Wisconsin author, beloved for his accounts of rural life, dies at 94
Terry Bell, Wisconsin Public Radio Ben Logan, widely considered one of Wisconsin's preeminent authors, died last week at the age of 94. Michael Perry, author of "Population 485," says that his work was influenced by Logan's writing -- particularl...
Terry Bell, Wisconsin Public Radio
Ben Logan, widely considered one of Wisconsin’s preeminent authors, died last week at the age of 94.
Michael Perry, author of “Population 485,” says that his work was influenced by Logan’s writing - particularly “The Land Remembers,” a memoir about growing up on a southwestern Wisconsin farm in the 1930s. Terry Bell recently spoke with Perry about the legacy of the late author.
Terry Bell: You had an occasion to meet Ben Logan - how did that go?
Michael Perry: I did. It was wonderful. It was at a writers’ group event in Viroqua. We sat in front of a class of writers, and talked about writing. And frankly, I have no idea what I said. I was just honored to be sitting next to a guy who really had shaped me as a writer long before I had any idea I wanted to be a writer.
I had been a voracious reader growing up. At some point - it probably was my mom, because she gave me most of my good books - got me a copy of “The Land Remembers.” Our neighbors were old Norwegian bachelors, and they had farmed with horses. So I had heard their stories, yet they were still actively farming. So to me, that was tangible history. I could almost touch it. And of course, when I was reading Ben's book, I was hearing those same stories again. And then as time passed, and I would go back and re-read “The Land Remembers,” those things became more and more nostalgic.
TB: Is it an overstatement to say that The Land Remembers is every bit as important, as say, “The Sand County Almanac”?
MP: I think to certain people, yes. I mean, one of the things that’s tricky about regional writing is that it's just one viewpoint. I’m sometimes asked, do I feel like I help portray Wisconsin as it is, and I am always quick to say “Well yeah, the corner where I came from.” But you know, the inner-city Milwaukee experience is every bit a Wisconsin story.
So I think that Ben’s importance is just that he took that one place - he didn't claim it was the only Wisconsin experience, but he conveyed it in such a way that it spoke to a universal audience. That was his gift, I think. You could be sitting in the middle of New York City, and absolutely feel like you were under a tree in the farm yard where Mr. Logan grew up.