catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 16 :: 2007.09.07 — 2007.09.21


Studying a storyteller to share the Good News

What did we come out to see on August 17 at La De Da Books in Manitowoc, Wisconsin?  A guy talking about his truck?  No?  A hick from the sticks telling stories from backwoods Wisconsin?  Yes, and more than just a storyteller.  Michael Perry drives his humorous, small town, farm tales like a plow deep into the earth of your heart’ field. 

You may just think Perry is waxing poetic about cows and softball tournament beer tents, but he’s actually talking about you—what makes you tick (or stop ticking), what inconsistencies you consistently maintain, and what pains you keep hidden by a gruff, muscle T-shirt, beer gut exterior.

In his books, Population: 485 and Truck: A Love Story, and his music CD, Headwinded, Perry writes creative non-fiction—stories from his own life experience albeit with an author’s dose of creative embellishment.  At La De Da, Perry sang three songs and shared about an hour’s worth of readings and stories.

Perry doesn’t overtly take his stories for a spiritual spin, but his characters are on a deeper journey.  In fact, Perry mentioned that his book due sometime in 2008 is a memoir about growing up in and eventually leaving an obscure, fundamentalist, charismatic Christian sect.  Spirituality has left its mark on Perry so that as his characters reach dead ends, as well as contemplating whether there’s a way out of the ditch.

There’s a reason Jesus used stories (parables) as he taught.  Stories catch us off guard, so that without noticing it, we examine our own faults. 

In the song “Somewhere Out in Mudbrook,” Perry creates a conglomerate character drawn from the strange people who lived on a lonely parcel near his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin.  The result is a story about “the last authentic completely unusual man,” and yet, as Perry said, “You might recognize your neighbors” in the song. 

In the Mudbrook man’s offensive, contradictory beliefs, you might even recognize yourself, and then the story has done its work on you.  You came to hear a hick story, and you leave repenting of your offensive positions and needing salvation from your own contradictions.

Studying a storyteller like Perry may not reveal specific truths from the Bible, but a follower of Jesus would do well to see how a great storyteller works his craft.  It is in the stories we tell—non-fiction, fiction, and creative non-fiction—that we speak the truth that we know.  As you tell stories about your life, will others hear your own contradictions and sins that need forgiveness?  Will others hear the love and forgiveness of Jesus?  If they do, they’ll be caught off guard and begin to see themselves in this tale called the Gospel. 

Michael Perry is online at This article is reprinted with kind permission from the Manitowoc Herald-Times Reporter, Saturday, August 25, 2007. Benjamin Squires’ music review site is Music Spectrum.  Squires is Associate Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, WI.  His sermons are available online here.

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