 22, 2017

Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy
by Michael Perry

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Genres: Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062230565
  • ISBN-13: 9780062230560