Dr. Science says, “Often hilarious, always amusing …”

Writer Patrick Irelan to read at Prairie Lights

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | NOVEMBER 03, 2009 7:20 AM

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Author Patrick Irelan knows his limitations.

The 66-year-old UI graduate grew up in small town Iowa on a “worthless 80-acre farm” in Davis County. On the farm, Irelan learned not every venture in life leads to success.

“On that little farm — which was in pretty bad shape when my parents bought it — I learned the limits of what people can do,” he said. “[The farm] was a colossal disaster for my parents. So I’ve always been ambitious, but far less than the typical American citizen would be … I’ve written a lot, and a lot of that hasn’t been successful, and I haven’t let that bother me.”

Irelan will read from his first collection of short stories, Reruns, at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., at 7 p.m. today. The book is a humorous collection of short stories that explore American culture and the Midwest way of life.

“On one level, the stories [Patrick] writes are just entertaining stories, but also there’s a kind of underlying seriousness about them, and they have sort of a satirical quality,” UI graduate and poet Dan Lechay said.

Irelan uses interesting and exaggerated ideas in Reruns with stories ranging from space-themed “Comets” and “Dark Matter” to pieces that take jabs at pop culture. The author said he often puts his characters into situations that couldn’t exist in the real world to convey his messages.

The stories featured in Reruns come from decades of writing that, Irelan said, began in his undergraduate years at the UI, where he received a B.A. in political science and later an M.A. in American studies.

“It dawned on me when I was in college that I might be able to write a book, a story, whatever,” he said.

Irelan briefly attended the Writers’ Workshop for poetry but left after a year to write prose and work in the UI’s continuing-education program. He eventually published two memoirs, Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family and A Firefly in the Night: A Son of the Middle West.

The writer said he is in the process of creating two new stories at his home in Coralville and hopes to get another book published in the near future.

“Depending on how long I live, there will be more,” Irelan said with a laugh.