From shortly after I finished reading Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live, a biography of the 16th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne, I started seeing Montaigne in Barn Boots on Audible and it intrigued me. Michael Perry is a Wisconsin farmer and volunteer fireman (among other things) who also writes and thinks and thinks about thinking and speaks – about writing and thinking. It’s about his own life in relation to the essays of Michel Montaigne.
The book is interesting, insightful and humorous – Perry writes easily, nicely. His comparisons of his life on a Wisconsin dairy farm to the life and philosophy of Montaigne who lived on his a private estate in southern France, is kind of endearing. He mentions the most famous translators, M.A. Screech and Donald Frame, as well as taking note of Bakewell’s book.
Yes, I’m also reading The Essays of Montaigne in the Screech translation. This is being done on my iPad/Kindle at night – it’s going to take a long time.
Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy
by Michael Perry
2017 / 245 pages
read by Michael Perry – 5h 12m
rating: 9 / memoir/bio/philosophy
Perry has obviously read Montaigne’s essays more than once, probably as well as whatever else he could get his hands on. It’s apparent he appreciated the writings.
Montaigne in Barn Boots is short – just 5 hours plus a few minutes on the Audible version. But it packs a really nice punch in those pages. And he’s incredibly honest.
The information on Montaigne is fascinating, although brief, and it’s consistently relevant and includes some great quotes. Perry does not spare the lofty thoughts and vocabulary as appropriate, but at other times he hits the barnyard ways and country speech of his community. And he talks about everything from memory to toilets and sex to love and death and anxiety and pain as well as spiritual leanings – just like Montaigne. There are times when he simply waxes poetic and then in the next paragraph has the reader rolling with laughter.
You can kind of get the sense of it by reading through the table of contents:
Reading Like a Chicken
Confound the Fool
Kidney Stone Wisdom
Meditating on Faith
What To Do
I think my favorite chapter is probably “Kidney Stone Wisdom,” but the funniest one is “Marriage.”
“In overcoming shame I do not wish to become shame-less.”
Perry narrates the book himself and it’s not too bad at all, a little fast maybe.
Perry’s page: https://sneezingcow.com
“Meditation is not to get away from the crowd outside us, but to get away from the crowd inside us.”