Congratulations are in order for five Minnesota authors, who were each awarded $25,000 in the form of McKnight fellowships.
Presented by the Loft Literary Center, the awards for creative prose went to:
Susan Koefod, author of the Aryo Thorson mystery series, including "Washed Up," "Broken Down" and "Burnt Out"0 Comments)
Ethan Nosowsky will rejoin Graywolf Press in the new position of editorial director.
Nosowsky served as Graywolf's editor-at-large from 2007-2011, during which time he oversaw some notable literary acquisitions, including "Otherwise Known As the Human Condition" by Geoff Dyer (the book went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism).
Nosowsky begins his new job as editorial director April 15, but he will be doing so from his home in San Francisco; McCrae splits her time between St. Paul and Graywolf's satellite office in New York.
The hire comes amid other news of internal promotions, including senior editor Jeffrey Shotts' promotion to the position of executive editor.(0 Comments)
This year's recipient of the Kay Sexton Award has helped many an author write their own books.
Photo: Minnesota Book Awards
The 330 acre estate offers residencies for writers and artists, and hosts several events each year for both writers and readers. Now in its 18th year, the center is the largest artist community in the Upper Midwest.
The Kay Sexton Award is presented at the Minnesota Book Awards each year to an individual for his or her contributions to Minnesota's literary scene.
Hedin has already won two Minnesota Book Awards for his writing. He edited Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2007 in honor of the state's sesquicentennial.
The 2013 Minnesota Book Awards take place on April 13 in Minneapolis.
The annual "America's Most Literate Cities" report is out for 2012, and once again the Twin Cities have placed prominently.
Minneapolis remained in third place, while St. Paul climbed from 12th to sixth place.
Many people claim the cold weather in the Twin Cities helps foster a healthy readership.
(MPR Photo/Tom Weber)
The report is conducted by Dr. John Miller, President of Central Connecticut State University, and is compiled based on six indicators: number of bookstores, educational attainment, internet resources, library resources, periodical publishing, and newspaper circulation.
The study only looks at cities with a population of 250,000 and above.
Washington, D.C. took first place for the third year in a row; Seattle came in second.
According to President Miller, the ranking "presents a large-scale portrait of our nation's cultural vitality. From this data we can better perceive the extent and quality of the long-term literacy essential to individual economic success, civic participation, and the quality of life in a community and a nation."
Interestingly, while Minneapolis has remained consistently in the top three for the past eight years, St. Paul has bounced around a bit, from as high as 3rd place down to 12th place last year.
A closer look at the rankings finds that St. Paul claimed first place in the 'booksellers' category, but scored rather poorly in the categories of 'education level' and 'internet resources.'
Miller does acknowledge that his study measures quantity but not quality, "which would be more subjective."
Miller notes that spending on reading materials nationwide has declined 22% since 2000, while over the same period, federal statistics show spending on other forms of entertainment is up 25%.
This Sunday at noon Barton Sutter and his brother Ross will perform poetry and music at Plymouth Church in Minneapolis.
The program, titled "This is the Day: Rejoicing Anyway" focuses on the spiritual response to suffering, and is part of the church's "Literary Witnesses" program.
Ross and Barton Sutter
Image courtesy of the artists
Bart says about the performance:
"As the Buddha said, everyone suffers. How we respond to suffering is a crucial spiritual question. Billions of people suffer more than Ross and I do, but art always works with particulars, and in our particular case, when we were just kids we watched helplessly as our mother suffered a gruesome illness and died. Such an experience shatters simple-minded religious faith. So then what? We designed our program around that experience and its spiritual consequences."
One of the poems Sutter will read on Sunday is "My Mother at Swan Lake" from his new collection The Reindeer Camps. Sutter says it took him close to fifty years to write.
"The memory of that picnic haunted me for decades, and I didn't know why. In writing the poem, which is mostly just description, I discovered some of the reasons for the haunting. For one thing, I realized this was the last day I remembered my original family as happy and whole. For another, my dead mother seemed to have a message for me in what she'd said that day, but I hadn't been hearing it clearly."
Sutter says he hopes to move the audience to tears, and to laughter.
"We hope they'll go away humming one of Ross's songs or maybe mumbling a couple of my lines. And since all of us suffer, I suppose the best one-word take-away would be--encouragement."
My Mother at Swan Lake
"This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it."
A maniac for picnicking,
She'd pack us up to go
The very first thing in the spring;
Sometimes we sat in snow!
But we were well into the year;
The swans had all long gone.
We'd shed, like leaves, our nagging fears.
The lake went pink and calm.
Her hair'd come back; her light, low laugh;
Her cancer in "remission,"
A state that gave us some relief
From pain and vain religion.
My dad had let me start the fire.
I saw my mom was proud
Of how the flames kept growing higher;
They wouldn't flicker out.
I've clutched this day near fifty years
But always felt so stupid
That it could bring the sting of tears
When there was nothing to it:
My sister makes a small bouquet
Of weeds and faded asters,
But I can't hear my mother say
What she bends low to ask her.
My brother's down beside the shore;
I see his silhouette.
My father calls out, as before,
"Now don't go getting wet!"
My mother leans against a tree.
She sighs. I hear her say
Across the half a century,
"It's been a lovely day."
The 25th annual Minnesota Book Awards take place on April 13, 2013. Here's who's in the running:
-A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija (Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)
-It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard (Chronicle Books)
-Tell Me About Your Day Today by Mem Fox, illustrated by Lauren Stringer (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
-Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
-Debating the End of History: The Marketplace, Utopia, and the Fragmentation of Intellectual Life by David W. Noble (University of Minnesota Press)
-Forward: The First American Unsupported Expedition to the North Pole by John Huston and Tyler Fish (Octane Press)
-Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community by Brenda J. Child (Viking/Penguin Group)
-Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer (Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove/Atlantic, Inc.)
-Curse of the Jade Lily by David Housewright (Minotaur Books/St. Martin's Press)
-The Devil and the Diva by David Housewright and Renee Valois (Down and Out Books)
-Ruth3:5 by Michael Fridgen
-The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group)
Memoir & Creative Nonfiction:
-Letters to a Young Madman by Paul Gruchow (Levins Publishing)
-Life on Ice: 25 Years of Arctic Exploration by Lonnie Dupre (Keen Editions)
-My Mother Is Now Earth by Mark Anthony Rolo (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society Press)
-Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley (University of Minnesota Press)
-Every Man Did His Duty: Pictures & Stories of the Men of the First Minnesota by Wayne D. Jorgenson (Tasora Books)
-Lost Duluth: Landmarks, Industries, Buildings, Homes, and the Neighborhoods in Which They Stood by Tony Dierckins and Maryanne C. Norton (Zenith City Press/X-Communication)
-The Minnesota Book of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More by Chris Niskanen (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
-Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
Novel & Short Story:
-The Healing by Jonathan Odell (Nan A. Talese/Random House, Inc.)
-It Takes You Over by Nick Healy (New Rivers Press)
-The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers)
-Vladimir's Mustache and Other Stories by Stephan Eirik Clark (Russian Life Books)
-The First Day of Spring in Northern Minnesota by Jim Johnson (Red Dragonfly Press)
-Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick (Milkweed Editions)
-Pitch by Todd Boss (W. W. Norton & Company)
-Salt Pier by Dore Kiesselbach (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Young People's Literature:
-Goblin Secrets by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
-Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebooks, Inc.)
-Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus (Amulet Books/Abrams)
-Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin (Milkweed Editions)
Book lovers, this one's for you.
The Minnesota Book Awards is launching its first ever "Plots and Pints Pub Quiz" in honor of its 25th anniversary.
The event - slated for February 21 at 7pm at O'Gara's Bar and Grill in St. Paul - will pit teams of up to four contestants each against one another. Teams will be tested in their knowledge of Minnesota's literary history in the area of geography, crime, music, Minnesota Book Awards, 1988 (the MNBA's first year), and politics. There's also a mysterious "visual round."
The entry fee is $200 per team (which includes cost of a complimentary pint and light snacks); all proceeds go to the Minnesota Book Awards.
And in case you're wondering, the Minnesota Book Awards take place on April 13 at the Hilton Minneapolis.
Club Book, the program that brings authors to Twin Cities libraries, has announced the line-up for its next season, and the emphasis is on Minnesota writers.
From February through May 2013, eight authors will give talks in libraries from Anoka to Woodbury, including Minnesotans Lorna Landvik, Cheryl Strayed, Arthur Phillips, Brenda Langton and John Sandford.
For your planning purposes, here's Club Book's official line-up; all events are free and open to the public.
Club Book with Pam Houston: Tuesday, February 5, 7 p.m.
Maplewood Library, 3025 Southlawn Dr., Maplewood
Club Book with Lorna Landvik: Thursday, February 28, 7 p.m.
Prior Lake Library, 16210 Eagle Creek Ave., Prior Lake
Club Book with Li-Young Lee: Monday, March 18, 7 p.m.
Saint Anthony Park Library, 2245 Como Ave., Saint Paul
Club Book with Cheryl Strayed: Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Central Park Amphitheater, 8595 Central Park Pl., Woodbury
Club Book with Cheryl Strayed: Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley
Club Book with Arthur Phillips: Thursday, April 18, 7 p.m.
Stillwater Public Library, 224 3rd St. N., Stillwater
Club Book with Lorna Landvik: Sunday, April 21, 2 p.m.
Chanhassen Library, 7711 Kerber Boulevard, Chanhassen
Club Book with Brenda Langton: Wednesday, April 24, 7 p.m.
Hennepin County Library - Southdale, 7001 York Ave S., Edina
Club Book with John Sandford: Wednesday, May 8, 7 p.m.
Rum River Library, 4201 6th Ave., Anoka
Club Book with Benjamin Percy: Wednesday, May 29, 7 p.m.
Hennepin County Library - Southdale, 7001 York Ave S., Edina
The Minnesota Book Awards has named Jana Pullman the winner of the 2013 Minnesota Book Artist Award. The award is presented each year to a Minnesota book artist or group of artists that has shown excellence and innovation in the field over the previous three years, and has contributed significantly to the local book arts community.
Pullman is well known in the community for her work as a book binder and conservator, and especially for her work with leather and wood covers. But her knowledge runs deep in several veins of the book arts, including not just binding but paper-making, printing, box-making, and the history of bookbinding.
Pullman has been involved in the book arts for thirty years, studying the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Iowa, where she later worked for several years with noted paper maker Tim Barrett.
"Open Horizon" - a cover for the book Open Horizons by Sigurd F. Olson, about his love affair with the wilderness in Wisconsin.
Pullman arrived in Minneapolis in 1997. Since then she has become a pillar of the local book arts community, regularly teaching classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and running her Western Slope Bindery. She also teaches workshops throughout the country, and has received several prestigious awards.
Full disclosure: I've had the pleasure of taking several classes with Jana Pullman over the last few years. She is a treasure of book arts knowledge and a gem of a teacher.
In conjunction with the Minnesota Book Artist award, an exhibit of Pullman's work will be on display at the MCBA January 18 - February 24, and will subsequently tour to other venues across the state.
"Water" - Full bound goatskin over sculptured boards. Silk endbands and chiyogami endpapers. Air brushed background and title in aluminum leaf.
Images courtesy of the Minnesota Book Awards.(0 Comments)
The co-author of the hugely successful book Three Cups of Tea, which raised awareness of the plight of children's education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has taken his own life.
Journalist David Oliver Relin was born in Rochester,
MinnesotaNew York. In his career he was drawn to telling stories about worldwide inequities involving children. Which is why he was assigned to write a book about fellow Rochester, Minnesota native Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who had an inspiring story about building schools.
The book sold over four million copies, but as the New York Times writes, some readers found details of the tale suspicious.
In 2011, the CBS News program "60 Minutes" and the best-selling author Jon Krakauer in an e-book called "Three Cups of Deceit" questioned major points in the book. This included a crucial opening anecdote about Mr. Mortenson's being rescued by the townspeople of Korphe, Pakistan, after stumbling down a mountain when he was dehydrated and exhausted. It was their care and concern, the book said, that inspired Mr. Mortenson to build schools.
The reports also said some of the schools that Mr. Mortenson's charity, the Central Asia Institute, said it had established either did not exist or were built by others. There were also charges that the institute had been mismanaging funds and that a substantial portion of the money it raised had been used to promote the book, not for schools.
Mr. Mortenson acknowledged that some of the details in the book were wrong. Mr. Relin did not speak publicly about the charges, but he hired a lawyer to defend himself in a federal lawsuit that accused the authors and the publisher of defrauding readers. The suit was dismissed this year.
In April, the Montana Attorney General's office announced that Mr. Mortenson had agreed to repay the charity more than $1 million in travel and other expenses used to promote the book, including "inappropriate personal charges."
David Oliver Relin died on November 15, 2012 in Corbett, Oregon. He was 49.(1 Comments)
Native American author Sherman Alexie titled his latest collection of short stories 'Blasphemy' because he's been so regularly accused of it.
In an interview with Kerri Miller on the Daily Circuit, Alexie said romanticized views of Native Americans are just as harmful as negative ones:
SA:It still doesn't reflect who we are as a people. There's this whole idea that Indians are hanging around in the wilderness with loincloths singing to birds. It's not even remotely true. You don't really see Indians hanging out in REI, but seventy percent of us live in the cities! Minneapolis has an incredible urban Indian population and that doesn't get reflected in our literature. Our lives, our actual lives, are not reflected in Native American literature.
KM: Do you say this because you don't think there's anything new to say about Indian tradition?
SA: Of course there's always something new to say about it, but when it's the only thing you're saying, that becomes a problem. Most of the big time native writers out there are also college professors. Nobody's written the Indian college professor novel... why haven't they written it? They haven't written it because they think it would feel less Indian - there's this idea that we have to be authentic, and that plays into some idea of what Indians are supposed to be. Where's that white collar novel? Where's the novel about the Indian architect? or an Indian doctor? There's a million things we do - we have every job you white folks have - there are Indian radio hosts! And yet we still function with this reservation centric, tradition centric version of who we are.
You can listen to the rest of Alexie's interview, and why he says it's his job to question authority, here:
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in "The Silver Linings Playbook."
Author Matthew Quick has an easy description of his best-selling novel "The Silver Linings Playbook."
"My one line pitch is that it's about a man who thinks his life is a movie produced by God," he said during a recent visit to the Twin Cities.
The novel is the basis for the romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" opening around the country this week, although Quick admits the part about deity as movie producer doesn't appear in the screen adaptation.
It's the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) whose manic behavior has led to a brush with the law, a restraining order from his wife, and a few months of court-ordered treatment in a secure unit at the local mental health institution. On his release he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has just gone through her own brush with mental health issues after the death of her husband. Together Pat and Tiffany prove to be an explosive combination, and the film is a rollercoaster ride of humor and pathos.
"Their struggles in many ways mirror a lot of my struggles," Quick (left) says, then continuing that the issue of mental health is near and dear to his heart.
"I consider myself part of the mental health community," he says. "I deal with depressions and anxiety. I have worked in the mental health community, I counseled troubled teens for seven years when I was a high school English teacher."
"For me, you always want to be laughing at the absurdity of the situation, you mine the comedy from the absurdity of life. You don't want to be laughing at these people, because they are people, they have real struggles, and I think they are depicted that way in the novel and the film, but we can laugh at just how absurd these situations are, and how wild life often is."
Quick has just gone through the experience of having a celebrated director David O. Russell ("The Fighter") make a movie out of his novel without consulting him.
Quick told the audience at an advanced screening of the film in St Louis Park about how Hemingway described selling the movie rights to a novel as being like a bank robbery, where an author walks up to a wall and throws his book over the top. Someone on the other side then throws a bag of money back, which the author should grab and run away as fast as possible.
It wasn't quite that way for the Silver Linings Playbook. Matthew Quick is very pleased with how the movie has turned out.
Russell called Quick before the author saw the finished flick, and talked Quick through how he had written the screenplay. Quick says while Russell changed some things from the book were changed, at it's center the movie preserves the important things about the story.
Quick describes Pat as "a guy who is trying to reinvent himself, and he is trying to practice being kind rather than right, he is trying to get physically fit, he's trying to learn how to treat women well, and kind of atone for some of the past sins that he had."
Pat has to do this despite being surrounded by a family whose members have their own sets of foibles, not least his father, played by Robert de Niro. He's a bookie, whose love of the Philadelphia Eagles verges on the obsessive compulsive.
Quick says he was very pleased by how Russell and his actors filled out the characters.
"Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany is probably the most authentic rendering of my character from book to screen. It was clear to me that she embraced that character."
"Pat in the movie is a little bit different than the Pat in the novel. I think Bradley Cooper did a phenomenal job," he said. In keeping with the novel's theme of reinvention, Quick says Russell wanted to re-introduce Bradley Cooper as a performer.
"And so David wanted the audience to see Bradley Cooper, not at 'People's Sexiest Man' but as this new character. That's why in the first scene when you see the movie come up, you are on Bradley Cooper's back, because David consciously wanted to evoke this question 'who is this guy?'"
And it really works. Cooper gives one of the best performances of his career so far.
Matthew Quick has been touring the country for previews of the film and has loved audience reactions. He says it's allowing people to speak openly about troubling issues - while also having a good time.
"The silver lining of that if you will is that I think we are really getting people to talk," he said. "When people are seeing something on the screen that they feel is authentic in some cases things that they are struggling with at home, be it bipolar disorder, or depression, and they say 'that was really authentic, that represents what I am going through, any yet I am leaving the theater with a smile on my face and feeling uplifted.'"
Quick says he believes romantic comedies have been demonized by some people, as incapable of being important or significant. He hopes that changes with "Silver Linings Playbook."
"I would like my readers and the viewers of this film to leave feeling maybe a little bit better than they came in. And there is nothing wrong with that. I think that's beautiful."
(All images courtesy the Weinstein Company, except for image of Matthew Quick which is an MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
Despite suffering severe damage to their offices from Hurricane Sandy, the National Book Awards went ahead tonight in Lower Manhattan.
And it was a great night for two Minnesota authors.
Debut novelist William Alexander won the award for Young People's Literature for his book Goblin Secrets. Alexander teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and is a frequent contributor to Rain Taxi Review of Books.
In the category of Fiction, Louise Erdrich won for her book The Round House, which was just published last month. Erdrich's work was up against works by Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers, Ben Fountain and Kevin Powers.
In accepting the award, Erdrich said, "I want to say to my fellow writers you have written extraordinary books. I don't know why I'm here, but I've been working at this for 100 years - not as long as Elmore Leanord (who was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters), but a long time."
"I would like to accept this in recognition of the grace and the endurance of native women," Erdrich continued. "This book is about a huge case of injustice; thank you for giving it wider audience."
MPR's The Daily Circuit interviewed Erdich in October.
In addition, Katherine Boo's book Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity won the non-fiction category, and David Ferry took home the award for poetry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations.(1 Comments)
Posted at 3:33 PM on October 30, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Tonight, as residents on the east coast continue to assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy, Stillwater author William Souder will read from his book On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson at SubText bookstore in St. Paul.
Carson, the author of the seminal environmentalist treatise Silent Spring, was adamant that pesticides like DDT are as harmful as radiation to people, plants and animals. She was also a champion of the health and biodiversity of the world's oceans.
One can easily imagine her blaming the recent damage of Hurricane Sandy on what she called the "impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature."
Author Elizabeth Royte reviewed On a Farther Shore for the New York Times. Royte says she found it to be an "absorbing narrative."
In Souder's telling, almost every aspect of Carson's life and times becomes captivating: her difficult personal circumstances (she grew up in rural poverty, was the sole breadwinner in her family and battled breast cancer while writing and then defending "Silent Spring"); the publishing milieu; and the continuing friction between those who would preserve nature versus those who would bend it to provide utility for man.
Souder warms up slowly, presenting Carson as a mild and mousy girl who fell into her career thanks to a charismatic mentor. As she matured, however, Carson quietly simmered with attitude, indignation and, once she became more successful, a righteous ego. Released from government service and financial peril, she roared at the forces she believed were destroying nature, her greatest source of pleasure and the thing without which, to pervert the classic advertising slogan of the agricultural chemical manufacturer Monsanto, life itself would be impossible.
Souder reads tonight at 7pm.
Posted at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
In 1995 Cheryl Strayed hiked the 1,000 mile Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to stop the downward spiral she'd been in. Her mother had died, and in her grief Strayed ruined her own marriage.
Cheryl Strayed, author of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" and "Dear Sugar," is in the Twin Cities to give readings from her work.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr
Strayed completed the trail, but she told MPR's Euan Kerr she didn't feel ready to write about the experience until recently.
She emerged from the trail a different person, ready to move on with her life. She emphasizes that it was a subtle change.
"Narratives that we receive from Hollywood and other media sources is that somehow somebody began a journey and they were Charles Manson, and then end the journey and they are the Buddha," Strayed said. "And I knew for certain that's not how transformation works. That's not how my life worked."
People told Strayed for years she should write about her experience but she told them she didn't have anything to say.
"An interesting experience does not a story make," Strayed said. "At least not a book."
But the transformation that had began on the trail continued, Strayed said. She published two books of fiction. She moved to Portland, Ore., remarried and now has two small children.
"And so it was the right time," she said. "I began writing "Wild" in 2008. I thought it was going to be an essay and I found I that I really had so much more to say."
You can find out more about Strayed's story - and her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - here.
Posted at 1:31 PM on October 10, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
The nominees for this year's National Book Awards have been announced, and they include two Minnesota authors, as well as a poet who grew up here.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
In the category of Fiction, Louise Erdrich is nominated for her book The Round House, which was just published this month. Erdrich's latest work was selected along with works by Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers, Ben Fountain and Kevin Powers.
