By Kelsey Lauer 8/10/09
By Mike Darigan
Skellum Imaginations, Inc.
264 pages $11
Its about getting off the track and onto something different, maybe not a road, writes Josh Meritz, one of four young men in backpocket e-pistles.
And that is exactly what the four close friends Mike Darigan, Josh Meritz, Cleveland Winfield and Perry Panzarellaproceed to do over the course of a year as they study at four different universitiesstep off the beaten path and onto one of their own making to escape the pressures of modern society and learn who they truly are.
Through a series of unedited e-mails, backpocket e-pistles tells the story of their adventures and misadventures with learning, love and life in general.
Its kind of a collection of useful dreaming and a desire to be an individual and to live life to the fullest, to look at life with a sense of humor and adherence to being creative, says author Mike Darigan. Carpe diem would be a two-word summation of the general theme of the book.
Darigan currently lives in Suttons Bay, where he is working on a book tentatively called La Femme and is starting an organic farm in Northport.
At Emerson College, Mike Darigan is in the final year of a winding, six-year-long college career that began in 1990. Recently returned from studying abroad for a year as an associate student at Oxford University, Darigan discovers the joy of e-mail in 1995 and begins to correspond with three friends, one of whom he met while in England, one of whom he grew up with and another in his first year of university.
Also recently returned from Oxford University, Josh Meritz details his experiences of trying to fit back into a typical American university after his year abroad, which has transformed his expectations of life and given him the ability to question the norm.
Cleveland Winfield, who has known Darigan since the age of six, is a senior political student at the University of Rhode Island and brings a good deal of life experience to the table, thanks to having studied in Wisconsin, served in the army as a tank driver and spent two years in Nevada slanging dope and getting married.
Reading for a masters degree at Whitefriars College, Oxford University, Peregrine Perry Panzarella has recently graduated from Providence College, where he and Darigan lived three doors down from each other; Darigan credits Panzarella with his introduction to writing.
COMING OF AGE
In places, backpocket e-pistles fits neatly into the coming-of-age genre personified so well by authors such as Jack Kerouac in On the Road. The concept of coming-of-age spans every generation, for no one really knows who they are until they have lived long enough to make mistakes and fall offeven brieflythe path that they planned to be traveling.
Like some of Kerouacs works, backpocket e-pistles offers an unedited thought-stream that allows for a deeply personal glimpse inside a characters life. But it differs from Kerouacs works in that it details the lives of several students in the first generation to reach adulthood just as technology, such as the Internet, became more prevalent.
E-mail allowed each person writing to attain a spontaneity and realness that can be hard to find in a traditionally-written literary work, even one that is autobiographical; informal writing with at-times entirely lowercase letters means that the language is occasionally hard to follow, but adds to the entirely-true authenticity of each mans correspondence.
Nearly every page inspires laughter due to one outlandish experience or another or, alternatively, delves deep into a thought-provoking examination of one of lifes many aspects, which Darigan says is exactly what he intended.
Its an entertaining book about some funny stories and outlandish acts in terms of the partying, he says. Its a blend of humorous anecdotes mixed with thought-provoking passages. Youre either going to laugh or think about your life a little bit.
At a time in life when college students or any other 15 to 25-year-old is struggling to discover who they are and where they are meant to fit in the world, backpocket e-pistles serves as a useful map through some of the rougher patches of life.
Its no self-help bookand wasnt meant to be, according to Dariganbut the amusing anecdotes can put a smile onto even the most serious face and teach you a little about life in the process, the main lesson being ...for people to have confidence to adhere to the prompting of their own hearts within the matrix that we all live in that is constantly and subtly exacting pressure to conform, Darigan says.
Backpocket e-pistles is available locally at Horizon Books and Borders in Traverse City and at Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay and online at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.