Insight through irony
Huntley – While some people might accumulate an array of postal stamps or a spread of baseball cards, T.R. Kerth is a collector of a different variety: he collects moments.
Kerth, a Sun City resident, is a published author. In addition to holding columns in two weekly newspapers, Kerth recently published the ultimate collection: a compilation of 144 of his columns and personal essays which have previously appeared in print. The book is titled “Revenge of the Sardines.”
“I consider myself to be a storyteller,” Kerth said. “I write stories about things that have happened or that I observe in life. I’ll write about my family, something my wife might have said, or my children. A lot of my stories are humorous.”
Before publishing “Sardines,” Kerth wrote essays and marketed them as a freelance author, which was all he had the time to do while he taught English and journalism and coached soccer at Maine South High School in Park Ridge.
Previously, his work had only appeared in specialty, or as Kerth described, “obscure,” magazines. However, in the past eight years, Kerth landed weekly slots as a columnist in the Northwest Herald in Illinois and the Naples Daily News, penning his columns “The Whole Nine Yards” and “The View from Planet Kerth,” respectively. The archives from these columns are the source of his new book’s stories.
“A lot of times I’ll write the same story for each paper, and just change it to be a little more locally interesting to a northern or southern audience,” Kerth said. “But sometimes it’s harder, because I might be in Florida in the winter and it’s 80 degrees, and I’m writing about a snowstorm in Chicago.”
However, Kerth revealed that his story ideas are virtually endless.
“I always have something working or finished that’s ready to go,” he said. “I put a lot of ideas on the computer. I’ve got hundreds of things on file in one place or another.”
For the compilation, Kerth selected his personal favorites and the stories that garnered the most response out of his hundreds of writings. The titular story, “Revenge of the Sardines,” he explained, is a humorous piece.
“I had a taste for sardines one night. I was going through the pantry, and I found a can of sardines, but they were way out of date, and I mean years. But it was late at night, and I didn’t want to go to the store, and so I opened the can and ate them, which is why the title is called ‘The Revenge of the Sardines,’” he said.
Although humor is one of Kerth’s favorite forms of writing, he explained that it is irony that is the main drive behind his style.
“I’m a lover of irony. I guess I have an irony sensor. When I see or read something that’s ironic, my mind gets working. Usually I write humorous irony, but certainly not always,” Kerth said.
Kerth’s more pensive stories that feature irony hold a place in his book as well.
“My wife is a stroke victim, and there’s irony in that too,” Kerth said. “It’s ironic that something so awful as a stroke can make you thankful. It makes you appreciate things that you wouldn’t appreciate otherwise. Gail [my wife] and I spend a lot of time in her garden, and we just slow down and simplify.”
Kerth has found a way to keep things simple even in the midst of his many personal responsibilities and editorial deadlines.
“I like to take long walks,” he said. “Not as a way to think of an idea for a story, but more of a way of emptying my brain and meditating. And sometimes what’s leftover is something I want to write about.”