About The Round House: One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe.
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
William Alexander's first book, Goblin Secrets, has shot straight to the final round for Young People's Literature. Alexander teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and is a frequent contributor to Rain Taxi Review of Books.
About Goblin Secrets: Rownie, the youngest in Graba the witchworker's household of stray children, escapes and goes looking for his missing brother. Along the way he falls in with a troupe of theatrical goblins and learns the secret origins of masks. Now Graba's birds are hunting him in the Southside of Zombay, the Lord Mayor's guards are searching for him in Northside, and the River between them is getting angry. The city needs saving--and only the goblins know how.
Meme by Susan Wheeler
Published by University of Iowa Press
Susan Wheeler grew up in Minnesota and New England, and has lived in the New York area for twenty years.
About Meme: In her collection of poetry Susan Wheeler reconstructs her mother's voice--down to its cynicism and its mid-twentieth-century Midwestern vernacular--in "The Maud Poems," a voice that takes a more aggressive, vituperative turn in "The Devil--or --The Introjects." In the book's third long sequence, a generational inheritance feeds cultural transmission in "The Split."
Congrats to the nominees!
(Creative Commons image, Leo Reynolds)
Refugees from the fairy tales you read as a child streamed into our modern world to escape a conqueror named "The Adversary." They secretly settled in a New York City neighborhood, where they coped with challenges, both mundane and magical.
That's the premise of "Fables", a popular comic book that's been published for the last decade. So many other comics have adopted similar approaches, utilizing folklore or characters from legends, that a new comics genre has been coined: mythic fiction.
"Fables" writer and creator Bill Willingham said it's possibly "the most vigorous movement in comics since superheros took over everything."
The first official gathering of mythic fiction in comics will take place in Rochester, Minn. at the Fabletown and Beyond Convention from March 22-24. It will include panels with creators, comics-themed events and even a full Elizabethan bar.
Mythic fiction comics include "Fables," Jeff Smith's "Bone", Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" and host of others. Willingham said these sort of stories resonate with readers because the folklore they play with changes in the details, but never grows old.
"There's love lost, and love found, and regrets, and betrayals and fighting for a cause you believe in," Willingham said. "All the standard stuff that makes up everybody's life, to one extent or another, is in there. And that's what we keep returning to."
The term "mythic fiction" might not stick, Willingham admitted. But the growth in popularity of the genre does reflect some larger changes in the comics industry, especially as comics like "Persepolis" and "Safe Area Gorazde" have garnered serious literary attention in recent years.
"We've dragged ourselves in the comics industry kicking and screaming into a more mature area of storytelling," Willingham said. "Part of it is that we've been shouting from the rooftops for so long that comics are just not for kids anymore, at some point we begin to wake up and say, 'Well, we're starting to get heard, so maybe we should start working towards making sure that's true.'"
Also, since the 1980s, comic creators have started to gain more power over their creations, which allows books that are more story-driven. Characters can even die in service to the greater story.
"Superman and Batman and the X-Men, in addition to being fun characters to tell stories with, they are important assets of a big company," Willingham said. "If someone dies they're going to have to be back because you just don't throw away stockholder-owned corporate assets."
Michael Drivas, owner of Big Brain Comics in Minneapolis, said comics are still changing and growing and shifting genres because they're a relatively young art form.
"The first comic books are less than 100 years old," Drivas said. "Some things got stuck in superheroes for a long time, that was the thing that did really well. Now it's kind of coming back to where other genres are possible."
Milkweed Editions has awarded its annual Prize for Children's Literature to Molly Beth Griffin of Minneapolis for her novel "Silhouette of a Sparrow."
The prize comes with $10,000 and a contract to publish the book this fall.
Griffin's first picture book, Loon Baby, came out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2011. Silhouette of a Sparrow is her first novel.
It's billed as "a coming-of-age story about the search for wildness in a confining time--a tale of a young woman discovering both the art of rebellion and the power of unexpected love."
The Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature was established in 1994, and awards the best manuscript for young readers by a writer not previously published by Milkweed.
Posted at 4:17 PM on August 6, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
The City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County Library and Minneapolis Public Schools are launching the second round of "One Minneapolis One Read," in which students and adults are encouraged to read the same book and join in a community conversation.
This year's selection is Diane Wilson's "Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past," a book of stories she wrote to honor her Dakota family, starting with the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Starting September 19, neighborhood groups, book clubs, libraries, literary centers and others will hold public discussions of the book.
One Read week will culminate in a conversation with Garrison Keillor and Diane Wilson at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The Minneapolis Indie Xpo is no more.
The one-day show celebrating independent comics and Midwest cartoonists was launched in 2010. In a letter to supporters, Festival Director Sarah Morean said that after taking a hiatus, organizers have decided to put and end to the festival "for reasons unrelated to the show's success."
By all accounts, MIX was an enormous success and stood every chance of growing still. Let that be encouragement for any future comics fans or would-be organizers who might consider starting a new show of their own in our absence.
We certainly did our best -- in partnership with many great artists, partners and sponsors -- to create an attractive, well-run and high-quality showcase of independent comics for the city of Minneapolis. We increased attendance from 1000 to 2200 in one year, by extending the show to two days and heightening awareness of comics and our festival through ongoing promotions and partnerships. We provided high-quality programming which will continue to be archived on our site and YouTube page (stay tuned for future additions). Also, we created an environment that invited more Midwesterners to encounter exclusively indie comics, sometimes for the first time, on their own home turf.
We continue to believe in comic books, their independent creators, and this city which without a doubt has a love for them.
We will do our best to continue to connect the public here to the greater Minnesota comics community by sharing comics-related news and events through our Facebook and Twitter accounts, for as long as it is possible to do so. Feel free to alert us of an opportunity to share your comics-related events.
You can read more about the comics expo here.
The Hennepin County Library has announced the upcoming season of Talk of the Stacks, its free author series. Here are the details:
Author Michael Chabon will be the featured guest of Talk of the Stacks on September 21
September 21: Michael Chabon, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, will present his new novel, Telegraph Avenue.
October 4: Best-selling author and respected social critic Naomi Wolf shares Vagina: A New Biography. This latest work uses science and cultural history to reframe how we understand the vagina and the female consciousness.
November 17: British writer Geoff Dyer, known for his wildly inventive novels and uncategorizable works of nonfiction, will discuss Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, which won the National Book Critic's Circle Award for Criticism.
December 6: Journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, and novelist Calvin Trillin will present his new book Dogfight: An Occasionally Interrupted Narrative Poem About the Presidential Campaign and the paperback edition of Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of His Funny Stuff.
All talks are held at the Hennepin County Library - Minneapolis Central in Pohlad Hall, and are free and open to the public.
Picture a freestyle rapper making up rhymes about people on Chatroulette. Imagine sitting in a field reading books with complete strangers. Think of what emotionally moving oil pastel drawings of a Duluth childhood might be like. Now you've identified what the hounds will be talking about this week.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Nickolas Monson is co-founder of Prove Gallery in Duluth. Nickolas wants to spread the word about an emcee coming to Teatre Zuccone in Duluth who'll be rapping about an online audience, in front of a live audience. Ice Rod, aka Michael Gaughan, makes up rhymes on the spot about people he sees on the online chat service, Chatroulette. Ice Rod also decorates the stage to look like a dorm room. You can see him in Duluth on Saturday, July 14, at 8pm.
As a literary agent and owner of Red Sofa Literary in St. Paul, Dawn Frederick is always close to her closest companions...books. On Saturday, July 14, Dawn will be among a throng of like-minded book enthusiasts at Field of Reads," an event sponsored by the Walker Art Center's Open Field. Field of Reads runs from 11am - 5pm, and includes a book swap, information about "Little Free Libraries," storytelling for kids, and a mass read-in from noon to 1pm.
Duluth sculptor and writer Ann Klefstad is a longtime admirer of the work of artist Chris Monroe. Ann believes Chris's latest exhibition at the Duluth Art Institute represents her best work to date. It's a poignant collection of oil pastel drawings envisioning a childhood summer in Duluth. Through Sept. 30.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Matthew Batt's new memoir 'Sugarhouse' recounts his attempt to turn a former crack house into a place his family could call home.
In an interview with MPR's Euan Kerr, Batt said that while 'Sugarhouse' describes the renovation, it's really about him and his wife struggling through tough times:
Both of them had lost close family members the year before. Then Batt discovered his grandfather was a secret serial womanizer who had now scandalized his family by taking up with his late wife's nurse.
"At the same time my wife and I weren't going through the best patch in our marriage," he says, "and our best two friends, two couples, were both getting divorced as well. So really everything was crumbling around us. And we decided it was either time to shake hands and just walk away or dig in and see if we couldn't make something last."
Read the full story here.
Posted at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Today The Daily Circuit fielded listeners' recommendations for science fiction reading this summer. To save you the trouble of taking notes, the DC production staff compiled a list of every book mentioned in the course of the conversation. Enjoy!
The 'Mote in Gods Eye' by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card
'Dragonriders of Pern' by Anne McCaffrey
'The Lathe of Heaven' turned me on to Ursula Le Guin's social science fiction. Also wrote 'Left Hand of Darkness,' Earthsea trilogy.
Star Trek short stories by various authors
Madeleine L'Engle's 'A Wrinkle in Time'
'It' by Stephen King
'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by Philip K. Dick
Andre Norton's 'Decision at Doona'
'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury
'Tuck Everlasting' by Natalie Babbitt
'The Puppet Master' by Charlie Small
'Robot Dreams' by Isaac Asimov
'The Sparrow' by Mary Doria Russell
'The Lefthand of Darkness' by Ursula K. Le Guin
'The Dipossessed' by Ursula K. Le Guin
'Ship Breaker' by Paolo Bacigalupi
'The Maze Runner' trilogy by James Dashner
'The Mists of Avalon' by Marion Zimmer Bradley
'Dune' by Frank Herbert
'Sabriel' by Garth Nix
'Glory Road' by Robert A. Heinlein
'A Princess of Mars' by Edgar Rice Burroughs
'2312' by Kim Stanley Robinson
'Double Star' by Robert A. Heinlein
'Way Station' by Clifford Simak
'The Possibility of an Island' by Michel Houellebecq
'The Golden Compass' by Philip Larry Miven
'The Veldt' by Ray Bradbury
'The Illustrated Man' by Ray Bradbury
'Foghorn' by Ray Bradbury
'The Abhorsen' trilogy by Garth Nix
'The Martian Chronicles' by Ray Bradbury
'Vorkosigan Saga' by Lois Bujold
'Beggers in Spain' by Nancy Kress
'Blackout/All Cleary' by Connie Willis
'The Big Time' by Fritz Leiber
'Bimbos of the Death Sun' by Sharyn McCrumb
'Rocket Ship' by Robert Heinlein
'Sword in Sheath' by Andre Norton
'Gateway' by Frederik Pohl
'Danny Dunn' series by Bryce Courtenay
'The Door into Summer' by Robert A. Heinlein
'Have Space Suit-Will Travel' by Robert A. Heinlein
'20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' by Jules Verne
'An Experiment in Prophecy' by H.G. Wells
'Grass' by Sherri Tepper
'Planet of the Apes' by Pierre Boulle
'Patternist' series by Octavia Butler
Posted at 2:35 PM on June 1, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Public radio listeners tend to be a bookish lot, and over the years NPR has accumulated quite a bit of book knowledge, from critics' reviews to "Best-of" lists generated with readers' votes.
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Peruse these to get a head start on your literary escape this summer, and share your own best bets in the comments section...
Recently I returned from a week long trip out of town to find a new library had popped up in my neighborhood.
Now usually the arrival of a library would come with some fanfare, but this one showed up without a word of warning. Take a look:
Located in my friend Rita Dalbec's yard, this "little free library" is part of a growing movement to encourage reading in your neighborhood.
Dalbec said she heard about the project from a friend, got a hold of the suggested plans for building your own, and handed them over to her dad. He made a few modifications of his own, and voila! Dalbec's boulevard is now home to Little Free Library #0624.
This miniature library project was started by two Wisconsin guys. Todd Bol made the first library in the form of a schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a teacher. When he saw how popular the little library was with passersby, he joined forces with his friend Richard Brooks to expand the idea. Now, what is dubbed "little" has become a huge success.
Rita Dalbec says the concept of the little free library is simple; take a book, leave a book.
I added two books. If you have a look in the box you will see many more books. Users that I am aware of are 13 months to 83 years old.
Enthusiasm for the project appears to be infectious. Recently the Walker Art Center along with three local presses got involved.
Back in March, NPR reported that over 200 libraries had been installed. Just a few months later that number has exploded, with little free libraries popping up in Haiti, Ghana, and Afghanistan. Now over 1700 libraries are registered around the world. There are dozens in the Twin Cities.
Bol and Brooks say their goal is to see over 2,500 Little Free Libraries constructed around the world. That would exceed the number of libraries built by Andrew Carnegie.
Asked why she got involved in the project, Dalbec's response is short and sweet:
Reading is good for you and me. That's why I did it.(2 Comments)
Vanessa Veselka looks to the future (All images MPR photos/Euan Kerr)
Vanessa Veselka, author of the cult hit dystopian novel Zazen, is a complicated kind of writer. This time last year she says she was driving a cab over night and living off food stamps. Now she's touring the country with her book. It's the latest twist in a life which has produced an eye-grabbing biography.
It reads: Vanessa Veselka (Portland, OR) has been, at various times, a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, an expatriate, an independent record label owner, a train-hopper, a waitress, and a mother.
Veselka admits she wrote it in a burst of frustration a while back.
"I had been applying for jobs and getting turned down," she said during a recent visit to MPR. "And I don't mean high-end career jobs, I mean like McDonalds won't hire me, all these kinds of things. And part of it is when you put my resume together there are large holes in it everywhere."
These were the result of a peripatetic life often driven by circumstance rather than design. She was reluctant at first to include many of her experiences because they rarely seemed like good career building moves. Finally she said something snapped.
"And I went and I wrote my real resume like teenage sex worker, sold flowers on the LA freeway - learned to deal with different multi-racial cultures!" she laughed. "I wrote down in human resources-speak, which is kind of offensive to me. I sat and I wrote down my real life experience with no breaks."
She admits she sometimes still asks herself if it's the best idea to have this floating out there as her biography.
When I jokingly say I'd hire her she immediately responds "Yeah, to do what? That's the question, right?"
The answer to that seems to be as a writer.
Veselka is an energetic conversationalist, who weaves together ideas, stories, and recollections into an experiential blanket. Her writing takes this even deeper, although it is so easy to absorb a reader may not be aware initially how much is going on below the surface.
Her debut novel is "Zazen," named for the Buddhist meditation practice. It is the story of Della, a young woman living in a community a little in the future and not too different from our own, but apparently on the brink of destruction. At 27 she is recovering from a breakdown after finishing her doctorate in paleontology.
"And in the world that she is in there are multiple wars," Veselka said. "Bombs are starting to go off, people are leaving the country, some people have moved to the mountains, some people are starting urban farms, people are throwing sex parties, people are organizing unions, people are building box mall churches, and she looks at all of these ways to respond to the world she sees, and none of them work for her."
Della wants to escape, but doesn't have the energy. So Veselka says she loses herself in a macabre project.
"She becomes obsessed with people who set themselves on fire in the beginning of the book and begins to track immolations."
The story weaves the complicated circumstances of Della life around what Veselka said are Della's two basic issues.
"The dominant question for her with the title Zazen is this question: can you sit still on fire? When you don't like anything around you when all the options don't seem to lead anywhere can you sit still on fire? This is the question that is behind her mind in the book."
"Also the question: are you in or are you out? She wants to step back, if she doesn't engage then it's not her fault. she's not sure if she wants to be part of the human race."
Veselka will admit she drew on her own experiences in writing the novel. She describes novelists as 'terrible scavengers.'
"We can take the most precious meaningful intimate situation and just break it open and stick it somewhere else, you know pretty callously. So I just completely ravaged my history for details, because what you need when you are writing is lots of details."
But she stressed that only goes so far.
"What I know as a writer she is not me. What is me, is her urgency," she said
Veselka said she's the kind of person who constantly wants to figure things out, and she admits sometimes it's not a pleasant way to live.
Veselka's bleak vision has attracted a great deal of reader love. One fan, who apparently doesn't believe in capital letters, wrote on the Goodreads.com site the far-reaching extent of his affection.
"I'm going to publicly declare unadulterated book love. if i could marry this book, i would, but human-biblio marriages are not yet on the public radar. if i could have this book's baby, i would. if it were my life or this book's life, i would throw mine down gladly. five stars is not enough; if i could adorn this book with the night sky, i'd do it."
While the book is a little difficult to find in the stores, Veselka's readings have drawn rock star crowds.
Veselka said it's been a blast, and the success of the book has led to a lot of freelance writing gigs and the prospect of more novels.
Veselka is part of a wave of female writers wrestling with a dystopian view of the world. Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy is the most high profile series at the moment. When asked why she thinks this is happening, Veselka said she thinks it's an interesting question.
"I think there has always been within sci-fi this feminist utopian,' she said, "Starting from like Doris Lessing and Ursula le Guin, this really socially utopian direction that has also question gender and class a lot."
She says women writers bring a different perspective to the dystopian narratives.
"I think that there is this sense that needing to navigate those social utopias gone wrong, brings in the question of who survives? There is a different pressure in the narrative for women to survive," she said bluntly. "They are breeders. When a woman survives it has a different meaning, just at the basic level than if a man survives."
She said she believes women writers are finding their toughness now, and that is what may be coming through.
One of the weirder parts of her experience has been how so many things which she wrote about in "Zazen" have become part of the news since the book has been published. There has been a remarkable number of self-immolations recently, a fact which has not escaped the notice of her fans. They keep contacting her about how the real world reflects her fiction.
"It does have that ghost walking over your grave kind of feeling," she said. She said it's been a strange experience to see it happen.
"And it's not because I am psychic," she laughed. "I wish I was psychic because that would make it so much easier."
You can listen to Vanessa Veselka read the opening to 'Zazen' below.
Posted at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Would more people read if books were free?
The people behind World Book Night believe the answer to that question is "yes."
Leif Enger's novel is one of 30 books that will be given away for free tonight across the country.
Tonight tens of thousands of people will go out into their communities and give away free books.
The event was launched last year in the United Kingdom, and this year the United States is getting involved.
Minnesota author Leif Enger is one of the people giving away books tonight, and his book "Peace Like A River" is one of the 30 books that will be offered up for free across the country.
Enger says he'll be stopping in Brainerd first to give away a carton of John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany," and he has no idea what to expect:
How will people react to a guy on the sidewalk handing out (actual) literature? Will they cross the street to get a free novel? Will they cross it to avoid one?
From there Enger will continue on to Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis, where he and author Kate DiCamillo will read from their own books and talk about the love of reading. Enger says when the World Book Night committee chose to give away his novel he was given the chance to opt out.
Who wouldn't want their work given away to thousands of readers who otherwise might never hear of it? My understanding is that this is a mammoth collaboration with everyone involved giving of their time, materials and expertise. The massive costs of printing and distributing a million books are being offset by donations of paper, ink, and shipping. Booksellers are sponsoring events, libraries coordinating volunteers, publishers forgoing profits. And authors, of course, are waiving royalties.
Enger says he finds this down-to-earth marketing campaign charming:
You have a beleaguered industry looking for a jump-start in the digital age, and there are so many other ways it could try to get attention. It could put slogans on billboards and banner ads, do something with milk bottles, hire a nine-year-old to make Youtube videos. It could shoot for offbeat, indie, clever, what have you. Instead, the book trade recognizes its best promotion is the product itself -- so they print a big bunch and they give them away. It's inspiring!
What I hope is that of the million people who go home with a book, a decent percentage will decide to give it a shot. No doubt some won't be won over, and some will like it but set it down in order to watch a little Housewives, and a few might start in only to remember that they never really liked reading and quit all over again. But hopefully, many will open those pages and get caught. Swept up. Which is good for them, and good for the Book, and good for us all.
Why is World Book Night on April 23? It happens to mark UNESCO's World Book Day, chosen due to the anniversary of Cervantes' death.
You can find out more about what's happening in Minnesota tonight by checking out Laurie Hertzel's fine article here - she's one of the volunteers giving away books tonight.
Earlier today my editor and I were debating the validity of saying that either Graywolf Press or the Minnesota Opera "won" a Pulitzer Prize today.
The fact is that composer Kevin Puts created the music for the opera "Silent Night" which won the Pulitzer for music.
And writer Tracy K. Smith wrote the words that won the Pulitzer for poetry.
But the fact is that neither of those award-winning works would have come into being without these two Minnesota institutions.
A battle scene from the Minnesota Opera production "Silent Night."
(Minnesota Opera/Michal Daniel)
The seeds of "Silent Night" were sown five years ago when Minnesota Opera Artistic Director Dale Johnson saw the French movie "Joyeux Noel."
I knew in my heart that this was going to be a great opera, or this could be a great opera, simply because of the story. I saw all these moments in the story that could be terrific orchestral pieces rather than sung pieces. I wanted somebody who could bring the drama through the music.
When I heard Kevin Puts' music - it was either his second or third symphony - I was sitting in my car and I thought "this is the guy."
Puts had never written an opera before, but Johnson saw his potential, and the Minnesota Opera commissioned him to compose "Silent Night." Now, Puts has a Pulitzer Prize to add to his resume.
Graywolf Press published Tracy K. Smith's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry
Graywolf Press has worked with its share of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, but today is the first time the publishing house had its name on the spine of the prize-winning book. And for editor Jeffrey Shotts, it's a real source of pride.
