Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sensible, urban chickens?

(Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 4, 2009)

The Iowa City Council should beware.

After Michael Perry reads tonight from his new book, "Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting," a few more dozen local residents might start thinking about what it would be like to have a coop in their own backyards. Jane Hamilton, Perry's fellow Wisconsinite author, said the book made her want to "get chickens immediately."

It's not surprising that "Coop" provides the same philosophically poetic perspective on rural life that Perry showed in "Population: 485" and "Truck: A Love Story." But this time, Perry mixes in all the lessons to be learned by rearing the three "p's" in the title on a Wisconsin farm. The result honors the rural ideal without over-romanticizing it.

When considering the effect that moving to the country would have on his daughter, for example, Perry writes, "But I hope we don't burden Amy with the idea that living outside the city limits is an inherently pious act. That 'rural' equals 'righteous.' As a country kid, I took a while to round the bend on that one, but thanks to a blend of peak oil posts, Kwame Anthony Appiah's 'Cosmopolitanism,' and a week spent buying groceries at a bodega in Bushwick, I am well on my way to reconstructing all residual prejudice. Let's hear it for sensible urbanism."

The council still needs to decide whether that "sensible urbanism" should include urban chickens.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at or 319-887-5435.

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