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a midwestern meditation

John Price's Man Killed by Pheasant
I was going to write a bad review for “Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships”. Up until page 109 I mechanically turned pages and read words, but couldn’t absorb anything. John Price’s memoir about growing up in Iowa is rich in subtlety and is completely ordinary, which means you have to work harder to appreciate it. (And since I’m a devout New Englander, it was hard to connect with his Midwestern mentality.) I struggled trying to pay attention to Price, and I almost gave up several times. But once I reached the meat of the memoir (around the time he marries Steph) I got caught up in Price’s tone and mindset, and the rest flowed.

The problem is the title of the book tricked me. “Man Killed by Pheasant” sounds like a quick, quirky book about life’s absurdities. It’s not. It’s a book about a man. An ordinary man. From the Midwest. It’s not groundbreaking, especially heartbreaking or shiny. (And it’s definitely not some summer fluff for the beach.)

Price’s words are quiet and soothing and comforting. His conversations with his hallucinating grandfather are especially touching and are what won me over.

This book may resonate better with regional readers, but that’s not to say coastal connoisseurs can’t embrace Price’s perspective on prairies:

“The grasses were in fall glory, the rich russet of the little bluestem, splashed with golden nests of buffalo grass, blue grama, needle-and-thread. …The place was loud with birdsong – meadowlarks, warblers – and a goshawk shot across the sun and over a distant ridgeline.”

Price may not have converted me to a life of prairies and pheasants, but he has quietly painted a beautiful ordinary life.

“a midwestern meditation”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I definitley think some books and movies are WAY more enjoyable if you are from the area where they take place. Especially a memoir. If the author is strictly referencing the Mid-west I can see how the book's meaning can be weakened by that. A very fair review! I may take this out at the library and see for myself though.