We've published all three of [Tracy Smiths'] poetry collections, and so it's wonderful over a long term - ten, twelves years - to see a poet like this widen her aperture to such an extent that it's worthy of the Pulitzer prize - it's incredibly exciting.
So while Graywolf and Minnesota Opera aren't the first names to appear on the Pulitzer Prize listing, these prize-winning works wouldn't have happened without them.(1 Comments)
Two Minnesota cultural institutions have won Pulitzer Prizes this year.
Minnesota Opera's world premiere of "Silent Night," the operatic retelling of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914, has won a Pulitzer for music.
Minnesota Opera Artistic Director Dale Johnson commissioned composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell to create the piece as part of the company's New Works Initiative.
A celebrated composer, this is Puts' first opera.
With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith imagines a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like "love" and "illness" now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Telescope.
I'll have more on the Pulitzers later today after I've interviewed folks at MN Opera and Graywolf - tune in tonight to All Things Considered for more details when I talk to host Tom Crann.
Yesterday on the Daily Circuit host Kerri Miller interviewed Mary Bly, who has penned a memoir of her year in Paris under the pseudonym Eloisa James.
MPR Photo/Stephanie Curtis
Bly, the daughter of poet Robert Bly and writer Carol Bly, says while she had other plans for her time in Paris, she ended up writing the memoir in part because she wanted to capture those fleeting, precious moments
It was a year in which I thought a great deal about memory, and about what we lose as our memories go. I was thinking about my family, and losing my mother. So I wanted to capture the year...
When asked about the current health of her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's, Bly responded:
You know he's very happy. So... not very happy but he's happy. So I'm very grateful that he's not experienced the personality changes that sometimes accompany that sort of loss. But it's sad, it's very very hard for someone whose life is made up of looking at a tree and turning it into a poem - so your whole life flows by you in words - to not be able to manipulate words is a terrible thing.
For a good part of my childhood my dad was working on short prose poetry. And he used to make us - the children had to do it along with him! Our dinners were often made up of impromptu poetry readings. So in a way this was my tribute year to him, too, because that's the kind of writing he did when I was growing up. He worked very hard on very small sets of words.
...My stepmother was talking about watching a video of him - and he sparked with ideas all the time - and he hasn't lost his sense of humor so he said "I like that guy!" And then he said "I wish I knew him." So it was very hard for my step-mother in that moment. But he's both recognizing what's happening - his sense of humor is not gone at all - and acknowledging that life has different phases.
The 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards were presented Saturday night; 270 books were nominated for awards this year, and 32 books were selected as finalists. Here are the winners:
The Tanglewood Terror by Kurtis Scaletta is this year's winner of the Readers' Choice Award
Image: The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library
BookSpeak! Poems About Books
by Laura Purdie Salas
published by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
A collection of wild and weird, wacky and winsome poems about all the magic to be found on a bookshelf.
Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America
by Shawn Lawrence Otto
published by Rodale
An exposé on anti-science views in modern-day America and the ramifications misinformation is having on our society.
by Richard A. Thompson
published by Poisoned Pen Press
Jilted by his childhood sweetheart and estranged from his father, Charlie Krueger leaves home to seek employment in North Dakota's booming wheat threshing industry in the fall of 1919. There, he witnesses the notorious Windmill Man serial killer committing the most recent in a string of murders, and becomes a target himself.
Memoir & Creative Nonfiction
A Song at Twilight: Of Alzheimer's and Love
by Nancy Paddock
published by Blueroad Press
Paddock's memoir chronicles her parents' descent into Alzheimer's and the challenges and choices she and her sisters face while confronting this most baffling and tragic of diseases.
Pioneer Modernists: Minnesota's First Generation of Women Artists
by Julie L'Enfant
published by Afton Press
L'Enfant uses a host of sources, including previously unpublished papers, to tell the untold story of a groundbreaking generation of Minnesota female artists who played a significant, yet often-overlooked role in the development of art schools, galleries, and other institutions that make the Twin Cities the major cultural center it is today.
Novel & Short Story
The Law of Miracles and Other Stories
by Gregory Blake Smith
published by University of Massachusetts Press
A collection of short stories in which characters navigate between the everyday and the extraordinary.
by Ed Bok Lee
published by Coffee House Press
Whorled confronts and celebrates the many complications of globalism through meditations on war, migration and culture.
Young People's Literature
With or Without You
by Brian Farrey
published by Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
A friendship becomes strained from two directions as Evan struggles to tell Davis about his secret, long-term boyfriend, Erik, and Davis gets caught up in a mysterious fringe crowd.
Readers' Choice Award
The Tanglewood Terror
by Kurtis Scaletta
published by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books
When Eric Parrish comes across glowing mushrooms in the woods behind his house, he's sure there's a scientific explanation.
In addition to the above awards, Coffee House Press' Allan Kornblum received the Kay Sexton Award for his contributions to the state's literary community, and Cave Paper - run by Bridget O'Malley and Amanda Degener - earned the 2012 Book Artist Award. Mary Lethert Wingerd won the inaugural Minnesota History award for her book North Country: the Making of Minnesota, published by University of Minnesota Press.
270 books were nominated for awards this year, and 32 books were selected as finalists.
Two hours later I left Penumbra, determined to read everything he's ever written.
Image source: PBS
Such was the power and infectious enthusiasm of the St. Paul company's "Let's Talk Theatre" series, which this week focused on the life and work of the acclaimed author and playwright. James Baldwin's play "The Amen Corner" is up next on the Penumbra's production calendar, and will be performed on the Guthrie Theater's mainstage.
Penumbra Associate Artistic Directors Sarah Bellamy and Dominic Taylor led the conversation, with actors occasionally reading works that shed light on the man and his deeply intellectual and analytical take on race, homosexuality, religion and American culture.
Sarah Bellamy and Dominic Taylor on stage at Penumbra Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
The author of numerous books and essays, Baldwin spent much of his life as an expat in France. From there he felt better equipped to analyze American society, and analyze he did, fearlessly.
The Penumbra event included the playing of this clip from Baldwin's documentary "Take this Hammer" which aired in 1963:
During the course of the evening Dominic Taylor expressed his frustration at times with young writers and playwrights who aspire to write something "new and different" without first having studied the works of those who came before them. Without that sense of history, Taylor said, it's difficult to move ideas forward.
Taylor said Baldwin's writing was so illuminating because it captured both your head and your heart. "In reading Baldwin's words I don't just begin to understand Baldwin - I begin to understand myself," said Taylor. Many of Baldwin's writings dating back to the '50s and '60s seem just as pointed and relevant today, he added.
In 1987 Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France, and was later buried in Harlem. Before his death he was given the highest honor one can receive in France, and named a Commander of the French Legion of Honor. In a tribute to her mentor, Toni Morrison wrote:
In your hands language was handsome again. In your hands we saw how it was meant to be: neither bloodless nor bloody, and yet alive...It infuriated some people. Those who saw the paucity of their own imagination in the two-way mirror you held up to them attacked the mirror, tried to reduce it to fragments which they could then rank and grade, tried to dismiss the shards where your image and theirs remained - locked but ready to soar. You are an artist after all and an artist is forbidden a career in this place; an artist is permitted only a commercial hit. But for thousands and thousands of those who embraced your text and who gave themselves permission to hear your language, by that very gesture they ennobled themselves, became unshrouded, civilized.
I'm going to head over to the library later today and pick up a few of Baldwin's books; I'm curious to see how my better understanding of his work will shape my own view of the present, and the future.
Better late than never.
Garrison Keillor says opening an independent bookstore wasn't the smartest move.
"I lost an obscene amount of money, but it's all fine. It's all good," he said, standing in the large, empty space a couple of days before the arrival of the shelves for his new bookstore at the corner of Snelling and Grand in St Paul.
"It was a choice in between going into the bookstore business or having a party in the parking lot burning $20 bills. Bales of them. It would have been fun but wouldn't have lasted long."
At least he got a few years out of his first store.
Keillor was in the new store to chat about the upcoming opening. He said the first Common Good Books in Cathedral Hill wasn't right: too small, in the basement and invisible.
"I sort of opened it and walked away from it," Keillor said. But he's ready to give it another go.
"If you are an author and grew up in the stacks of the Anoka Public Library you owe it to the people to try one more time," he said.
The new store will be double the size of the first store and, much to the delight of the staff, has large windows. Keillor, who has been helping with the ordering of new stock (some John McPhee and Updike, along with books on Midwestern architecture), expects to expand the number of titles by about a third, although he says the numbers aren't crucial.
"This sort of store can't be a bookstore of record," he said, rolling the leg of his eyeglasses round and back. "You want to have a representative, interesting collection," he continued. "Books that Macalester students and faculty deserve to know about."
Keillor says he has insisted on a long shelf to allow for the display of as many as 200 books laid flat so customers can see their front covers.
"Even with e-books, they are still designing book jackets," Keillor said. "They are very compelling."
He also wants to have many tables, and maybe even a desk where he can work. He says he intends to spend more time in the store, although there is the problem that he has been unable to master working the till.
The new Common Good Books will have a soft opening on Monday, April 9, but will celebrate in a grand style for three evenings beginning May 1. That night, a "Spring Poetry Free-for-all" in the Macalester chapel will let members of the public select poems to perform at the open mike, with a jazz trio as backing.
On May 2, in the space adjacent to the new store, Keillor will be joined by Prairie Home Companion regulars Sue Scott and Tim Russell for a dramatic reading of Keillor's new book, "Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny."
Finally, on May 3, Keillor will invite people to join him on stage and tell him a story. Then, he says, he gets to ask some questions. "Like a little master class," he said. He wants to guide them to the interesting part.
All three events will start at 7 p.m.
Keillor said after the Guy Noir novel he thinks he may be done with writing fiction.
"People don't want that anymore," he said, staring out into the traffic on Snelling. He says he's been writing essays instead. He talked about an essay on cheerfulness, which started as a newspaper column and somehow was now around 11,000 words.
"My people were cheerful people at heart," he said. "And I have misrepresented them in the News from Lake Wobegon."
He mentioned his mother, who is 96 and has always made a point of trying to be cheerful, unlike his own generation and those that have followed. He's not sure where these essays might be published, however. He says he needs a magazine for which to write, noting that he hasn't written for the New Yorker since Tina Brown became editor, and while she has now moved on, he's inclined to let it lie.
He has been rewriting the screenplay for his Lake Wobegon movie. He says it got too dark, and he needed to lighten it up. "People don't want to pay to go see a Lake Wobegon movie and get bummed out," he shrugged.
But in the meantime there is a bookstore to open. Keillor seems pleased by the idea.
"It's important for people to hold books in their hands," he said. "Who knows what will happen to books in the next 20 years?"
(All photos are MPR images by Euan Kerr)(5 Comments)
This summer, the Hennepin County Library will be putting authors on its walls, not just on its shelves.
The library will host "Author, Author," an exhibition of portraits of more than 50 writers, screenwriters and playwrights by photographer Michael Childers.
Photo by Michael Childers
The exhibit will be on display at Minneapolis Central Library's Cargill Gallery from June 26 through August 18.
As part of the Talk of the Stacks series and in celebration of the exhibit opening, Childers will give an informal lecture on his work and life.
Photo by Michael Childers
The Moving Company's latest production draws from the works of Johann von Goethe and Thomas Mann to tell an unrequited love story. "Werther and Lotte, the Passion and the Sorrow" runs through April 15 at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis.
Critics find the show rich in material and thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Christina Baldwin and Nathan Keepers. Read on for excerpts of their reviews, or click on the links to read them in full.
Christina Baldwin and Nathan Keepers in "Werther and Lotte"
Image courtesy of The Moving Company
Long before Beatlemania, the cult of "Twilight" or any other familiar celebrity obsession, there was the phenomenon of "Wertherism." Goethe's semi-autobiographical novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" created such a sensation when it was published in 1774 that young men copied the protagonist's clothes, and young women yearned to inspire such undying passion. The MovingCompany's distilled re-imagining, "Werther and Lotte, the Passion and the Sorrow", shakes the cobwebs off this classic and demonstrates once again the emotional heft at its core.
Charlotte often gets short shrift in retellings of the story--see Jules Massenet's opera Werther for a prime example--but here Baldwin keeps her character completely grounded, wishing that her friend would understand that she was never available in the first place. In contrast, Keepers fully embodies Werther's descent, becoming increasingly disheveled and erratic before making his final appointment with a dueling pistol.
Theater is perhaps the most collaborative of the arts, bringing diverse elements into one cohesive whole. It is rare, however, that all the pieces become one, but this is the way this play feels: one piece, not many pieces stuck together. Movement and dance, live music and recorded, video projections and lighting, even the costumes and costume changes, were performance. There was no set, per se, only a few set pieces and props, but every single one was used--not peripherally, but as an integral part of the whole. Nobody does this better; it was simply beautiful to watch and to hear.
Have you seen "Werther and Lotte?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.
Hunger Games Tributes prepare:what will they read when they are done? (Image courtesy Lionsgate.)
As a buyer at the Red Balloon Bookstore in St Paul Julie Poling was one of the people who received an advanced readers copy of Suzanne Collins "The Hunger Games." She says she knew immediately it was going to be a huge hit.
"I just knew," she said. "It was so well written."
It was late 2007, or early 2008 and she read it aloud with her daughters who were then 11 and 13.
"We just plowed through it," she told me the other day. "Loved it. Every minute of it. They were just blown away by it, And my daughter said at the end 'This is it. This is the kind of book I ant to read,' and she has been into that dystopian thing ever since."
She admits they did the same with "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay," the other books in the Collins trilogy, but they had to swear in advance to the distributors that they would not reveal anything about the books till they were released to the public.
Poling says there is nothing new about young readers fascination with dystopian portrayals of our world could go horribly wrong. She points to how Orwell and Bradbury produced the stories which thrilled and chilled slightly older generations.
Which led to the inevitable question to someone sitting before a wall of books: given that many fans have already inhaled the Hunger Games trilogy, what does she recommend to readers with a dystopian appetite?
"The best book ever written, I say, or the best book written so far, and I have been reading books for a long long time, is "Knife of Never Letting Go." by Patrick Ness," Poling said.
It's the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. It's about a boy called Todd Hewitt growing up on a planet where due to a strange germ everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking. They can even hear and understand what the animals around them are thinking. Todd has to learn how to deal with what they call the Noise that is all around him, and as he does he begins to learn the dark secrets of his community.
"And then there is "Maze Runner," continued Poling. The James Dashner book about young people living in a maze filled with hideous monsters is a 2011-2012 Maud Hart Lovelace nominee in the Minnesota Youth Reading Awards. As a result Poling says it sells well on its own.
"There's a new one just out that's just fantastic called "Divergent"" Poling continued. The Veronica Roth book is set in a dystopic Chicago where young people are assigned to warring factions based on an aptitude test.
So gentle dystopian reader, what might you recommend? Please post your answers below!
"The Hunger Games" opens across the nation at midnight tonight, and thousands of people, young and old, can't wait to see the movie version of the beloved book by Suzanne Collins.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) waits nervously as names are drawn at the annual Hunger Games lottery known as the Reaping.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Films
MPR's Euan Kerr spoke with young adults who lined up for hours to see the cast of the movie at the Mall of America:
University of St. Thomas senior Andrea Gussell caught the Hunger Games bug from her younger brother:.
"Some people are saying that there's more of a political undertow to this series," she said. "It is a little bit more aimed towards adults and not as much children, even though children are getting into the series."
Gussell went early to the recent Mall of America appearance by stars from the film. She soon discovered 4 a.m. wasn't early enough.
"There were thousands of people; the line wrapped at least halfway around the mall," she said.
How is the cast of The Hunger Games handling all the pressure? Kerr got a chance to find out, when he sat down with Jennifer Lawrence and other stars from the film:
You can listen to Kerr's story by clicking on the audio link, and watch an interview with other cast members here.
For many military veterans, it can take years, even decades, to deal with the emotional trauma incurred during their service.
A new program is helping them put their experiences into words and down on paper. Not just any paper - these sheets are made from their old military fatigues.
Theresa Ash and Tim Rooney pull sheets of paper at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts
The workshop, which takes place at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, was inspired by the work of Drew Matott and Drew Cameron, who brought their "Combat Paper Project" on tour to the Twin Cities back in the fall of 2009.
Over the past several weeks, a half-dozen veterans of the first Gulf and Vietnam wars cut their uniforms down into small squares, placed them in what's called a "beater" with water and literally beat the fatigues to a pulp.
Layne Beckman served as a combat flight nurse in the first Gulf war. She said cutting up such a potent souvenir of her service was an emotional experience:
The first couple of cuts were really hard, but after that it was pretty therapeutic. Ripping them up was powerful. Then making the paper was kind of calming when I saw these perfect sheets come out. I can only describe it as a really sweet moment.
Former combat flight nurse Layne Beckman shows off the two journals she's made with her old fatigue pants.
This papermaking workshop is just one of several classes offered by Veterans in the Arts, which collaborates with Twin Cities arts institutions such as the MCBA, Northern Clay Center, Highpoint Center for Printmaking and The Playwrights' Center.
Veterans in the Arts President Suzanne Asher (U.S. Air Force, 1979-1983) says all military veterans residing in Minnesota qualify to participate in the program, although classes are currently limited to the Twin Cities metro area.
We want to make use of the highest quality studio arts experiences so that the veteran is technically and intellectually supported in ways that are commensurate with the depth of their personal experiences.
Asher says the long term goal is to have a community of veterans doing art, supporting one another and hosting an annual exhibition.
From military uniform to handmade paper
Theresa Ash and her husband Michael both served in the military, as did their daughter Amanda and son Jake. The parents have used the workshop to make paper from each of their four uniforms. Ash says she and her daughter never saw combat, but her husband and son did. When asked how that affects the quality of the paper, she responds, "On a physical or an emotional level?"
On a physical level it's neither here nor there - it doesn't matter to me. But when I look at the paper that came from son Jake's uniform - a uniform he was wearing when he saved a Canadian solider... I'm so protective of that paper. The blood, sweat, tears.. the oil and the sand - it's still in there. You just don't get that out.
Chante Wolf agrees. A veteran of the Air Force, she says: "If you want to see me go ballistic - mess with my paper."
Wolf sits on the board of Veterans in the Arts, and is participating in the "Combat Paper" course for the second time. "It's cheaper than therapy," she quips.
There is a magical transformation and healing that takes place. It doesn't happen overnight or when the project is done, but just the beginning of a process of healing and reconciliation, and sharing.
I believe it is through the sharing with others that the deepest part of the healing and reconciliation can take place. It is through the stories of others that we learn, and hopefully change a direction with our own lives.
One of Layne Beckman's finished journals
Most of the veterans in this class are using their paper to create journals, in which they will write about their experiences in the military, in combat and here at home. For Layne Beckman, it's an exciting time.
I haven't told my story. It's only in the past year I've been able to start talking about it.
As for Theresa Ash, she says her family's journals will be "history books that politicians can't rewrite."
While the course is obviously popular with the veterans who have participated in it, enrollment in the overall program hasn't been that high. Some think it may be due to a lack of awareness of the program, which is relatively new and funded by Minnesota's Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.
Or perhaps it's a matter of people being ready to confront and process the lasting impact of their service. The veterans in this class served 20 years ago or more, yet for many of them the wounds are still fresh.
Mike Doughty made a name for himself as front-man of the band Soul Coughing, but it's a period of his life that was marked by insecurity and heavy drug use. He describes these struggles in his new memoir, "The Book of Drugs."
Image courtesy of the artist
Doughty spoke to Kerri Miller this morning about his addiction. He says he doesn't regret his drug use.
"I can't renounce drugs," he wrote in his memoir. "I love drugs."
And yet--he's well-acquainted with the chaos, destruction and despair that addiction causes. He confesses: "I loathe myself in a lot of these stories."
When asked if he ever thought about what the drugs might have done to his brain, his answer is blunt: "No."
"It was basically all I had - the only worthwhile thing in the world for me. There were instances where it was clear that I might have died - and that wasn't an enticement to stop because if you've only got one good thing in life - you've gotta live for it."
Doughty says the drugs shut off what he called a "core of self-loathing," but ultimately it stood between him and the music he wanted to make.
You can hear the entire interview by clicking on the link below:
Perhaps the third time's the charm?
Lenny Russo, chef of Heartland Restaurant
This is the third time Russo has made the list of finalists. Fortunately for Twin Cities' diners, last year the award went to Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery. The year before that it went to chef Alexander Roberts of Restaurant Alma.
This year Russo is the only Minnesota chef to make the list of finalists. Can we hope to be so lucky again?
Two other Minnesotans are up for awards in other categories. MPR's own Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift are finalists in the "General Cooking" category for their cookbook The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends.
The full list of nominees can be found here.
Good luck to all the finalists!
The critics love Graywolf Press.
Last night the Twin Cities publishing house was awarded its third National Book Critics Circle Award, for Geoff Dyer's Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews.
Fiona McCrae, director and publisher at Graywolf Press, said of the book: "Geoff Dyer's critical essays are in a class of their own. He really owns this form, and he runs--flies--with it."
Geoff Dyer lives and writes in London; Graywolf is his publisher in the United States.
"Ever since I began writing I hoped to be published in America, and once I started getting published it was recognition in America that I longed for" said Dyer. "Being shortlisted for an NBCC prize a few years ago was a huge thrill; to actually be awarded it this time is a great honor."
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition collects twenty-five years of essays, reviews, and misadventures, and has received wide acclaim for defying genres and infusing criticism with humor.
This is the second time that a Graywolf author has won the NBCC Award for criticism. Eula Biss won for Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays in 2010. In 2008, Graywolf poet Mary Jo Bang won the NBCC Award for her collection of poetry, Elegy.
