Self-Centered Sufficiency 

Coop's Confusing Eco-Memoir

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In recent months, job stress has had me increasingly fantasizing about buying livestock and going back to the land. So I greeted Michael Perry's new book, Coop, with enthusiasm—subtitled "a year of poultry, pigs, and parenting," I expected Perry to muse on localism with a Minnesota twist.

Instead, I was confronted with irritating digressions into Perry's obscure fundamentalist upbringing in a Protestant sect, whole nauseating chapters about the selection of a birthing pool for his pregnant wife, and later, some depressing reflections on the death of his brother's kid.

I understand why Perry's publishers packaged the book for a gullible audience of liberals concerned with where their food comes from. But instead of keep-it-light anecdotes about building a chicken coop or naming the sheep, Perry subjects us at one point to a meeting between his wife and her evangelist nutritionist. I was far more interested in why Perry thought it a good idea to subject his unborn child to the risks of self-sufficiency, but found very little in the way of self-exploration to nourish me until the book's conclusion.

Perry frequently mentions having to hit "the road" at the end of his chapters, but never explains how being a contributing editor at Men's Health might mean that his year in the country wasn't such a big risk after all—an indulgence in vanity showing lack of imagination, perhaps, and living it vicariously was no fun at all.

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