Michael Pearson

Reading Life

Adventures in books and the world
Nonfiction (travel)
"Pearson is a most companionable guide to take us worlds away." --Arthur Saltzman, author of Nearer: Essays
ďShohola Falls is a fever dream of a novel that brilliantly weaves past and present, fact and imagination to describe a young manís quest for himselfĒ
--Tom Kelly, author of Payback
ďAchingly American, a bittersweet elegy that echoes Thomas Wolfe and Jack KerouacĒ
--Mike DíOrso, author of Like Judgment Day
ďA wild travelogue told by a scholarly tour guideĒ
--The New Orleans Times Picayune
ďA fascinating report on AmericaĒ
--The Columbia S. C. State

Shohola Falls


ďMy name is Tommy Blanks. Or at least thatís close enough to the truth for now. Iíve found in the last few years that some lies are nearer to whatís true than most of us ever expect to come, anyway. So I donít draw too many hard or fast lines between whatís imagined and whatís recollected. Sometimes what we dream up is real enough to live with and turns out to be the story of our lives. Our lies may turn out to be what was true all along.

Donít get me wrong, though. Iím no liar unless Iím forced to be. Iím just not sure what the truth is sometimes. And at other times there seem to be so many truths. Who can tell whatís what? I can only guess, for instance, why my father disappeared or why I ran off across the country when I had every good reason to stay right where I was. But if I hadnít gone, I would never have gotten to California and met Welcome William Ward. Thatís where I met up with what I was running from, and deep down inside I know I was fortunate it caught up with me when it did Ė before I got lost entirely and fell so far I couldnít find my way back. I canít even tell you for sure why my great-great-grandfatherís journal and his friendship with Sam Clemens were so important to me. Every once in a while you come across a story thatís not about you but is anyway, and thatís how my great-great-grandfatherís journal felt to me. Iíve traveled a lot in the past few years to come to these conclusions. It seems as if you have to go a long ways to see whatís right in front of you. Sometimes you have to step back far enough to shake the blurriness from your eyes.

Most of my life up until the last couple of years hadnít been action-packed. Iíd lived inside my head more than I had in the physical world, I think. Iíd gotten used to spending a portion of each day reading or simply daydreaming, but then my mother died, my father disappeared, I got arrested, fell in love, and went on a cross-country journey in search of Mark Twain.Ē