Most of the Oscar news we read earlier this week was about The Help, or The Artist, or Hugo, so you're forgiven if you didn't notice the winner for short animated film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
The film is a charming homage to the joy of reading, your local library and the secret lives of books. It was inspired in part by Buster Keaton, Hurricane Katrina, the Wizard of Oz, and children's books publisher William Morris.
Yet it only takes fifteen minutes to enjoy:
Interestingly enough, while the film obviously praises the physical book, it also has an iPad app, where you can interact with the story. In a story for the LA Times co-creator William Joyce said "There was some trepidation about doing the app -- we didn't want to kill the thing we love -- but at the same time we thought, 'This new technology could very well be a way to help save publishing. But we're not sure. Let's dive in and see.'"
Kornblum only recently stepped down from his leadership position at the press, which is one of the most successful independent literary presses in the country. He is still on staff in the position of senior editor.
Kornblum will be presented with the Kay Sexton Award, named after a book buyer who worked for many years at Dayton's and B. Dalton Bookstores in the Twin Cities. Previous recipients include Emilie Buchwald, the founder of Milkweed Editions, and former Governor Elmer L. Andersen.
In a release from the Minnesota Book Awards, colleague Fiona McCrae, Director and Publisher of Graywolf Press, said "Allan has come to represent, both to those within publishing and those outside it, the spirit of independence and the single-minded pursuit of artistic integrity."
Anyone who has spent any amount of time with Kornblum knows him to be a consummate lover of every aspect of books, from the paper they're printed on to the writers who create them. It's a devotion that has served both his press and the literary community well
The history of African-American literature is vast and rich, but its beginning can be traced back to 1773 with the publication of a small volume of poems by a sweet 19-year-old girl named Phillis Wheatley.
Image courtesy the Givens Collection of African American Literature
Phillis was a slave, brought to Boston from West Africa at about the age of 7, and bought by the Wheatley family (they named her "Phillis" after the boat she arrived on). Too frail to work, Phillis instead came under the tutelage of the Wheatleys' daughter, who set about teaching her to read and write English, study the Bible, and eventually learn Latin.
Wheatley soon became known far and wide for her intelligence, her way with words and her poetry. By the age of 14, she had her first poem published in the local paper.
In her lifetime she would meet with the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire and George Washington. Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. calls her the "Oprah Winfrey of her time."
Unable to find a publisher in Boston, Mr. Wheatley brought Phillis with him on a trip to England, where a collection of her poems was readily printed. She was the third American woman ever to have her poetry published.
At his English friends' urging, upon returning to the United States, Wheatley freed Phillis.
I could go on telling you Wheatley's remarkable life story, and the various controversies that have surrounded her writing, but I have to stop there because her book is just one of the many important and fascinating works of African-American literature currently on display at the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the U of M Campus.
Image courtesy the Givens Collection of African American Literature
The library's small gallery feels as though it's bursting at the seams with portent as it brings together the works of such famous figures as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, but also presents the transcripts of slave memoirs, the science fiction writing of Samuel R. Delany, and countless letters, plays and songs depicting the vast range of African-American culture.
Curated by Cecily Marcus and research fellow Davu Seru, "Bibliophilia: Collecting Black Books" examines how the collecting of African-American literature by African-Americans is connected to questions of social equity, cultural diversity and self-respect.
"There is no American literature without African-American literature," says Marcus, after hosting a tour of the exhibition. "It is not a 'contribution' to American culture -- it is inherent to American culture."
Many of the first written works of blacks living in the United States deal with personhood and natural rights. Phillis Wheatley had such a hard time publishing her work in Boston because few people believed a slave was capable of such nuanced expression. For a black writer to publish a compelling literary work flew in the face of the era's propaganda.
In addition, black writers were committing to paper a history of oppression that the majority was uncomfortable facing.
Still other authors dive into African culture, seeking to reclaim a history that was ripped from them.
"The intent has always been to move African-American life from the margins to the center," says Seru.
Image courtesy the Givens Collection of African American Literature
The exhibition represents just some of the highlights of the Givens Collection of African American Literature, housed at the Elmer L. Andersen library. But those highlights span genres from the Harlem Renaissance to the Black Arts Movement and contemporary writing.
The exhibition also marks the first opportunity for visitors to examine works that were recently donated to the Givens collection under the name "The Lou Bellamy Rare Book Collection." An anonymous donor gave a gift of more than 850 significant works of African-American literature in honor of Lou Bellamy, artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, and until his recent retirement, professor at the University of Minnesota.(4 Comments)
Scott Alarik knows a thing or two about the folk music scene. Maybe that's why so many critics and music enthusiasts alike love his new book, "Revival".
Journalist, folk musician and author Scott Alarik (Photography by Asia Kepka)
Alarik is a journalist, folksinger and author who grew up in Minnesota. He covered folk music in the Boston Globe for over 20 years and also spent many a night playing music in the Minneapolis West Bank scene of the late sixties and seventies.
Recently Alarik spoke to Heartland Radio's Mike Pengra. He said while the characters in his new novel are fictional, their lives are based on the experiences of musicians he's known.
For example [the character] Nathan Warren is this middle-aged songwriter who sees himself as a complete failure because he hosts this open mic and folk music jam session at a little pub in North Cambridge. What happened to him was that he signed a major label deal, he was everybody's pick for the next sure fire star, the record is made, word of it gets around that it's going to be a masterpiece and then there's a staff shake-up at the label. The guy who discovered him is gone and there's nobody there who can take credit for that album if it becomes successful.
And this is a story that's happened to several people I know. It's almost a cliche term in the music industry - "staff shake-up at the label" - as part of the reason that the promising career of an artist or a band was destroyed. I mean [the label makes] money on fewer than five percent of their products, so there are incentives to have write-offs.
You can here the rest of Scott Alarik's interview here, or by clicking on the audio link below:
Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife were reorganizing the books on their shelves one day when they got inspired:
After having so much fun with their own book collection, they took it to the next step, paying a visit to TYPE bookstore in Toronto. The results are charming:
Ohlenkamp jokes that he's now looking for volunteers to help him take on the Library of Congress...
This week's hounds pay tribute to a string quartet series at St. Paul's Landmark Center, a folky soul singer from Minneapolis, and an illustrator who's winning national raves for his new kids' book.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Songwriter and musician Mayda knows a thing or two about soul music, so we need to pay attention when she speaks of her admiration for Minneapolis singer-songwriter Chastity Brown. Mayda says Brown's probing honesty and acoustic guitar craft can transport the listener to another place. Brown will be joined by visual artist Natalie Gallagher for an unusual performance, "Marrow," at Republic in Minneapolis, Sunday, Jan. 8.
Sometimes your friends and fellow artists surprise you. It happened to Minneapolis visual artist and musician Rich Barlow, whose former bandmate and album art illustrator Stephen Shaskan has released a critically-praised children's book called "A Dog is a Dog," published by Chronicle Books. Rich says kids will be delighted by the clever way the story's main character, a dog, continually changes his identity. Rich was also impressed by Shaskan's ability to professionalize his style as an illustrator.
The great 20th-century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a series of string quartets that St. Paul composer Justin Busch describes as a musical documentation of life behind the Iron Curtain. Justin says eight of those 15 quartets will be performed by the acclaimed Twin Cities-based Artaria Quartet every Thursday in January from noon to 1pm at the Landmark Center. According to Justin, the 'courtroom concerts' are not to be missed.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
A small secret about the do's and don'ts of book interviews: avoid asking about the cover. OK, perhaps it isn't a rule. Yet just about everyone in public radio has talked to authors over the years who are overjoyed at meeting someone who has actually read the book in preparation for an interview. And then those authors almost inevitably relate a tale of meeting an interviewer who hadn't and then resorted to asking about the cover. So it's almost a matter of honor to avoid asking cover questions.
However, it's impossible to look at the cover of Steve Boman's memoir "Film School" and not have your curiosity piqued.
It's the story of how a Minnesota-born lad faced down a mid-life crisis by taking himself off to film school at USC. He went in with some expectations, but he anticipated few of the curveballs which flew in his direction. They ranged from equipment problems, whacked-out fellow students and bullying instructors to the fact that at age 42 he had a stroke just as he began his second semester.
Then just months later in a twist which Boman says is reminiscent of a Hollywood plotline, he found himself writing a new series for CBS, based on a pitch he'd made in film class. You can get some of the details in our interview.
When Boman came in to chat about the book I couldn't resist asking him to describe the cover, and the thinking behind it, particularly because the towering figure on the cover is clearly him.
"It's an incredibly Conan the Barbarian-like figure wearing a ripped USC shirt," he said, "Ripped just enough so you can't have copyright infringement for USC, holding a perfect representation of an Ariflex 16 millimeter camera. And at this heroic figure's feet there's four women, girls. Three girls and a beautiful woman - a representation of my wife and kids."
"In the background Hollywood is burning and there's sort of a nemesis character in a Che shirt and a beret. And it's over-the-top, and it's a great cover because people either love it or hate it."
This apocalyptic scene is capped by the blood red title "Film School."
Boman admits to having asked the artist to lard on a few extra muscles.
But what is also quite eye catching is the subtitle "A memoir that will change your life." It's quite a claim, and it's one that causes Boman to roll his eyes. Believe it or not the subtitle is a compromise between him and his publishers.
"I wanted to say 'A true story,'" Boman relates. "And they said, 'The sales people don't like that. They need a memoir.' And I said 'I hate the term 'a memoir' - it makes it sound so self-important. And this is not as much a memoir as a story that happens to be true. So I said 'In all memoirs it's implied that this is very important,' so I thought 'this will be a memoir that will change your life.'"
He thought it up as a joke.
"And they put it on the cover," he said.
Actually the over-the-top feeling of the cover neatly captures the tensions and roiling sense of crisis in the book. Boman says he really likes the cover, although his wife isn't so sure. He admits to getting a little queasy however every time he sees the book in the stores.
"I feel squeamish sometimes because it's pretty personal. But I thought if you are going to write something, you've got to have a point of view and tell the story. I also thought if I was a reporter and someone came up and said 'Here's my story,' and I interviewed them and reported on it, I'd certainly tell these stories, and I thought ok I have an obligation to tell it, for good and for bad."(4 Comments)
What makes a great literary character? According to today's conversation on Midmorning they grow and change, wrestle with conflict, make you see the world through different eyes and appeal to a part of us that others might not see. Oh and they stay with us.
Today callers shared their favorite characters of all time - I've compiled a list for your reading pleasure. Is your favorite character missing? Let me know. You can listen to this morning's conversation by clicking on the link below:
The best literary characters of all time:
Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Guy Montag (Farenheit 451)
Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye)
Anne of Green Gables (series by L.M. Montgomery)
Glory (Glory Goes and Gets Some) - MN author Emily Carter
Beezus (Beezus and Ramona)
Jo March (Little Women)
Det. Harry Bosch (17 mysteries starting with The Black Echo)
Gus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)
Santiago (The Alchemist)
The Doctor (The Plague)
Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's)
Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Dagny Taggart (Atlas Shrugged)
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
Rabbit (John Updike's series of novels)
The Doctor (Cider House Rules)
Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester series)
Spencer (Robert B. Parker series)
David Copperfield (the book by Dickens, not the magician)
Dorothea Brooks (Middlemarch)
Okonkwo (Things Fall Apart)
Mrs. Murry (A Wrinkle in Time)
Edgar Sawtelle (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel)
Roland (Stephen King's Gunslinger series)
Captain Ahab (Moby Dick)
Trixie Belden (The Trixie Belden Series)
Philip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler character)(12 Comments)
I'm thinking somebody should proclaim December "Kevin Kling Month."
The storyteller, playwright and performer is starring in three shows and celebrating the publication of two books, all in the span of a few weeks.
One of the books is called "Big Little Brother," which was published just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and has already garnered a rave review from the New York Times. It's Kling's first book for children, and is largely inspired by life with his younger (but bigger) brother Steven.
When asked if his brother collaborated with him on the book, Kevin Kling wryly responds "yeah... when he was four."
Another book "Come and Get It" is being released on December 10 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. It's the MCBA's annual Winter Book, and features text by Kling along with illustrations by his friend and artistic cohort Michael Sommers.
The book tells the story of Marty, a farm kid who loves the earth, but dreams of being an artist, too. It was originally produced as a theater piece for Open Eye Figure Theater.
Kling says he is honored to have the story selected for MCBA's annual project, which is hand printed and bound by the center's staff:
The artwork - the book itself, the paper they chose - there's so much work that goes into it. It reminds me of theater because it's such a collaborative process. And in the end it's an object that you want to hold - it's so beautiful what they do - it's a work of art in itself.
In addition to his books Kevin Kling is on stages all over the Twin Cities. Currently he's the master of ceremonies for Interact Center's cabaret "Joy", which earned a rave review from Minnesota Monthly's Tim Girhing:
Any show featuring Kevin Kling with a Guido mustache and an Eye-talian accent, reeling off jokes like Chico Marx, is worth the money. The real treat of Joy: A Holiday Cabaret, the new holiday show by Interact Theatre, is that Kling is consistently and delightfully upstaged by the Interact performers who dance, sing, and mug their way through this tribute to what makes them, well, joyful. You won't find a more genuine, touching holiday sentiment this season.
Kling will have to step down for the final week of "Joy" because he's got another show to perform: "Of Mirth And Mischief" at the Fitzgerald Theater. It's the first show to come out of his new residency with MPR.
The show pairs Kling with musician Steve Kramer, formerly of the band The Wallets.
He feels like a brother to be quite honest. We just have the funnest time; his music is unbelievable! We've been working on the writing and music at the same time, and he's got this amazing band - it's like a who's who of Minnesota musicians.
Band members include Haley Bonar, Aby Wolf, James Diers and Jennifer Armour. You can listen to some of the music they've created for the show here.
This Saturday night Kling will tell stories at the Cedar Cultural Center as part of the celebration for The Brass Messengers' new CD Metal Harvest.
And more music will ensue this coming Monday night at the Guthrie Theater, when Kling takes the stage for his annual chestnut "Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log." The show has evolved over the past 20 years from a one-man show to more of a cabaret, and this year will include the music of Simon Perrin, Dan Chinouard, and Peter Ostroushko.
Kling, who has always been a pretty prolific writer and storyteller, says nothing in particular has changed this month: it's just that projects he worked on earlier in the year are all finishing up at the same time.
All of it's fun - sometimes I go crazy because I'm so busy, but I just love all of it.
It doesn't look like Kling will be slowing down in the new year; he's already gearing up for a bunch of storytelling festivals and for a show in February at the O'Shaughnessy all about love.
This year's National Book Award winners are:
Young People's Literature:
Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Head Off & Split
by Nikky Finney
(TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
by Stephen Greenblatt
(W. W. Norton & Company)
Salvage the Bones
by Jesmyn Ward
In addition, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was awarded to John Ashbery and the
Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community was awarded to Mitchell Kaplan.
Here's Nikky Finney reading "Left" from her poetry collection Head Off & Split
Maud Hart Lovelace, born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota, had a very happy childhood. And her memories formed the basis of a wildly popular series of children's books featuring two young girls named Betsy and Tacy who live in the fictional town of Deep Valley.
Now the first four of those popular children's books have been re-issued in a new volume called 'The Betsy-Tacy Treasury.'
Evidently these stories (which I'm embarrassed to admit I'm just discovering) are near and dear to the likes of Judy Blume, Nora Ephron, and Anna Quindlen, among others.
Why all the excitement over a series of stories about everyday life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the fictional town of Deep Valley, Minn. - a stand-in for the author's real hometown of Mankato, Minn.?
It could be the little touches that resonate with all young girls: The established perfidy of older sisters. A "chocolate colored" house. A nearby hill that looms over the backyard symbolizing the acquisition of independence. And of course the idealized friendship between Betsy Ray and Tacy Kelly, epitomized in that magnificent hyphen linking the two names together, testament to their girlish bond.
But does it also have something to do with the notion of five-year-old girls being allowed to dine outdoors together on a bench between their two homes, no grownups lurking overhead? Or two young friends mounting the big hill - on their own? Or the prospect of a mother leaving three schoolgirls at home unattended one afternoon, with instructions to heat up their own cocoa on the stove?
In the sweet, safe sanctuary of Deep Valley, Minn., more than 100 years ago, such things were possible, at least in Betsy-Tacy's universe. It's a far cry from the overprotective, omni-parented world of 21st-century America with its myriad threats, real and imaginary. After reading aloud a few chapters to my own six-year-old daughter recently, my daughter sighed and said simply, "I want to live in this book." She's probably not the only one.
Are you a Betsy-Tacy fan? If so, what makes their stories so appealing?(24 Comments)
The hounds delight in a celebrated new children's book from a Minnesota author, a play set in the wilds of Canada about mythmaking and madness, and a new, rootsy, musical variety show.
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Brandy Dutoit has a really good feeling about the "Real-Phonic Radio Hour." Brandy, creator of the Minnesota music blog "365 Music Project," says local musician and songwriter Eric Koskinen and folk rocker Molly Maher and her Disbelievers came up with 'Real-Phonic,' an organic, monthly variety show performed live at the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul . Its debut is tonight at 8pm. Iowa guitarist and songwriter Bo Ramsey and soul singer Ashleigh Still will be special guests.
Sandbox Theatre's latest production, "The Mad Trapper of Rat River," has crept into the imagination of Carin Bratlie and stayed there. Carin, Artistic Director of Theatre Pro Rata in Minneapolis, says the story and myth of the insane trapper, who actually stalked the woods of northwest Canada in the 30s, perfectly suits the Sandbox aesthetic. On stage through Nov. 19 at Nimbus Theatre in Northeast Minneapolis.
All the superlatives critics are using to describe Minneapolis author and Minnesota Book Award winner Anne Ursu's new children's novel "Breadcrumbs," are well deserved. That's according to visual artist and Macalester College Drawing Instructor Megan Vossler. Megan says the story was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," and is set in a snow-blanketed Minneapolis in midwinter. In fact, Megan says the state's longest season is so beautifully rendered in "Breadcrumbs" it made her have a new appreciation for it. You can hear Anne read from her book at the Loft Literary Center this Sunday at 2pm.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.(1 Comments)
The Hennepin County Libraries keep track of how often their books are checked out, and today released a report of top titles this year in various categories. Worth noting - of the top 25 titles in the adult titles, only one was non-fiction: "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand.
Here are the top 5 titles in three major categories, based on data from :
The top 5 circulating adult titles:
1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. Buried Prey by John Sandford
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
4. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
The top 5 circulating teen titles:
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. Catching fire by Suzanne Collins
5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The top 5 circulating children's books:
1. Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
2. Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley's Journal by Jeff Kinney
5. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan(1 Comments)
Posted at 8:18 AM on October 31, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Alan Hollinghurst's new novel "The Stranger's Child" follows the life - and death - of a poet, and how history remembers him over the following century. Literary critics, relatives and historians come to very different conclusions depending on the era in which they live.
MPR's Euan Kerr recently met up with Hollinghurst, who admits he's challenging his readers.
"It's a very much a book about uncertainties, I think," Hollinghurst said. "In my earlier books I left very little doubt as to what had gone on between the characters.
"In this book, with all its gaps and mysteries, I hope that the reader too would be as unsure as to just what had gone on between two characters as some of the other characters in the book are. And decades later when they are trying to reconstruct just what might have happened between Cecil and Daphne, or Cecil and George, nobody knows for sure."
Hollinghurst says as in life, "The Stranger's Child" contains things that are never fully resolved or understood. He realizes doing this is a risk, but he believes readers will go along with it.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr
Why? Because Hollinghurst is exploring the nature of literary life and criticism (as does A.S. Byatt) while simultaneously testing the agility of his readers - and the structure of the novel -by creating a new world with each chapter (per Italo Calvino).
You can learn more about Hollinghurst's book by clicking on the audio link below:
Ben lives in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. The year: 1977
Rose lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. The year: 1927
What do to two people so distanced by time and space have in common?
1. They are both deaf
2. They both leave home to travel to New York City
3. They are both characters in Brian Selznick's new book "Wonderstruck"
An illustration from Brian Selznick's "Wonderstruck."
Copyright 2011 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press
MPR's Euan Kerr spoke to Selznick about his new work, which tells Rose's story in pictures, and Ben's story in words.
Selznick said when he first thought of telling two tales simultaneously in text and pictures, he knew he needed the right subject. Then he saw the documentary "Through Deaf Eyes" which includes an educator who described deaf people as 'the people of the eye.' He latched onto that.
"There were a lot of things interesting me at the time as well," he said. "The history of museums, and ideas about New York City. And Minnesota, as well, ... became a very central part of the story."
As part of his book tour, Selznick is asking for sign-language translators at his readings, including one tonight at 6pm at Open Eye Figure Theater in Minneapolis.
At least one of the books has a "Minnesota connection" - in the nonfiction category, Deborah Baker's "The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism" was published by Graywolf Press.
Young People's Literature
Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again
Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap
Lauren Myracle, Shine
Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now
Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn
Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife
Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic
Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones
Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism
Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution
Stephen Greenblatt, Swerve
Manning Marable, Malcolm X
Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
Nikky Finney, Head Off & Split
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch
Carl Phillips, Double Shadow
Adrienne Rich, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
Bruce Smith, Devotions
Some people think of Bram Stoker's Dracula as a tale of horror; others choose to focus on the romance.
In the case of the Metropolitan Ballet's current production, the focus is definitely on the romance.
It's billed as a family friendly performance with romance and suspense but no blood and gore.
Just in time for the Halloween season, the Metropolitan Ballet presents a new work, "Dracula, the Dark Prince." (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Ballet)
MPR Classical's Steve Staruch spoke with the composer and choreographer, Erik Sanborn about his new ballet. Sanborn says it was in part inspired by listening to his grandmother accompany silent movies - including horror movies - when he was a child.
You can hear their conversation by clicking on the link below:
Over the summer National Public Radio compiled a list of the 100 top science fiction and fantasy books, based on listener nominations. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings came in first place.
Well, in a sharp departure from the norm, NPR failed to provide any contextual analysis for the list. It was a list, and nothing more.
Below is a just a miniature representation of the actual flowchart, which you can check out in all its glory here.
Is your favorite on the list? Which is it? Which great sci-fi or fantasy book failed to make the list? Let us know...(3 Comments)
Graphic artist Craig Thompson has completed a task of biblical... or more accurately, Koranic proportions.
Thompson spent seven years researching, writing and drawing his latest book "Habibi," a love story that takes place in a Middle Eastern desert. MPR's Euan Kerr met up with Thompson recently, who explained that his childhood in a strictly religious family in Wisconsin has had a lasting influence on his work.
"The book is like a mash-up of the sacred medium of the holy books, like the Koran and the Bible, mixed up with the vulgar story of pulp medium of comic books, which would have been my two biggest influences growing up, the Bible and comic-books," Thompson said.
"And then there is a nod to "1,001 Nights" and this sort of theme of Sheherezade telling stories for survival, and one story folding in on an other, so that you lose track of where you began."
Thompson also makes use of the magic squares designed by Arab mystics, who found meaning in the shapes, designs and even narratives in numeric patterns.
"It's basically mystical sudoku," he says. "Sudoku has its own narrative, it's a mathematical narrative, and I exploited that for the sake of the book."
Habibi is a complex interweaving of the sacred and the profane, touching on themes of power and politics, human trafficking, environmental exploitation and the joys and sadnesses of love. Critics have raved about its beauty.
You can hear more about the 672-page graphic novel by clicking on link below:
Humorist Calvin Trillin's September 28th appearance at the Talk of the Stacks series in Minneapolis has been cancelled.
Trillin, who has been touring with his new book "Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of His Funny Stuff," has returned to New York as a result of a medical emergency. A release from the Hennepin County Libraries which sponsors Talk of the Stacks, says Trillin is doing well, but the tour has now been postponed.
Organizers hope Trillin's appearance may be rescheduled for later this year or early in 2012.
This week the hounds have the Walker's mini-fest of Congolese music and dance, a more than 500-page graphic novel and the granddaddy of all rock operas on their minds.
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Minneapolis/St. Paul magazine senior writer Steve Marsh just got back from a trip to Gabon, so Central African culture is still swirling in his head. He'll get a heavy dose at the Walker this weekend when choreographer Faustin Linyekula and the Studios Kabako dance troupe perform. The Congolese music ensemble Benda Bilili was also scheduled to play, but its concert was cancelled because of visa issues.
Twin Cities sculptor Josh Wilichowski went to school with writer Craig Thompson in central Wisconsin and is proud of Thompson's literary achievements. Josh heartily recommends Thompson's second, newly published, more than 500-page graphic novel entitled "Habibi." It's about a harem girl and slave boy who come together amidst hardship and strife in an unnamed modern country in the Middle East. Thompson will be in town this Monday for a reading at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design as part of the Rain Taxi Reading Series.
For photographer and Bedlam Theatre board chair Scott Pakudaitis, rock operas don't get much better than the forerunner of all rock operas, The Who's "Tommy." Mainly because it's the music of The Who. Scott will be road tripping to St. Cloud's Pioneer Place Theatre for its production of "Tommy," and he's particularly excited that the show will have the inimitable style of director Zach Curtis and music director Jake Endres.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Can we get an "Amen?"
After 15 years of painstaking calligraphy and illumination by an international team of artists, the St. John's Bible is complete.
Detail from Letter to the Seven Churches with the Heavenly Choir, Donald Jackson, 2011. The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.
In the tradition of medieval Bibles, The Saint John's Bible is two feet tall and three feet wide when opened. It's bound in seven distinct volumes. It is the first handwritten bible to be commissioned by a Benedectine Monastery in more than 500 years.
Starting tomorrow, visitors to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts can see excerpts from the final volume, which comprises the Book of Letters and the Book of Revelation.
Detail from Valley of the Dry Bones, The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota
The St. John's Bible was written and drawn entirely by hand by a team of 23 professional scribes, artists and assistants, using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite, silver, and 24-karat gold.
The project was conceived and overseen by Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers and Senior Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Crown Office at the House of Lords.
"Now that I have inscribed the final Amen, I realise that over the long years of this task, a boyhood dream, I have gradually absorbed an enduring conviction of the pin-sharp relevance of these ancient Biblical Texts to the past, present and the future of our personal and public life and experience," Jackson said in a release. "These texts have a life of their own and their life is a mirror of the human spirit and experience."
Wisdom Woman, The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.
You can read about Minnesota calligrapher Diane von Arx's participation in illuminating the bible here.
Currently the museum is touring some of the finer pieces from its extensive collection to different galleries around the state. First stop: the Tweed Museum of Art on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. The exhibition is titled "Our Treasures" and features work by everyone from sculptor Paul Manship and muralist Thomas Hart Benton to potter Warren MacKenzie and photographer Wing Young Huie.
"Indian Hunter and His Dog" by Paul Manship
Along with the touring exhibition, the MMAA has published its first ever catalog of highlights from the collection, also named "Our Treasures." Selected works of art are accompanied by essays by museum curators and other scholars. MMAA Director Kristin Makholm says the publishing of the catalog marks an important step for the museum.
Minnesotans need to recognize what a significant collection the MMAA has so they understand the need to get it back into the public eye. Most people have no idea of the riches this museum holds. For the first time, we've opened a panorama on the history of the MMAA and its collection, confirming our long-time commitment and dedication to the visual arts in St. Paul and to showcasing the best in American art since the 19th century. This is part of the message we need to deliver to bring people back as supporters (and lovers!) of a permanent and sustainable Minnesota Museum of American Art.
"Our Treasures" in on display at the Tweed Museum of Art through October 23. From there it travels to the Hillstrom Museum of Art in St. Peter and then to the Perlman Teaching Museum on the campus of Carleton College.
On Thursday night I spent the evening with a delightful group of people at the Loft Literary Center, discussing literature about 9/11.
The event was hosted by GRANTA literary magazine, and I was joined by authors Marlon James and Susan Power, as well as human rights professor and activist Barbara Frey.
The conversation was inspires by GRANTA's latest edition, which features an array of memoir, fiction, journalism and poetry all in some way taking on the lasting consequences of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The following morning, GRANTA editor John Freeman was Kerri Miller's guest on Midmorning, as they discussed both how literature has been shaped by 9/11, and also how it has shaped our understanding of the event. They were joined by novelist Jess Walter, whose book "The Zero" was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award.
You can listen to their conversation by clicking on the audio link below:
The staff at Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis are celebrating a double Presidential boost with the help of the Boston Globe this week.
First of all the paper suggested that President Obama take Milkweed author David Gessner's book "My Green Manifesto:Down the Charles River in Search of the New Environmentalism'' as one of the five titles he should take on vacation.,
The other titles suggested were: "Caleb's Crossing'' by Geraldine Brooks, "The Submission'' by Amy Waldman, " Ethan Allen: His Life and Times'' by Willard Sterne Randall, and "The Magician King'' By Lev Grossman.
The Globe is now reporting that the Reader-in-Chief has a copy with him in Martha's Vineyard.
Well, actually it's reporting Globe reporters saw Presidential daughters Sasha and Malia carrying a bag of books including the Gessner title, and the accompanying picture shows the President piloting a golf cart rather than reading.
But hey, in the cutthroat world of book publicity, you take what you can get!
While you've probably heard of the sonnet and the limerick, have you ever heard of an "ekphrastic" poem?
The term is used specifically for a poem which is inspired by another work of art. John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a famous example.
Poet Kathryn Kysar, along with several artist friends, is turning around the concept of the ekphrastic poem, and instead using poetry to inspire works of art.
Kysar says the idea in part came out of her struggle to move beyond the typical poetry reading circuit.
Poetry does not easily make its way into the world, and I am not much of a performer. I was looking for ways to get my poems off of the page and into the artistic and literary community, a way to reach an audience in a more exciting way than standing at a podium and reading poems in a monotone voice.
An exhibition of artwork inspired by Kysar's poetry collection "Pretend the World" opens tomorrow night at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. It includes video, sculpture, paintings and photography, each inspired by specific poems.
Artist Jan Elftmann says the experience pushed her in two different directions: to create art literally about a poem, and to use a poem as a place from which to leap:
Using Kate's poetry was a little challenging for me in the beginning. I read "Pretend the World" many times, even taking it to bed it with me at night. Often times it was a few words of poetry that spoke to me and other times a greater meaning of the whole poem.
Jan Elftmann's "White Horse," created in response to Kathryn Kysar's "Early Spring: Dark Lake, 1997"
Jan Elftmann's sculpture "White Horse" was inspired by Kysar's poem "Early Spring: Dark Lake, 1997."
With the "White Horse" piece, Kate's poem, "Early Spring: Dark Lake, 1997", I took the image of the horse in her poem into my mind and the feelings of winter colors. I encrusted the horse with small, white and silver objects. The process was painting with objects, thinking of shape, color value and texture. I also added words from the poem. Words have never been a large part of my art before, so that was definitely an inspiration from Kate.
Kysar considers the exhibition a sort of "call and response;" she's even contemplating creating a body of new poetry in response to the exhibition.
Ultimately, I hope the show is a conversation between image and text, writer and artists. The viewers will be able to see the different interpretations each artist had of the book. I am excited about the diversity of the show, which includes photographs, paintings, videos, installations, and sculpture. Working on this project has been a wonderfully fun experiment.
"Pretend the World" runs through September 30.(2 Comments)
Today I had the pleasure of sitting in the host chair on Midday.
It was a particular pleasure because I got to spend the first hour talking with architectural historian Larry Millett about some amazing buildings.
Charles G. Gates' palatial home stood for only 19 years on Lake of the Isles Parkway in Minneapolis before it fell victim to its own lavishness.
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Millett is the author of several books on Twin Cities' architecture; his newest book "Once There Were Castles" profiles 90 mansions and estates that have been lost to history.
One of the interesting facts gleened from the conversation: many of these mansions were "too big to survive" - once the owner died, there was no one around willing to take over the cost of upkeep.
You can listen to the entire hour by clicking on the audio link below:
Recently in an essay for the Wall Street Journal, author and book critic Lev Grossman mused on the lower class status that fantasy fiction garners from most adult readers. Fantasy literature, they seem to believe, is just for kids.
Grossman, the author of the popular "Magicians" series - which is written specifically for an adult audience, disagrees.
"All fiction is fantasy," he protested. "Fantasy is the rule, not the exception. If anything, it's realist literature that pretends to be real. Fantasy doesn't pretend."
Fantasy literature has a wonderfully long history - far longer than realist fiction, which, on the cultural clock, showed up around 11pm. There was a long period of time when most fiction was fantasy fiction - Homer wrote fantasy fiction. And the question whether it was for adults or kids didn't really pertain. You sat around the fire or the mead hall or the scriptorium and you read your Homer.
Only recently - and I peg it to about the 18th century - did this idea that realist fiction - serious writing about how live now - is literature, and all this stuff with fairies and magic in it was relegated to fairy tales or children's stories. That split happened relatively recently, and I think what's happening now is we are repairing the rift. Magic is coming back into the world of fiction, where it's always had a place.
You can hear Kerri Miller's entire conversation with Lev Grossman by clicking on the audio link below.
I mentioned, among other things, the Walker Art Center's "Reading Room" project, which I wrote about here yesterday. They're basically offering people a place to unplug and read, undisturbed.
Steve Seel looked at me wryly and said, "yes we used to have those - they were called libraries."
St. Paul Central Library in downtown St. Paul (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)
So what is the difference between the Walker's reading room and a library?
Project creator Chris Fischbach explains it this way:
Libraries aren't quiet, and are not primarily used for reading books by most people. Also you are not asked to turn off your phone at the library, or to unplug. Reading Room is inspired by libraries. Or maybe it's what libraries used to be.
And sure enough, Current listener Alyssa Prater wrote in to back up Fischbach's premise:
I work for a Regional Library system, and often comment that the irony of my job is I have no time to read. At any rate, I visit each of our 14 Branch Locations on a monthly basis; and have to say some libraries are no longer quiet places to read. The concept of a quiet place to unplug and just read, might be just what we all need!
So what are libraries there for these days? A while back I reported on their changing role in communities, which has led them to be less about books, and more about people.(3 Comments)
Starting Friday, the Walker Art Center's Open Field is offering you a place to read without distraction. At different times on five different days, you're invited to check into the Walker's "Field Office." There will be books, but you can bring your own, too. All you have to do is disconnect yourself from your wireless world and read.
If only we had more time...
Photo: Martin Poole
Chris Fischbach of Coffee House Press is the man behind the project. I caught up with him to find out more about the reading room; he says the idea came out of his own inability to make time for reading purely for pleasure.
I began to wonder, in a sort-of-silly, sort-of-serious way if it would be a tenable business model to open a space where people would actually pay to come and read. There would be comfortable chairs, great lighting, maybe some quiet snacks. And absolutely no talking, and no phones of any kind. A space for immersive reading.
Of course people can do all of this for free, but they don't. But if you placed a dollar value on it, it will be worth something to them, and maybe they will do it. Like paying to go to the gym. You can do the exercise for free, usually, but if you are paying, you're more likely to go.
Fischbach mentioned the idea to fried Sarah Schultz, who is one of the minds behind Open Field at the Walker Art Center. She convinced Fischbach he should give the project a dry-run this summer.
The difference between this Reading Room and my original idea is that Reading Room MPLS on Open Field is totally free. It's an experiment. It also puts a frame around the act of reading and, I believe, makes you think not only about the role reading plays in your life, but in the life of a community. You might ask how you read or why. You might wonder about the form of the book and its morphing form over the centuries. You might think about reading as meditating, or as something that incites anger. I want to see if people will, if given the gentlest nudge, actually take time to go somewhere and sit in a room, turn off their phone, and read. And what happens when a number of people gets together to do a solitary act in a group setting? Will this catch on, and will people start going to bars to read in groups?
Fischbach says while he's participating in the Walker event as an individual, he sees it as a natural outgrowth of his work at Coffee House Press.
As a publisher, we obviously hope that people read, and even better if they read a book by one of our authors. But in addition to publishing great books by great writers that get great reviews and are nominated for national awards, I am interested in Coffee House Press and our books as tools for social engagement, as tools for change, as tools for further art-making. The role of Coffee House doesn't stop once the book is printed. Why can't these words and our efforts have an active role in effecting change in our (or any) community? They should. I want people to think of Coffee House Press, our authors, and our books as community assets.Ultimately, Fischbach says he would love to see "reading rooms" pop up all over the country, and for people to start seeing the act of reading as a creative act.
There is a quote I like, by Kurt Vonnegut, "Literature is the only art form in which the audience performs the score." I'm not sure about "only," but in essence, I agree. Reading is an ACTIVE act, not a passive act. I've always thought that. And any active act can be a creative act. I once saw a piece of graffiti outside of an art school in Amsterdam that said, "I will not draw as I am told." First, off, I'm not sure why it was written in English, but secondly, I think people should know that they don't have to read as they are told either. You might find great joy in reading a poem backwards. Or reading a page from one book and then a page from another, back and forth. What happens to your mind when you do that?
The "reading room" will be open in the Walker's Flatpak Field Office at the following times:
Friday, August 12 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Saturday, August 13 2:00pm - 4:00pm
(note: visitors to the Open Field on Saturday also have the opportunity to pitch their book idea to Coffee House Press in a literary version of speed dating)
Sunday, August 14 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Tuesday, August 15 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Wednesday, August 16 3:00pm - 5:00pm
I'm curious - how do you make time for reading? Would you be willing to pay for a place free of distraction, where reading was your only objective? What would it be like?(3 Comments)
Booklovers, the moment you've been waiting for has arrived. Kerri Miller's ever-popular Talking Volumes series will be back this fall for its 12th season, with a new line-up of edgy writers. Here are the details:
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
When: Wednesday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m.
A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2010, and is being adapted into a series for HBO. The book has been praised for its playful structure. The Pulitzer judges called it "an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed." Egan is a bestselling author and journalist who writes frequently for the New York Times Magazine.
Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life
When: Wednesday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m.
In Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff turns the legend of Cleopatra into a timeless tale of how one shrewd ruler used power, wealth and politics to change ancient history. Booklist called the biography a page-turner, and said "Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations." Schiff has won many prizes for literary nonfictions including a Pulitzer for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov).
Colson Whitehead, Zone One
When: Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m.
Set in Manhattan after the apocalypse, Zone One is full of "dark humor one imagines actual survivors adopting in order to stave off madness," according to Publisher's Weekly's rave review. Colson Whitehead's work has been widely published in the New Yorker, Harper's and the New York Times. He has received many prizes for prior novels and a Macarthur "Genius" Grant.
Chuck Palahniuk, Damned
When: Thursday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m.
"Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison," declares the whip-tongued eleven-year-old narrator of Damned, Chuck Palahniuk's subversive new work of fiction. The author, who built a reputation on shocking his readers, doesn't disappoint in this vision of Hell full of demonic young sinners. His protagonist has to figure out how hell works, how she got there and what to do about it. Palahniuk's social media following is flourishing, but he may be best known for his first novel, Fight Club.
Season tickets go on sale August 9; seats for individual shows go on sale August 16 for $25. Tickets can be purchased through The Fitzgerald Theater Box Office at 651-290-1200
In an economy where brick and mortar big box book behemoths keep failing, the Red Balloon Bookstore in St Paul has sailed along.
Not that there haven't been bumps in the road admits Michele Cromer-Poiré. She and Carol Erdahl founded and opened the store in 1984, and they have remained at the helm ever since, weathering the storms of the book business against all odds.
The Grand Avenue store has become a St Paul institution, with a reputation for being well stocked with both classics and new releases, and as a great place for author readings.
Now Cromer-Poiré and Erdahl are retiring. Cromer-Poiré says they've been thinking about it for a while.
"Our husbands have been retired for, actually, decades," she laughs.
But she says they didn't want to just walk away
"We wanted to keep it going, and we think of it kind of as our legacy," Cromer-Poiré said. "We found these fabulous women and we think the Red Balloon has a fabulous future with them."
On August 1st Holly Weinkauf of St. Paul and Amy Sullivan of Minneapolis will become the Red Balloon's new owners. Cromer-Poiré is delighted by what she sees as the similarities between Weinkauf's and Sullivan's experiences and how she and Erdahl felt as they launched the store.
Cromer-Poiré says she thinks the Red Balloon has survived because she and Erdahl were, as she puts it "intrepid." They forged ahead, no matter the challenges, while keeping a close eye on finances to keep the store viable.
She says she never thought they wouldn't make it.
"No, I don't think that ever crossed our minds," she said. "One of the smartest things that we ever did was that we managed to own our own space, so we are not beholding to a landlord, and because of that we can control our occupancy costs."
But it's taken more than good financial management to make the Red Balloon the success it is. Cromer-Poiré says its a combination of good customer service, by staff with decades of experience, all working towards an important goal.
"We have really been focused on connecting kids with literature, with books, with authors with illustrators, and through that been promoting literacy and fun with reading."
The Red Balloon has been around for 27 years. When asked to predict how things will be in the book industry in 27 more, Cromer-Poiré doesn't miss a beat.
"I see the Red Balloon still surviving, I don't know that childrens books and quality childrens booksstores will go away ever. There's something special about the relationship between a parent and a child when the child is sitting on the lap and the parent is reading to the child."
She recalls how people predicted the introduction of audiobooks would spell the end of the paper books. That didn't happen, and while the Red Balloon does sell ebooks, she says they will never replace a good picturebook."
She won't be there behind the counter but Michele Cromer-Poiré says she'll still be there regularly.
"We wrote into the purchase agreement that Carol and I will get an employee discount," she said with a laugh. "I'm always going to buy my books from the Red Balloon!"
Printmaking - especially letterpress printing - is a precise art with a long tradition and a lot of rules.
In fact, says the Minnesota Center for Book Arts' executive director Jeff Rathermel, letterpress printers on the whole are a little bit anal.
For instance, the print should "kiss" the surface of the paper; embossing or indenting the page is considered "bad printing," because it will show up on the other side of the page.
Rathermel continues to rattle off a number of other rules involving page size and design, colors and fonts. Indeed, there are a lot of rules.
"Connect the Dots"
But Rathermel says there is letterpress as a fine art tradition, and then there's the letterpress of the contemporary artist, which is constantly testing the boundaries of the form.
And that's why the MCBA is currently presenting an exhibition of letterpress artists who know all the rules, and have chosen to ignore them.
And they're not just breaking the rules in order to be mavericks -they're doing it in service to the art. Everything about an artist book is in service to the content- you're breaking rules because it's helping you to tell the story. It's adding another element to the text. It's adding a visual component, a texture, a layer to the story. Whereas if you're going by the traditional rules, you have a very straightforward approach to telling the story.
The exhibition is called "Fine & Dirty: Contemporary Letterpress Art."
The show comes at a time when book artists are enjoying newfound respect in the art world. According to Rathermel, just twenty-five years ago, letterpress printing was oft dismissed as irrelevant.
Rathermel co-curated "Fine and Dirty" with book arts scholar Betty Bright. Bright is the author of No Longer Innocent: Book Art in America, 1960 to 1980, the first comprehensive history of the book art movement in America. Bright says what's changed in the world of book arts in the past 25 years is, well, pretty much everything.
When I walk through the gallery, I am struck by the rampant diversity on show. Pattern and scale, text and image, structure and material - the letterpress printed book continues to absorb and transform every conceivable artistic element into a cohesive art work that you can touch and hold, page through, then pass along to the next reader.
"Air, Water, Oil"
Bright says contemporary artists are not only working with new media, but are using their voices to speak out on all manner of issues and ideas. And, she says, they are exploring and playing with the physicality of the book.
I believe that a larger cultural influence driving the interest in book art is a reaction against the overwhelming screen-based media stream that all of us live within. We don't live in our bodies as we used to, and we reach out to a medium that reconnects us with all of our senses. Don't get me wrong: I do not ascribe to a simplistic Luddite attitude, quite the contrary. Computer technology has played the hero's role in the revitalization of book art and of letterpress in particular. What I mean, is that the hours spent in front of a screen fosters an equal desire in humans for the sensual, for touch, for contact.
This show, according to Jeff Rathermel, features "the best of the best" in contemporary letterpress, with more than 40 artists from several countries. It also includes work by local artists Chip Schilling, Regula Russelle and Paulette Myers-Rich, among others.
Betty Bright says, by all art world standards, the field is healthy and growing.
Over the last twenty-five years book art has grown in every conceivable category. Every major U.S. city boasts a strong collection of artists' books, along with a place to study, either at a community-based or at a higher educational institution. Collections of artists' books exist at colleges and universities, in book art centers and museums (where they are often dispersed among print and photography departments). I cannot keep up with the organizational and educational vitality: it appears to be in a constant growth pattern.
"Fine & Dirty: Contemporary Letterpress Art" runs through October 16 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.(1 Comments)
If your choice was between death, and killing another human being, what would you do?
What if, in order to survive, you had to kill once a month?
Such is the moral dilemma faced by Jake Marlow, the protagonist of Glen Duncan's "The Last Werewolf."
Duncan told Midmorning's Kerri Miller that Marlow's situation is just an extreme version of dilemma's that human beings face in their own lives.
What you get with Jake is a personality that is divided, a psyche that is divided. ...Intellectually his position is an existential one, that the universe is absurd, and godless and demonstrates that on a daily basis. There are no absolute moral values. Nobody's watching, nobody's keeping score. Nothing supernatural will happen to you as a result of doing the wrong thing. That's what his intellect tells him.
But he is of course still an emotional being as well, one with imagination and a past that informs his sense of right and wrong at an emotional level. This is what makes his dilemma a very common human dilemma.
You can hear Duncan's entire conversation with Kerri Miller by clicking on the audio link below:
It's the writer's equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
MPR's Euan Kerr caught up with Cabot, who is on tour for her latest vampire novel "Overbite." Cabot says she blames the Twilight series for giving vampires too good an image.
"The sparkle thing is just a disguise to make us think that they're, you know, handsome and non-creepy, but that is not true," she told Kerr.
Cabot, it should be noted, is well aware of the dangers of vampire worshipping.
One of Cabot's early jobs was working in a New York University dorm around the time that Anne Rice published her novel "Interview with the Vampire." Some of the students got a little too enthusiastic about the book, Cabot said.
"And they started biting each other," she said. "And my job back then was to take students to the hospital when the were sick and these students happened to give each other hepatitis from biting each other. So we actually had a hepatitis outbreak. That's when I first realized how popular vampires were."
While Cabots Princess series was aimed at teenagers, the vampire series is geared toward adults. To find out more about the new series, just click on the audio link below, or read Kerr's story here.(1 Comments)
Sometimes a creative writing exercise can really pay off.
The book grew out of a writing class taught at Saint Kate's by author Jonis Agee. She assigned students the task of writing about a relative about who they knew little.
DesJarlais immediately remembered the expression she saw in a vintage picture of her great-aunt Dorie.
She lived in rural Osseo, just north of Minneapolis in the 1920s. Dorie posed with her sisters. But while they were crowded together, Dorie stood off to one side, looking determined.
"This was a woman who got tired of being poor," DesJarlais said. "They were farmers, the land was not able to yield a good crop and she thought, 'What can I do to make some money?' Prohibition was raging. People wanted a drink. She decided to take that opportunity."
To find out more about Dorie LaValle's bootlegging adventures, you can click on the audio link below, or read the full story here.
MPR's Kerri Miller gets people to reveal some rather interesting things about themselves in her interviews, and her conversation with author Ann Patchet was no exception.
In this case, Miller brought up an incident involving a small boat, the Amazon river, and a 15 foot Anaconda - all part of Patchett's research for her latest book "State of Wonder." Patchett admitted it was a frightening experience, but that snakes do not top her list of pathological fears. What does?
You know what I'm afraid of? Really super-realistic looking baby dolls... of the kind my sister adored. Take a good hard look at one, in their plastic coffins lined up next to each other... it's like a row of dead babies in plastic boxes. It's beyond horrifying.
You can hear their entire conversation by clicking on the link below:(1 Comments)
I stumbled across this AFL-CIO promotional video from the 1960s, and found it both charming and fascinating. It's a detailed look at all the art and work involved in binding books, and a rather romantic and aspirational portrayal of the life of a tradesman, filled with such statements as the following:
"This is a happy marrying of antique values with modern practicality, and these workers know that the wearing out of a book from re-reading is a truer estimate of its worth than any review by a critic."
Of course the big punch is saved for the end of the video:
The art of bookmaking is older than printing by many centuries yet today's members of the brotherhood of bookbinders, artists of the AFL-CIO, are able to supply the demand for the most important ingredient of the modern world - literacy.
Following a craft as ancient as cave drawings, these union workers of the book industry are second to none in keeping pace with progress. The ingenuity which has been passed on to the folders, gatherers, sewers, trimmers, liners and casemakers in a proud profession is constantly at work for you to produce our greatest treasure - knowledge.
Posted at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
This morning on Morning Edition, book-lover Nancy Pearl offered up her recommendations for some good summer reads.
You can read her full recommendations here, but in the interest of brevity I've condensed the list below. Have you got some favorite summer reads? Add yours in the comments section. The more, the merrier!
By Ben Aaronovitch; paperback, 320 pages; Del Ray, list price: $7.99
By Ally Condie; hardcover, 384 pages; Dutton Juvenille, list price: $17.99
Castle Waiting & Castle Waiting II
By Linda Medley; hardcover, 472 pages and 384 pages; Fantagraphic Books, list price: $29.95 each
By Stewart O'Nan; hardcover, 272 pages; Viking Adult, list price: $29.95
The Watery Part Of The World
By Michael Parker; hardcover, 272 pages; Algonquin Books, list price: $23.95
The White Woman On The Green Bicycle
By Monique Roffey; paperback, 448 pages; Penguin, list price: $16
Evening Is The Whole Day
By Preeta Samarasan; paperback, 352 pages; Mariner Books, list price: $13.95
The Coffins Of Little Hope
By Timothy Schaffert; hardcover, 272 pages; Unbridled Books, list price: $24.95
Tooth And Claw
By Jo Walton; paperback, 336 pages; Orb Books, list price: $15.95
Yesterday afternoon I wrote about the news that Chris Fischbach will be taking over the position of publisher at Coffee House Press, and that founder Allan Kornblum will now be the press' Senior Editor.
Yesterday Chris Fischbach cited some of his goals and challenges in taking over the successful independent literary press.
Today we hear from founder Allan Kornblum on the transition, which has been in the planning for the past two years.
I was so pleased to discover in Chris Fischbach, the rare combination of literary acumen, personal leadership, and good business sense that are needed to serve as the publisher of an independent literary press like Coffee House.
Coffee House Press founder Allan Kornblum
Kornblum says Fischbach is stepping in to run the press at a critical time.
Like every nonprofit arts organization, Coffee House faces an environment marked by declining donations and increased expectations. And I believe that the arts can play an important role in reminding America that we are a nation that plans and accomplishes great things.
But in addition to the general problems faced by all nonprofits, Coffee House must be nimble enough to anticipate rapidly changing technology for book production, changes in bookselling, the movement of book reviewing from print to the internet, and changes to the very shape and format of the book itself. All this, while retaining the literary vision that has always informed and enhanced our editorial acquisitions.
Kornblum says he's looking forward to continuing at the press as senior editor, and serving occasionally as counselor to Fischbach "upon his request."
Kornblum has accomplished alot of big things with his "small" press. Coffee House is commonly considered one of the top five independent literary presses in the nation, along with two other Twin Cities mainstays, Graywolf and Milkweed Editions.
I participated, with many others, in the movement to open the doors of publishing to women and writers of color. And in doing so, Coffee House participated in the greater, ongoing effort to broaden the perception of what it means to be an American. That is an effort I know that Chris, our staff, and our board, will continue to participate in.
Kornblum is always careful to note that "publishing is not a solo act," so he resists taking too much credit for accomplishments of the press he founded 27 years ago. But he will tell you that, by always pursuing literary excellence, Coffee House Press has exceeded his wildest dreams.
It's official. After a two-year transition process, Coffee House Press founder Allan Kornblum is handover the reins to longtime Associate Publisher Chris Fischbach.
Kornblum, who started Coffee House Press in 1984, will stay on as Senior Editor.
Over its 27-year history, Coffee House has become one of the most highly regarded independent literary presses in the country. Fischbach started as an intern more than 15 years ago. He says he sees one of his biggest challenges as "walking the line between respecting and honoring Allan's legacy and establishing my own leadership."
In terms of the job itself, I currently see a couple things happening that I am already having to deal with somewhat, but which will only become more to a head in the coming years. That is, how to deal with sales expectations between print and e-book when we don't really know where the e-book market is going, nor do we have any kind of history with which we can make accurate predictions. If, for instance, print sales decline but e-books go up, what does that mean for our business model? Will it be 10% different or 40%? No one knows where the dust will settle with e-books, or if it will.
The other is that because of so much uncertainty in the economy and with
e-books, bookstores are ordering fewer copies and ordering them later. Then
they just re-order when they need more. This makes predicting how many books
to print for our initial print runs difficult, and risky. Learning how to manage this new bookstore behavior is something everyone is dealing with.
Fischbach says there are some changes in the works. Names, he plans on Coffee House Press being much more visible in the community.
I will be looking for creative ways to collaborate with other local arts organizations as much as possible, working to allow connections to be made between our authors and other artists, and other arts organization. I have great admiration for the Walker's Open Field, the spirit of collaboration and experimentation in engenders. I want to bring some of that energy to Coffee House. I grew up here, and I love the Twin Cities. I want Coffee House to continue to be a part of what makes this place such a fertile area for vital and exciting art.
The cover of "The Marbury Lens," a young adult novel by Andrew Smith.
(Image Courtesy of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has started a heated debate over teen fiction.
Meghan Cox Gurdon argues that over the years, young adult (YA) fiction has become increasingly dark:
How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.
Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.
Cox Gurdon goes on to cite some examples of modern YA depravity, including Andrew Smith's 2010 novel, "The Marbury Lens," in which the main character is drugged, abducted and nearly raped by a male captor.
Yesterday on Midmorning, Andrew Smith discussed the accusation
When anybody says "there's too much of [something] going on" then it means there's some kind of definite quantifiable threshold where you can say "this is enough." And who's going to make that call, ultimately?
Smith says he isn't comfortable with the label of "teen fiction" or YA books, because they set up expectations in parents akin to the label of a "Happy Meal" - predictable contents, predictably packaged.
Instead he thinks of himself as a novelist, who happens to be read by teens.
Smith says his most recent novel "The Marbury Lens," while dark, is a particularly personal piece.
As far as The Marbury Lens is concerned, there's really no way that you can criticize the book and not criticize me, because they are one and the same. It's a very personal book, about things that actually did happen to me. And the effect of the book has been that in a lot of cases I'm either approached personally by kids, young men, or boys, or I get letters and e-mails from these kids who say things like "wow, this is exactly how I felt when this happened to me." And in that case, despite the fact that there are some dark themes that are present in Young Adult literature, when you can make that connection, when there are kids out there who suddenly realize that they're not alone, that their experience hasn't been confined to only them, that they're not damned - I think that it can be a really powerful thing.
Cox Gurdon says her concern is that these books not only to tell teens that they're not alone, but to popularize such violent behavior:
...It is also possible--indeed, likely--that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.
Smith disagrees. He says the books Cox Gurdon singled out in her article are in the vast minority:
There are so many thousands and thousands of books that are published every year - to say that teens are being inundated or bulldozed with miserable dark subject matter is absurd. These are kids who learned how to read in a post-9/11 world, where our country has constantly been at war with multiple enemies and they're told that we have all of these enemies outside our borders. They're certainly getting inundated with dark subject matter, but it's not just coming from the fiction that they read.
What do you think? Are some novels too dark? How do you figure out what's appropriate for a teen reader?
Later this month (June 29, to be exact) Mu Performing Arts will celebrate the publication of its first book.
Titled "Asian American Plays for a New Generation," it contains scripts for seven productions, six of which were developed by Mu Performing Arts.
Artistic Director Rick Shiomi says it was Josephine Lee, Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota who convinced them they had a book.
As soon as she mentioned she had a contact with Temple University Press, we realized how important this could be for Mu. We put together a list of plays that Mu had been involved in the development and production of and she added a few that she was interested in but that were not directly connected to Mu (e.g. Indian Cowboy by Zaraawar Mistry). There was of course some shuffling of titles for various reasons (some playwrights felt the plays we were interested in were not ready for publication, some felt that they simply didn't want their plays in the anthology for their own reasons etc and some we went back and forth on about whether to include for our own reasons). But when the dust settled we submitted our list of plays to the publisher and its readers gave our collection the thumbs up.
We realized that with six of the seven plays developed and given world premieres by Mu, that this could be a major statement about Mu's work over the past five years.
Indeed, in a recent review Star Tribune theater critic Graydon Royce wrote:
Some day we will look back on these days as the golden era of Mu Performing Arts. That shouldn't assume some future collapse, but in years hence the mind will fondly recall that group of Asian-American actors who cemented Mu's place in the Twin Cities theater ecology.
Shiomi says there are other collections out there of Asian-American plays, but none that are so closely related to the work of one theater company.
Most anthologies are edited by an individual writer selecting plays by a range of playwrights with very little relation in terms of development and production. And in this age when many playwrights are crying about the lack of development leading to production in the theater community in general, Mu stands out in a rather remarkable way.
Shiomi says he hopes theater professionals will be interested in using the anthology as a resource, but sees universities and academic libraries as the primary market for the book.
One of the common complaints for college professors is that it's hard to get a hold of Asian American scripts by other than the major playwrights like David Hwang, Philip Gotanda, Velina Houston and Chay Yew because so few are published. The generation of writers after them is starting to get published like Julia Cho, Michael Golamco and Lauren Yee, but that's just starting.
There are at least two dozen established companies in the United States producing Asian American theater. They're holding a major conference in Los Angeles next week.
In addition, Shiomi says more mainstream companies starting to produce Asian American plays:
Like African American and Latino American plays, Asian American plays are gaining more recognition and acceptance in the general theater world but it's been an uphill struggle. I see MU as part of the changing face of America, where diversity is becoming an everyday reality, not a special program anymore and that people are starting to live it rather than talk about it. It's a long way to Tipperary but at least we're heading in the right direction, and on the right side of history.
Shiomi says with the publication of the new anthology, Mu Performing Arts hopes to make Asian American plays more accessible to professionals in the field.
Before being contacted by co-editor Josephine Lee, Shiomi thought it unlikely his company would ever be able to publish the plays it had helped create. But now having successfully published this first collection, the staff is already thinking about future publications.
Bob Mould is widely considered one of the major players of the Minnesota music scene in the 1970s and 80s. A member of punk band Hüsker Dü, he went on to play in Sugar, and has had a solo career all his own.
Mould has released a new autobiography, out today, titled "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody."
MPR's Chris Roberts interviewed Mould about the book, but rather than pose a bunch of typical reporter questions, Roberts went to some of Mould's old colleagues to find out what they were curious to know. The result is a very personal, dynamic interview.
At one point, Mould admits he never expected to live to the age of 30, given his pretty brutal lifestyle.
And while he broke up with Hüsker Dü bandmates more than 20 years ago, he says he doesn't see them ever getting back together, even just as friends:
I don't know if it'd be in anybody's best interest. I have no ill will. I'm still stinging a little bit, but life goes on.
You can read the full story here, or simply click on the audio link below:
Kelly Schaub standing at the counter of the original Play by Play Theatre Bookstore, before it was forced to move. On the wall behind her are designs for stage costumes by local artist Sonya Berlovitz.
When I first wrote about Play by Play Theatre Bookstore, it was December of 2009, and the store was in a cute little building on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. I admit I was thrilled, because I love to read plays almost as much as I love seeing them.
But just two months later the landlord sold the building, and Play by Play's owner Kelly Schaub was forced to pack up her things and find a new home. Eventually she moved to a new location in Lowertown (the warehouse district of St. Paul), and attempted to pick up where she left off.
Sadly the new location has not worked out either.
During some kind of community hubbub time - I can't remember if it was an art crawl or Fringe or some clever new works reading series or workshop that Kelly put together - but one of those times when theater folks were coming and going and the space was buzzing with clever creative minds contemplating new ideas, I ran into four different colleagues I'd been meaning to get in touch with anyway. And I thought, "Yes, this place is actually going to expand and diversify the work we do, because we're going to read. And think. And talk to each other about new ideas about making art."
By this time, my breathless announcements that we had our very own theater bookstore were generally greeted by, "I know, I know, it's so exciting, I really need to go check it out." And by this time, Kelly was putting all kinds of stuff on the shelves hoping to widen her shopper base, she was pumping out the newsletters, and she was running every kind of discount offer any retailer has ever thought of. And she was inviting the community in for just about every kind of event they ever said they wanted: new play readings, lectures by exotic guest speakers, book signings, book clubs, workshops, parties, fundraisers, board meetings, forums, talk-backs, ... you name it. And I thought, "Wow, this theater community is so lucky. I hope people are buying books."
Well, as it turned out, they weren't. And entirely too few of those who kept meaning to check it out never did. And for all our grantspeak and mission statements talking about building community, apparently we weren't interested in supporting this kind of community within our own industry. And though many of us argue vehemently that if you don't pay artists you won't get art, we didn't seem to think that having our own theater bookstore was worth buying our theater books locally.
You can read Cooper's entire piece here.
Meanwhile, Play by Play Theatre Bookstore will be having a 50% off sale on Thursday, starting at 10am. The store is located at 308 Prince Street, Suite 234 in St. Paul.
Posted at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Wayzata Poet Joyce Sidman and Duluth illustrator Rick Allen are on a roll.
Their picture book "Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night" has just been honored at the Boston Globe - Horn Book Awards, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of children's and young adult literature.
Here's a snapshot of the book in video form:
There's a lovely piece on how the book came together by Star Tribune writer Kim Ode here.
Rick Allen, along with his wife Marian Lansky, runs The Kenspeckle Letterpress in Duluth.
h/t Laurie Hertzel
Does a character need to speak to have a presence?
When it comes to something as giant and powerful as Lake Superior, no.
Danielle Sosin's book "The Long-Shining Waters" revolves around Lake Superior. And while it never speaks, it is ever-present in the lives of three different women whose stories are spread out over 400 years.
Euan Kerr interviewed Sosin about her book while standing on the shores of Lake Superior, but the force of the winds off the lake were so strong they were forced to beat a retreat to a car.
Sosin actually moved to Duluth for the purpose of writing this book, thinking it would only take a year.... but it ended up taking eight.
"The premise that I ended up working with was that, the idea that Lake Superior is holding all of its history, literally as in the stuff that is down there, which there's a lot of," Sosin said. "But more importantly in a watery subconscious way, so that everything that has happened on or around the lake is held in the waters, which effects the people who live on its shores."
You can listen to the whole story by clicking on the link below:
This week's hounds rave about an L.A. band specializing in Cambodian psychedelia, two exhibitions at the Rochester Art Center, and a young adult novel about two teenage super sleuths whose latest adventure takes them to the wilds of Kenya.
(Want to be an art hound? Sign up!)
Arts journalist Britt Aamodt gushes about St. Paul author Susan Runholt's latest teen mystery, "The Adventure at Simba Hill." It's a whodunit featuring heroines Kari and Lucas, set at an architectural dig in Kenya. Britt says it's another engrossing story from Runholt with spectacularly evocative writing.
Mix one part California surf rock with two parts '60s-era Cambodian psychedelic rock and Cambodian pop music and you have one of Greg Swan's favorite bands at the moment: Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever, five white musicians fronted by a Cambodian pop star, plays the 7th St. Entry, Friday, June 3. Greg, who writes about music for Perfect Porridge, discovered the group watching the documentary "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," about Dengue Fever's Cambodian tour.
Visual artist and mnartists.org Project Director Scott Stulen says a rich art experience awaits anyone traveling to the Rochester Art Center this summer. Scott says a pair of exhibitions, "Tony Tasset: Life During Wartime" and "John Fleischer: ALLMOST" features the work of two aesthetically distinctive yet thematically similar artists. Tony Tasset is based in Chicago and John Fleischer is a Minneapolis native. The Tasset show runs through September 4 and the Fleischer show runs through July 31.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Wednesday, June 15th is the official publishing date of Bob Mould's autobiography "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody." Mould is known for his work in the bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar, as well as his own solo career. The autobiography is said to take on not only his punk rock days, but also his struggles with his homosexuality and his drug and alcohol addictions.
Now Magers & Quinn Booksellers has announced that Mould will be in the store reading from his autobiography on Tuesday, June 14th at 9pm.
In music speak, Magers & Quinn writes "It's an all ages show, and it's free."
Stay tuned - in the coming days MPR's Chris Roberts will talk with Mould about the autobiography.
Sheila O'Connor is both a novelist and a professor of novel writing at Hamline University in St. Paul. MPR's Euan Kerr recently interviewed O'Connor about her latest book "Sparrow Road," and in the process got a view into her very disciplined writing process:
As someone who teaches college, summertime is when O'Connor writes. She sets herself a start date every year to sit down to begin a new book -- this year, it's Monday May 30.
She'll write five hours a day, every day till it's done. And as in years past, she said she has no idea what she will write about.
"I am so nervous," she said. "If I knew I'd be sleeping better at night, but right now I keep thinking 'what is the story? What's going to be ahead?'"
She doesn't even know for what age group she'll be writing, but for Sheila O'Connor that's all part of the adventure.
Five hours a day, every day?! So much for that summer vacation...
You can listen to the entire story about Sparrow Road by clicking on the link below:
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Today the Minnesota Center for Book Arts announced the five finalists for the 2011 MCBA Prize. The prize recognizes exceptional work by book artists from all over the globe. The five finalists were selected from a pool 147 submissions from 22 different countries.
Now, I'm no judge of book arts, but finalist Julie Chen's work really struck me. It's titled "A Guide to Higher Learning" and is reminiscent of both a book and a board game. According to a description from the MCBA, "as the text is read, panels are rolled over revealing increasingly complex layers of visual information such as communication models, mathematical equations, diagrams and matrices."
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Chen, a resident of Berkeley, California, was a finalist for the MCBA Prize in 2009 (it's offered every other year, to coincide with the MCBA's Book Arts Biennial, a two-day academic symposium on contemporary practice in the book arts).
"My approach to the artist's book involves intensive explorations of both form and content, says Chen. "I strive to present the reader/viewer with an object that challenges preconceived ideas of what a book is, while at the same time providing a deeply engaging and meaningful experience. Often the reader must engage in unexpected physical actions in order to fully read/view a piece."
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts will display Chen's work along with those of the other four finalists during Book Art Biennial 2011, a two-day event at the end of July. The winner will be announced at a gala award ceremony on Saturday, July 30.
You can see the work of the other finalists here. However if you visit the MCBA's website you may experience technical problems; evidently the announcement of the finalists inspired such a flurry of traffic that it crashed the site.
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
"Pioneer Modernists: Minnesota's First Generation of Women Artists" was published last month by Afton Press
Tomorrow afternoon Julie L'Enfant will be speaking at Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, and signing copies of her new book "Pioneer Modernists." The book depicts Minnesota's first generation of women artists, and was inspired by an exhibition by the Minnesota Museum of American Art back in 2007. You can read reviews of the book here and here.
1. Why did you want to write this book?
I was deeply impressed by "In Her Own Right: Minnesota's First Generation of Women Artists," an exhibition curated by Brian Szott of the Minnesota Historical Society and shown at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in fall 2007.
The paintings in this show, many of which are in private collections, gave me an exhilarating sense of discovery, for these artists are relatively unknown today--in contrast to their contemporary, Wanda Gág, who left Minnesota in 1917 and made a lasting reputation in New York.
They weren't members of an organized group, and they were recognizably "modern" without being abstract. They were independent women and thoroughly engaging characters, often outspoken and irreverent. They went their own way, yet were deeply engaged with the community.
I eagerly accepted the invitation of Patricia McDonald, publisher of Afton Press, to write a book. We decided to add Elsa Laubach Jemne and Evelyn Raymond - equally accomplished artists of the same era who mastered media traditionally associated with men (murals and architectural sculpture).
Elsa Jemne, The Chinese Screen, ca. 1924.
Courtesy of Kurt and Nancy Hammond, Baltimore, Maryland
2. Are these women artists really that extraordinary compared to pioneering women in other states? How so? In other words, what makes their stories worth telling?
They are extraordinary for a number of reasons. One is the high quality of their work. They were well-trained and sophisticated. Art schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul were remarkably good. And, with one exception, they went on to major art centers - New York, Philadelphia, Paris - for further study with some of the best teachers of the day. Each made art her profession - no hobby painters here - and produced work in a variety of media comparable to that of better-known artists such as Peggy Bacon or Isabel Bishop.
These artists also have compelling personal stories. All had connections with pioneers on the American frontier - Minnesota was still referred to as the "Northwest" in the early years of the 20th century. Most grew up in humble circumstances and had to work very hard to establish careers and support themselves. Wanda Gág's story is well known in Minnesota, but these seven artists are similarly inspiring.
It's remarkable that all but one earned her living as an artist, and taken together they show the variety of ways this could be done. Many worked for the WPA. They founded and ran art colonies, societies, and galleries, thus were at the forefront of organizations that have made the Twin Cities a major center for the arts. Their work was exhibited not only in Minnesota but also in larger cities in the United States and abroad. Almost all were also respected and influential teachers, and one (Greenman) was a perceptive and entertaining writer as well.
While some of these women did marry and have children, none was unduly circumscribed by marriage and family, nor was any the protégé of a dominant male artist in the way of Gabrielle Műnter or Frida Kahlo. Clara Mairs, who had a long partnership with Clement Haupers, is a case in point.
Evelyn Raymond, sculptor, with many of her works
Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
3. Are there any favorite stories you learned in the process of putting this book together?
I loved reading about how Clara Mairs and Clem Haupers lived in the Montparnasse area of Paris in the 1920s, taking printmaking and sculpture classes and frequenting Sylvia Beach's famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.
I also think of the young Evelyn Raymond, working on a dairy farm in Duluth for eight years while her mother was ill, reading art books by flashlight all night. Each of these artists' lives was intriguing, and I found myself wishing I could go on to write a book about each.
It is hard to select a favorite from among the works of art we've found and photographed for the book. But I have to say I have a special fondness for the paintings of Ada Augusta Wolfe. In many ways she had the hardest professional life - I was surprised and dismayed when I found out how she made a living [as an employee in her brother's punchboard business]. Her beautiful paintings - many of which have turned up in garage or estate sales - have the fine touch of the French Nabis.
Wanda Gág, Fireplace, 1930
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society
4. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope the book will help revive the reputations of these successful women and establish their significance in the development of art and culture in the Midwest - and the nation as a whole. There has been a lot of art historical scholarship in the last forty years devoted to rediscovering women artists, also to re-examining the idea that "modernism" means only the new, and particularly abstraction, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I hope this book will make a contribution to this effort. But mainly I hope that readers will enjoy discovering or re-discovering these accomplished artists as they read this beautifully produced book. And I hope it will inspire young women artists to work hard and achieve great things.(2 Comments)
Novelist Justin Cronin is fascinated by vampires, so much so that he's writing a trilogy about them. But his writing is not the romantic type - instead he is bent on making them a plausible beast with scientific reasons for its reaction to garlic, and the need to stake one through the heart to kill it dead.
Today Kerri Miller interviewed him on Midmorning about the first book in the trilogy, The Passage. During the conversation Cronin explained why vampires are simply cooler than other monsters, especially as a literary device.
We have four basic monster stories that we come back to again and again: We've got Frankenstein, we've got the werewolf, we've got the zombie and we've got the vampire.And I think the Vampire figure wins - it's the most interesting, it has the best details, I think it has the most plasticity as a story if you're going to use it as a metaphor for whatever's on your mind. I mean werewolves are great but the one message of the werewolf story is that men are dogs, which we all know, so it feels a little obvious. But the vampire story is full of all kinds of interesting little bits and it's very easy to maneuver the pieces and to make it fit a pressing anxiety of the moment.
You can listen to the whole interview by clicking on the link below:
Paul Theroux is a travel writer and novelist. His most recent book is "The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments From Lives on the Road." (Steve McCurry Studios)
Today on Midmorning Kerri MIller interviewed travel writer Paul Theroux who has a new book out titled "The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments From Lives on the Road." The book combines his own thoughts on travel with gleenings from the likes of Mark Twain and Susan Sontag.
The conversation included not only Theroux's thoughts on travel - and the joys of travelling alone - but also the trips of listeners who called in to share their adventures. For example, Jim in Minneapolis biked from Beijing to Paris over four months, and said it was a great way to meet new people.
Have you ever taken a risk to travel somewhere off the beaten path? Where did you go, and what compelled you to make the journey? What did you get from it? Any regrets?
A couple of things struck me in the interview. First, relative youngster that I am, I had no idea there was such a strong connection between jazz music and riverboat culture. Well it didn't take long to find out that there are entire tomes dedicated to the subject.
Secondly, while I knew jazz musicians often play some lowly gigs just to pay the rent, hearing Goetting talk about a gig playing backup for a belly dancer was downright incongruous. What an image!
You can listen to the entire interview by clicking on the link below:
All images courtesy Karen Lohn
Grand Marais resident Karen Lohn is concerned about the world and where we're headed. But rather than try to change things on a global scale, she's working on helping individuals find their own inner peace.
Lohn, a licensed psychologist, is the author of a new book called "Peace Fibres: stitching a soulful world," which uses the act of working with fibers as a means of working toward peace, and building a sense of connection with other cultures.
Mongolian spinners to turn Bactrian camel hairs into yarn
Lohn says she was inspired to write the book by her own exposure to weaving and textiles:
Looking down fairly often, taking note of who clothed me that day was the initial inspiration for Peace Fibres. I am the lucky recipient of scarves, jackets, sweaters, and other clothing whether knit, crocheted, woven, or stitched by family and friends. When I wear a garment handmade by someone I care about, I touch it gently and feel connected to that person.
Then, I took a trip to the Far East with my sister. With no intention of
focusing on textiles, in each country we visited, fibre work became a focus.
We stroked glorious silks in Hong Kong; we visited back strap weavers in the
Hill tribes of Thailand; and, we observed a circle of batik workers in Java.
We brought items from women's cooperatives back with us and I again felt
joined with the hands that produced them. It became clear to me that fibre
work serves to connect people; it builds relationship, the foundation for
Traditional braids worn in Guatemala
Once back home, Lohn created activities that use the weaving of fibers as a metaphor for personal development. Not just knitting and friendship bracelets, but also meditation exercises, and "threads for thought:"
It is based on the premise that peace begins within, then radiates in ever-expanding webs of connection. It underlines our interdependence with nature as the source of fibres that serve every human need from basic subsistence to inspirational works of art. From indigenous villages to intimate relationships, fibres connect. And, Peace Fibres invites readers to experience the meditative and sensual aspects of working with fibres through activities and simple symbolic projects.
Women of Paraguay capture the fractal patterns of nature by gracefully stitching layers connected to layers in a durable web of beauty and strength called Ñandutí, or Paraguayan lace.
From Native American dream catchers to the World Wide Web, Lohn found many images of weaving and webs that implied both greater community and greater strength. That's something she's hoping her book "Peace Fibres" will help create:
My aim for readers of Peace Fibres is to stimulate awareness, awe, and action. The stories and "Threads for Thought" offer awareness of the multidimensional roles served through fibre, while the activities and projects offer hands-on experiences of meaning and connection. Throughout, I encourage exploration of organizations throughout the world that are serving to empower the marginalized and offer nurturing creations to those in need. All is aimed at creating conditions that contribute to personal and political peace.
You can find out more about Peace Fibres here.
Julie Andrews at the Perpich Center for the Arts
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
Yesterday I posted Dame Julie Andrews' talk at the Perpich Center for the Arts, but in all the rush to get the story on the air I didn't have time to include the audio of our interview, which took place after her talk.
So, here it is; we discussed why she's in Minneapolis, writing children's books with her daughter, and what she's looking forward to doing next with her life.(1 Comments)
Author Michael Ondaatje
Tonight Dave Eggers is at the Hopkins Center for the Arts as the final guest of the Pen Pals Author Lecture Series. And as part of the event, the Minneapolis Library Foundation is announcing the featured authors for the 2011/2012 season.
It's an impressive list - see for yourself:
October 27/28, 2011
Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Intrepreter of Maladies, her debut story collection that explores issues of love and identity among immigrants and cultural transplants. Alongside her Pulitzer Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri has won numerous awards including the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her second novel, The Namesake, was published to great acclaim in 2003 and adapted for film in 2007.
December 1/2, 2011
Michael Ondaatje is one of the world's foremost writers -- his artistry and aesthetic have influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje's work also encompasses memoir, poetry, and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form. In his novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy Award winning film, he explores the stories of people history fails to reveal, intersecting four diverse lives at the end of World War II. His forthcoming novel, The Cat's Table, will be published in the US in the fall of 2011.
March 15/16, 2012
Wallace Shawn is beloved for his comedic roles as a film and stage actor, in such works as My Dinner with Andre and The Princess Bride. As a playwright and an essayist, he is revered for his exploration of difficult, often controversial themes. Much of his writing in his collection Essays (2009) has the same cadence as the dialogue in his award-winning plays and screenplays -- bold assertions, often provocative, that outrage and even startle. In 2005, Wallace Shawn received the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award for "showing the way to a new kind of theater...."
April 19/20, 2012
Dr. Brian Greene is one of the world's leading theoretical physicists and author of the national bestsellers, The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality. A brilliant, entertaining communicator of cutting-edge scientific concepts, Greene was described by The Washington Post as "the single best explainer of abstruse concepts in the world today." In 2008, he co-founded the annual World Science Festival. The Festival's mission is to take science out of the laboratory, making the esoteric understandable and the familiar fascinating to the general public.
May 10/11, 2012
Arthur Phillips was born in Minneapolis and educated at Harvard. He has been a child actor, a jazz musician, a speechwriter, a dismally failed entrepreneur, and a five-time Jeopardy champion. His first novel, Prague, was named a New York Times Notable Book and received The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. He is the author of five novels, including Egyptologist, The Song is You and The Tragedy of Arthur. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages and is the source of three films currently in development.
This Friday I'm going to talk with author Dave Eggers as part of the Minneapolis Library Foundation's Pen Pals Series.
Eggers' bio reads a bit like a superhero who's pen is mightier than the sword. Of late, it seems that each book he writes spawns a foundation bent on making the world a better place. With his latest book Zeitoun, he depicts one family's true story and, by doing so, simultaneously takes on rebuilding New Orleans, and interfaith understanding. Prior to that he wrote "What is the what," a novel based on the real life story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. That book led to the creation of the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan.
In the video clip above, Eggers talks about how he's managed to partner 1400 volunteers with students for one-on-one after-school tutoring in the same building where he runs his publishing house McSweeney's.
Interested in hearing Eggers speak this week? You have two opportunities.
This week, the hounds take us to a a church/nightclub haunted by jazz musicians past, a happy land where comic books are free and a tribute to the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson.
(Want to be an art hound? Sign up!)
What's better than comic books? Free comic books! Screenwriter and director Ed Linder says Free Comic Book Day has become a tradition in his family. He and his son head to Uncle Sven's in St. Paul and leave with a big bag full of new comics to try and new characters to meet. Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday. Click here to find out more and find a comic book store near you.
According to music professor and pianist Sonja Thomspon, Hot Jazz at Da Funky Butt is a chaotic, messy good time. A band of visitng musicians from New Orleans helps to transport us to the birthplace of jazz and introduces us to the spirits of jazz musicians past. Intearact Theater's casts are made up of people with a range of disabilties, and Sonja says their performances celebrate our humanity and our differences. The show runs through May 21.
This weekend would have been the 100th birthday of blues legend Robert Johnson. To celebrate his life and music, music writer, artist and musician Sarah Moeding will be at Palmer's in Minneapolis this Saturday for the Robert Johnson Tribute show. Seven bands will be playing all 29 of the songs he recorded during his short life -- and will also play songs inspired by the guitarist. Sarah is most excited to hear The Fattenin' Frogs, whose vocalist reminds of Sarah of a sunny day on a backporch.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.(1 Comments)
In a rather low energy talk, software developer Mike Matas demos the first full-length interactive book for the iPad -- featuring video, audio, and even a windmill that responds to your breath. The book is "Our Choice," Al Gore's sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth."
One commenter on the TED website said "It's an interesting way to present information, but I don't think it's a book." What do you think?
There was a special guest at this weekend's Minnesota Book Awards ceremony: Malcolm O'Hagan, President of the The American Writers Museum Foundation. O'Hagan is on a quest to find a home for his literary museum, which is still in the early fundraising stage of creation.
O'Hagan was the guest of Pat Coleman, acquisitions librarian for the Minnesota Historical Society, and brother of St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman. Irish by birth, I'm sure O'Hagan was delighted to see poet Leanne O'Sullivan take the stage to receive the O'Shaughnessy award.
Two articles, from the Pioneer Press and MinnPost.com, go into detail on O'Hagan's visit, which included a performance of the opera "Wuthering Heights" inspired by Emily Brontë's novel (according to reviews, that may not have been such a good idea).
Possible homes for the museum that were bandied about include the Minnesota History Center and the James J. Hill Reference Library. But evidently Chicago is the frontrunner in this race.
I thought it might be fun to make a list of just why such a museum should find its true home here in the Twin Cities, so without further ado, see below. Am I missing something? Add it in the comments section.
Why a National Writers' Museum would do well to settle in the Twin Cities:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived and wrote here.
2. So did Sinclair Lewis.
3. Minneapolis is the third most literate city in the nation
We are home to three of the top four independent literary presses in the United States:
4. Milkweed Editions
5. Graywolf Press
6. Coffee House Press
7. St. Paul is the 7th most literate/literary city in the nation
8. We are home to Open Book, a unique center devoted to a love of the book, which, in addition to housing Milkweed Editions, is also home to:
9. The Loft Literary Center
10. and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts
11. St. Paul has poetry embedded in its sidewalks.
12. Robert Bly
13. Carol Bly
14. Bill Holm
15. Louise Erdrich
16. Kate DiCamillo
17. Garrison Keillor, author and host of Writers' Almanac, in addition to hosting A Prairie Home Companion.
18. Rain Taxi Review of Books
The Twin Cities are home to a wealth of independent book stores, including (but not limited to):
19. Micawber's Books
20. Birchbark Books and Native Arts
21. Magers & Quinn
22. Once Upon a Crime
23. Red Balloon Bookshop
24. Sixth Chamber Used Books
25. Wild Rumpus
26. Uncle Edgar and Uncle Hugo
27. True Colors Bookstore
28. Common Good Books
Oh and let's not forget:
29. Leif Enger
30. Pete Hautmann
31. Kevin Kling
32. We have a theater named after F. Scott Fitzgerald
33. We have a restaurant/cafe named after Oscar Wilde
Obviously I could go on and on - what would you add to the list?
It's not often that I use the blog to promote a radio show before it airs, but this one merits exceptional treatment.
My colleague Annie Baxter is not just an accomplished business reporter, she's also a great writer. When MPR conducted an internal "contest" for show ideas, Baxter pitched a show that would highlight the amazing literary talent in our state. To her delight it was accepted. Fast forward many late-nights and long weekends, and "Writing Minnesota" was born.
The show, which airs tomorrow (Friday) at noon and Sunday at 6pm is an hour-long program which, Baxter says, "will sound like nothing else on our airwaves."
We've got some amazing poems by poets from around the state, which are very place-based. We had Chris Roberts record the poets reading at the locations mentioned in the poems, so you really feel transported to the Mississippi and the grain fields of Red Wing. And we've adapted a fabulous short story by Charles Baxter (no relation) for the radio. It's called "The Winner," and it's set in the hills bordering Lake Superior in a millionaire's bizarre compound. We hired a team of talented actors to bring the piece to life. We've also got some great interviews with various writers about the extent to which they identify as a Minnesota writer-- i.e. whether they see their work as consistent with any kind of regional voice.
Some of the other featured writers include Steve Healey, Robert Hedin, Philip Bryant, Kao Kalia Yang, and Nicole Helget.
So, will Writing Minnesota become a regular feature on MPR airwaves? At this point, Baxter doesn't think so. But in the off-chance it does become a series, Baxter already has plenty of ideas:
If I had the chance to produce more episodes, I wouldn't organize every one around work that references Minnesota as a place. Instead, I'd probably pick themes like "Minnesota writers on love" or "Minnesota writers on death," etc. Maybe I'd have a few place-specific shows still, looking at, say, the writing scene in Duluth or writings specifically about Minneapolis or St. Paul.
I should also note that Baxter had lots of production help from Morning Edition's Curtis Gilbert... who also happens to be her husband.(2 Comments)
Laurie Hertzel's memoir "News to Me" took home the Readers' Choice Award at the Minnesota Book Awards
As Pioneer Press Books Editor Mary Ann Grossman said, "isn't this about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on?"
It was, indeed, a very fun night celebrating the Minnesota literary scene. It's not often an event can draw everyone from Mayor Chris Coleman to Dudley Riggs to Venus DeMars (whose coffin-shaped purse was ultra-cool). Hosted by Jeff Kamin (moderator of the "Books and Bars" series), the evening was punctuated with performances by the RockStar Storytellers, as well as a reading by this year's O'Shaughnessy poet Leanne O'Sullivan. Poet Carol Connolly received this year's Kay Sexton Award for her contributions to the literary vibrancy of Minnesota, and book artist Regula Russelle was recognized for her work bringing text and image to life on paper.
Without further ado, here are this year's winners of the Minnesota Book Awards:
Award for Novel and Short Story:
John Reimringer, "Vestments"
It's a bittersweet tale of religion, family and love set in St. Paul. Click on the audio link below to listen to my interview with John Reimringer about his debut novel on Midmorning:
Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction:
Bonnie J. Rough, "Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA"
Rough attended the awards with her eight day old baby in tow, having flown into town for the ceremony. A fellow Minnesota traveler, upon hearing that Rough was an award finalist, exclaimed "I have to get your autograph!" "Only in Minnesota," Rough chuckled. She went on to thank all readers who, she said, "give all of the meaning to the work we do."
Award for Minnesota
Mary Lethert Wingerd, "North Country: The Making of Minnesota"
North Country explains how the land the Dakota named Mini Sota Makoce became the State of Minnesota. Wingerd is associate professor of history at St. Cloud State University.
Award for Young People's Literature
Pete Hautman, "Blank Confession"
Hautman is the author of nearly a dozen books, including his young adult book "Godless" which won the National Book Award in 2004. In "Blank Confession"
young Shayne Blank, the new kid in town, walks into the police department to confess to a murder. Click on the link below to listen to his recent interview on Midmorning:
Mayor Chris Coleman presented the Kay Sexton Award to poet Carol Connolly, and in doing so recited a poem a made up that morning. It involved picking up after his dog on the morning walk, only to lean over to read a poem in the sidewalk. Connolly is St. Paul's first poet laureate, and has been an "unrelenting supporter" of the St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry project, according to its creator, Marcus Young.
Rockstar Storyteller (and book artist) Curt Lund gave a rousing performance, noting "it is in an exceptionally nerdy spirit that we gather here tonight; to be any nerdier would require a labcoat." Noting how many people in the audience wore glasses, "a symbol of infinity perched upon our noses," he asked all of us to raise our glasses high, declaring them "not a crutch, but a portal."
Award for Children's Literature:
Michael Hall, "My Heart is Like a Zoo"
Hall described himself "as tongue-tied as two dueling aardvarks" and as "palpitatious as a hummingbird" as he accepted the award.
Award for General Nonfiction
Michael Nordskog and Aaron Hautala: The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition
Accepting their awards, Nordskog and Hautala wondered if the last minute snow had worked in their favor.
Award for Poetry
Lightsey Darst, "Find the Girl"
Darst came to the podium a bit bewildered, musing "If I thought I was going to win I wouldn't have had so much champagne... and I probably would have worn a longer skirt." She then went on to recite a poem:
Roses are red
Books should be too
If you're a reader
I thank you
Award for Genre Fiction
Wendy Webb, The Tale of Halcyon Crane
In Webb's debut novel, Hallie James discovers that her mother, believed long dead, was actually alive until very recently. That discovery sets off a pursuit of the truth, and the unveiling of dark family secrets.
Last, but by no means least, was the Readers' Choice Award. That prize went to Star Tribune Books Editor Laurie Hertzel for her memoir "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist." It recounts Hertzel's stumbling into journalism at the Duluth News Tribune, and portrays an industry in the midst of revolutionary transformation. Click on the link below to listen to my conversation with her on Midmorning about her memoir:
Congratulations to all the winners!
Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
When is a book not a book? And when is something that doesn't appear to look at all like a book, actually a work of "book art?"
These are the questions I keep returning to when I see a show at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, because - like all good art - the works on display regularly challenge my assumptions about what is, and what could be.
Currently on display in the Center's gallery space is a group show called "Parts of a Whole"; it consists of work by MCBA staff, faculty, co-op members and past artists-in-residence.
MCBA Managing Director Jeff Rathermel says while on the surface many of the works look nothing like books, they share themes of repetition, storytelling, and time.
It's the true power of a book that you have a time element within it, rather than just one snapshot view. Unlike a photograph or a painting, you have more time with the viewer/reader... you repeat ideas to emphasize them, you build upon them. But that's also a real responsibility and a challenge. To do this successfully you need to be a "page-turner" to engage people in the entire process - an artist book has a lot more in common with a film or a musical score than it does with traditional print-making.
Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter"
After perusing the exhibition, I was interested by strong themes that emerged around domesticity and women's work.
One of the most powerful works in the exhibition is Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter." It consists of 30 miniature dresses, made from gampi paper, thread, glass and wire. Sirek made each of these dresses to represent the 30 women from Minnesota who died as a result of domestic violence in 2009. Rathermel says in this work, each dress is in essence a page in a haunting narrative.
The delicateness of those small dresses really works well as a metaphor of vulnerability. And the other thing that I think is really interesting, is that it demands intimacy. Each of those dresses appears relatively similar, but as you start to engage with it you see that each one is unique. By demanding that intimacy you're pulled into a very uncomfortable situation - it's a quiet and powerful conversation.
From a distance, the dresses appear innocent and pretty. But once you move up close you notice subtle differences; one has a tear in the skirt, another a cigarette burn in the chest, a third has wire thorns in the collar. Each of them has been disfigured in some way.
Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler"
On the opposite wall is a piece with a completely different, far more playful, tone. Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler" consists of embroidered letters of the alphabet, alongside images of ordinary objects whose names start with the given letter (N is for needle, O is for oven mitt, etc). Rathermel says Leary is known for exploring what we have traditionally called "women's work."
At one level it's playful and whimsical, with great detail and humor, but I think there's also this addressing of the "art vs craft" hierarchy, and addressing what we've typically thought of as "women's work" in the community. Certainly it's much better now, but we still have these biases... I think Chandler is interested in reclaiming some of these craft traditions, to say that it's more than just women's work, and that anything done at this particular level could be considered art.
Detail of Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
Erika Spitzer Rasmussen seeks to raise the life of the working-mother to that of high glamour. Her "Book of Sustenance" is a wearable work - similar to a ruffled collar that Queen Elizabeth might have worn. But this collar consists of a grocery list printed on grocery bags stained in cherry Kool-Aid. The result, Jeff Rathermel says, is both stunning... and unsettling.
She's worked with corsets in the past - this notion of being both decorative and restrictive;To have something this big around your neck...and in this case, blood red. She's talking about sustenance and food, and yet collar appears to restrict your throat.
In her artist statement, Rasmussen referred to the repeated pages on the collar as a sort of "mantra for domestic divadom."
"Parts of a Whole" runs through April 24 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
Want to find a place in the arts world that abounds with colorful language? Try looking at an art that's dependent on it.
Today we continue our series explaining unusual words and phrases in the arts by looking at the language of book publishing.
Open Book on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis calls itself "a home for literary and book arts." Among its tenants are Milkweed Editions, a nonprofit publisher of literature for adults and young readers; and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), which is dedicated to preserving the traditional crafts of bookmaking.
Open Book in Minneapolis celebrated its tenth anniversary last May.
Ben Barnhart, an editor at Milkweed, and Jeff Rathermel, the executive director at MCBA, were happy to share the specialized language from their industry, an industry filled with terms that sound anything from cryptic to macabre.
According to Milkweed's Barnhart, the slushpile is the stack of manuscript submissions that accumulates at a publishing house. Items in the slushpile are waiting to be read by an editor, who then determines whether a publisher will pursue or decline the submission. Barnhart has seen photos of slushpiles that tower over editors' heads, but those days may be over. "Now our slushpile is actually digital because we take submissions online," he says. "We don't have that looming spectre of manuscripts anymore."
Editor Ben Barnhart of Milkweed Editions.
dead dogs and dead cats
"I don't think anyone would mistake 'dead dogs and dead cats' for something pleasant," Barnhart prefaces before explaining that dead dogs and dead cats are manuscripts that have been sent to -- and rejected by -- every publisher in the industry. Barnhart says that he expects persistent book agents to send dead dogs and dead cats, and that sometimes a manuscript rejected by a larger publishing house is just right for Milkweed. "But if you're an editor worth your title, you'll have at least one phone call with an agent when you'll say, 'I want to see new work, and I don't want to see any dead dogs or dead cats!'" he chuckles. "That's just kind of part of the game we play."
mould and deckle
This pairing comprises the equipment that's used to make a piece of paper. The mould is a frame with a screen on it that sieves paper out of pulp. The deckle is the frame. "And the little shelf where you put your frame, that's called the ass," Rathermel laughs. "I think that comes from the 'mule' sense of the word."
MCBA's Jeff Rathermel holds a mould and deckle.
In a paper mill, the dandy roll is a little roller that embosses a watermark onto freshly pulled paper.
In a print shop, the printer's devil is a young apprentice.
"out of sorts"
An individual piece of lead type is called a sort. A drawer that doesn't contain enough of the letter E, for example, is described as being "out of sorts".
Rathermel selects a sort from the Bookman typeface.
Because a case of type that is "out of sorts" is not fully functional or usable, we've gained the general idiom "out of sorts" to describe a person who is not well or not behaving properly. Yet another idiom that comes from printing is...
"mind your Ps and Qs"
"...and your Bs and Ds," Rathermel cautions. "When you're typesetting with lead type, you're setting type upside down and backwards, so p's, b's, d's, q's all kind of look the same. But you can't just use a d backwards to be a q; they're all designed in a specific way."
Rathermel suggests it's from this rule in the printing world that we get the idiomatic expression admonishing us to be on our best behavior, although etymologist Michael Quinion isn't so sure.
Any pieces of type that are dropped on the floor in a print shop are picked up and tossed into the hell box. "It's a box of lead pieces from maybe 20, 30 different type faces, all different sizes, and someone--usually the printer's devil--has to find the right cabinet each piece goes back into," Rathermel explains. "It is a hell box. That's where the name comes from."
The hell box contains a jumble of lead type pieces, all of which must eventually be returned to their proper places.
widows and orphans
An orphan is when the last word of a preceding paragraph doesn't reach past the empty indent space for a subsequent paragraph; a widow is when the last line of a paragraph gets bumped over a page spread, so only a single or partial line of text appears at the top of the page. "I think those are crazy terms," Barnhart muses, "but they're kind of wonderful terms as well."
Widows and orphans can be fixed by reflowing the type so it lines up in a more visually pleasing way.
The gutters are the inside margins within a page layout.
Although a signature can certainly be an author's autograph, when it comes to bookbinding, a signature is collection of page layouts that are folded together into a booklet. Ordinal stacks of signatures are what will eventually be bound into completed books.
An array of signatures is what becomes a finished book.
Once signatures are stacked in the right order, they are "knocked up" -- or squared into place -- before they are bound into books.
When signatures are folded together, the edges of the center piece of paper are going to extend further out than the edges of the outside piece of paper. That difference is called creep. Sometimes a publisher will choose to leave the undulating pattern of creep in place; most of the time, publishers will lop off the creep. And the name of the device used to do that?
A guillotine is the device publishers use to cut the creep off a book. "It cuts pretty easy," Rathermel explains as he pulls a massive iron lever that lowers a huge blade across a thick volume. "It's a very sharp blade and it's counterweighted, so it just kind of comes at it, has this sideways angle, and it just kind of slices it off."
Rathermel prepares to guillotine a book.
It may be obvious but it merits saying: Keep fingers clear.
Next Tuesday, visit State of the Arts for lingo from the world of photography.
Disaster Preparedness by Heather Havrilesky, published by Riverhead Books
Editor's Note: David Cazares is an editor for MPR News who happens to love both jazz and reading. Earlier this week he gave us his take on the Grammys; today he shares his thoughts on the new memoir by Heather Havrilesky. You can look forward to seeing more of his commentaries on the State of the Arts blog in the weeks and months to come.
We live in a society where having enough is never enough.
At an early age, many of us realize that we're mere mortals, outcasts of an in-crowd with better looks, brains, athletic prowess -- and the functional families and popularity we lack. They live in fancier houses, drive better cars, wear nicer clothes and have better relationships.
Ordinary people have no chance of keeping up with the Joneses. But that doesn't stop them from trying, even if the wasted time and effort makes them walking disasters.
Heather Havrilesky offers us a look at the disappointments of a real life with Disaster Preparedness, a memoir that describes her middle-class childhood in Durham, N.C. during the 1970s and 80s, and her neurotic journey to grown-up status.
Havrilesky, a staff critic at (the iPad newspaper) The Daily and a former television critic for Salon, is well-known for her spot-on deconstructions of the Mad Men television series, in which she takes no prisoners in detailing a character's flaws.
At first glance, her own story might be perceived as an unremarkable and less-biting tale of personal and emotional duress. But a careless reader might miss how Havrilesky's struggles resonate with real people struggling with their own imperfect lives.
In sometimes agonizing detail, she offers readers a window to the numbness of suburban life, her dysfunctional family, her parent's troubled marriage and divorce, and her bumbling but not uncommon journey to find love. She writes with an adult's hindsight but also employs the voice of a child and teenager.
Irreverent, funny, self-deprecating, her stories show how the path to understanding is filled with pitfalls and disasters, often of our own making. We're all screwed up and in need of therapy. But most of us, she writes, haven't worked it out because we're not honest with ourselves.
In describing the pathetic life of Lance, her assistant manager at Barney's Ice Cream, a guy who wanted to be a songwriter but still lived with his parents, she writes, "this was before shows like American Idol brought a teeming universe of deluded, largely untalented wannabes to the public's attention.
"It had never occurred to me that there were scores of people just like Lance, who had big dreams that would never come true, and they didn't even know it."
As an adult, Havrilesky seems to doubt if her own dreams would ever come true, even when - after a series of mostly good-for-nothing boyfriends - she finds true love. Even now, with two children, she sometimes wonders why she can't "be the relaxed, organized career mom instead of some harried, slovenly zombie."
The answer is that she was never intended to be. Angst-ridden and conflicted, she is human, still struggling to keep up with her own life, let alone the Joneses. And that's OK.
These days, it seems that to really be somebody, one has to be -- or at least appear -- larger than ordinary life.
From the celebrities and entertainers the public can't seem to get enough of, to victims of tragedy, politicians, business tycoons, talk show hosts and realty TV participants desperate to show all their warts, the message is clear: only those whose history, antics or misfortune make for a spectacle are worthy of an audience's attention.
Like car wrecks, many of these personalities are just a head-turning mess that we really don't want to see.
But even if they don't say something extraordinary about the times we live in, the stories of real people can be remarkable and worthy when they prompt us to look inward at our own flawed and complicated existence.
- David Cazares is an editor for MPR News.
A friend brought to my attention this commentary by Boyce Watkins for CNN International. It adds another important voice to our ongoing debate on taking the "N" word out of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." I won't print the whole commentary here, but I found the second half particularly compelling:
Long before I became a scholar, I was a black teenage boy. At that time, I would never have enjoyed hearing my English teacher repeat the n-word 219 times out loud in front of a class full of white students. I also would have wondered why African-Americans are the only ethnic group forced to read "classic" literature that uses such derogatory language toward us in a disturbingly repetitive way.
I would have found such a presentation to be only a hurtful and highly inefficient way for me to understand slavery, and I probably would have been teased.
Yes, our nation needs an honest conversation on race. That conversation shouldn't start and end with "Huckleberry Finn." In fact, the urgency with which some defend the use of this book as a tool for teaching racial history reflects our desperate and unfulfilled need to address the atrocities of slavery.
Although the brilliance of the Mark Twain novel must be acknowledged, students can and should be engaged in constructive ways to learn what happened to their ancestors without being subjected to racial slurs in the process. Similar to the way it was inappropriate last year for a teacher in North Carolina to force students to re-enact slavery in a cotton field, I don't need to hear the n-word 219 times to know that it is hurtful.
After being a black teen, I became a parent, so I must make this final point:
While we may be seeking to support fundamental American freedoms by ensuring that the Mark Twain book is available in its rawest form, it is ultimately incorrect for us to simultaneously steal the freedom of parents to decide that the language of the book is not appropriate for their children.
One freedom deserves another, so the freedom of the artist to express himself/herself in an offensive way should be supplemented by our right to reject that form of expression within the confines of a public school. By creating an alternative version of this brilliant text, Gribben has opened the door for millions of children to experience the beauty of this book without the much-celebrated racial degradation. Freedom ultimately means having options.
When I was a kid and teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I always said "I want to be a writer!" I couldn't manage any greater accomplishment than telling a story that caught people's imaginations as the books I was reading had caught mine. I spent summers devouring every work of fiction I could get my hands on at the public library, and delighted in books like "A Wrinkle in Time" as well as "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."
Fast forward 25+ years, and well, I have yet to write a fiction piece, despite it making my new year's resolutions several years in a row. However, thanks to the Loft Literary Center's director Jocelyn Hale, this just might be the year to make it happen.
On the Loft blog "Writers' Block," Hale offers "12 Literary Resolutions for 2011," and as I scrolled down the list I was delighted to hear myself saying "I could do that!"
What's makes Hale's tips so managable is that they are broken down by month. So you don't have to do anything for more than 31 days. Now that's a commitment I'm much more likely to make.
Then, she makes many of the resolutions downright FUN. For instance: "read a classic that's always been on your list" and "attend two local author readings." One month she tells you to read some really great comic writing, and another month, to check out a great mystery.
Inbetween, she gives good basic writing advice with the voice of a reassuring friend. Here's her suggested resolution for February:
Write for at least 15 minutes every day. Take away the pressure and swear you'll never show anyone this new work. You've heard it before, I'll tell you again. Just get it flowing. Conquer the blank page. This is a short month. You can do it. If fifteen minutes turns into an hour, send yourself a valentine.
By September Hale has you submitting a work to a literary journal or a local newspaper, and by November she has you participating in National Novel Writing Month! Who knew you had it in you?
Alright - now off I go to find that copy of Anna Karenina...
Yesterday the MPR website was host to a dynamic debate over whether or not it's acceptable for Mark Twain's classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" to be reprinted with the word "nigger" (as well as the word "injun") removed. While many oppose any changes to the classic, others argue the change would make it more easily accepted in school curricula, and therefor, more widely taught.
Today at noon, the conversation is going global. The BBC's "World Have Your Say" is hosting a conversation about the proposed changes, and MPR is offering it online. Starting at noon click here to go to the audiolink and stream the conversation. I'll be blogging live, updating this post as I go.
11:58 - The BBC story leading up to this conversation? How Romanian witches are threatening to curse the government after being threatened with taxation of their services...
12:00 - Facebook friend Linda Sue, upon hearing of the broadcast, comments:
I love the quandary we are in when we can't say the "n" word aloud or type it when we are talking about how outraged we are that the "n" word has been censored. We live with dissonace - that's just part of being a human being.
12:06 - and they're beginning by getting feedback to yesterday's piece on Pakistan... bear with us.
12:15 Looks like the Twain conversation will start at approximately 12:30. Sorry! But hey, I'm learning a lot about Pakistan...
12:30 - Alright, here we go...
Initial comments are similar to those who wrote in to MPR yesterday - saying we must respect the book.
FYI - "N word" is used approximately 219 times in Twain's book.
12:34 - Kentucky publisher says she's getting a lot of calls in response to the news - she was expecting a "slap" but was surprised at the extent of the response.
12:37 - According to publisher and Twain expert - At K-12 level, teachers are incredibly uncomfortable teaching the text... pre-emptive self-censorship because the literature had become "too difficult to teach"
Guest: Peter Messent joins the conversation, who has already written his thoughts on this debate in the Guardian.
12:40 - It seems that this argument falls into the ideal vs. the pragmatic - i.e. idealists say you should not make any changes, ever, while the pragmatists argue the changes would make the book more accessible and teachable.
Messent argues maybe you should just leave the book to University levels?
Kentucky publisher Suzanne LaRossa (sp?) says this move was in part to draw attention to the "dumbing down of our education system."
Here's the number to call - and BBC will call you back! 011-44-2070-83-72-72
'I'm not big on censorship, but this word is so weighted that it gets in the way of a true discussion of the merits, but any teacher who assigns the new version should be required to explain the self-censorship. That way, at least, the tough prose won't be completely white-washed.'
12:47 Messent says the British audience mustn't forget just how incendiary the "n" word is in the United States. And Twain used the word deliberately to shock his readers into understanding its inhumanity.
Messent falters at stating the title the mystery "Ten Little Injuns" which has since been changed to "And then there were None" - Host agrees that it's appropriate for them to not actually say the word in question!
12:52 - Interesting - host says if you want to learn more about the debate around the "n" word, you can find much more on the BBC news site, but I'm not seeing it...
12:53 - HOWEVER: here's a great commentary on the topic by MPR's own Brandt Williams from back in 2004.
12:54 - Great comment from Matt! He says this topic raises the issue that American teachers are being asked to sanitize issues to the point that they're not even teachable.
12:55 - are there books in South Africa that have become controversial since Apartheid? South African guest says books shouldn't be changed to they can understand the past, no matter what the present.
12:58 - Is it just me, or was that not nearly enough time to have this conversation?
In any case, you can continue the conversation with your thoughts, either here in the comment section, or over at "Today's Question."
A Mark Twain scholar plans to release a new edition of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" without the N word. Today's Question: Should an editor change a classic novel to keep from offending modern readers?
The recent decision to eliminate a certain racist epithet ("nigger") from a new printing of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" has stoked a heated debate.
According to Publishers' Weekly, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn that does away with the "n" word by replacing it with the word "slave."
Gribben was moved to create the new version in response to the classic being banned from many school reading lists, allegedly for its language.
While you can look forward to a story on teh topic from NPR on All Things Considered tonight; it's already the inspiration for a heated debate on our own website, under Today's Question. Here are some excerpts:
"Tim" writes: No. We lose some of the context of the time period when the work was written. the original language may be offensive today but for historical accuracy and insight into the thinking, attitudes and social norms of past eras the works should remain as unchanged as possible.
"MikeK" adds: If the editor changes one word and then releases it that editor should be charged with plagiarism. If Mark Twain were alive today he'd write it the same way. He'd use more of colorful words we have developed over the years since that story was written just to show us how we really act and talk to each other, rub our noses in it.
Not one word of any book should be changed unless the author of the book/work has approved the change(s), ever!
It's just another sign of the "dumb-ing" of America.
Also in the "No" category is "Steve the Cynic": Mark Twain was an adamant abolitionist whose writings (including Huckleberry Finn) did much to expose the evils of racial prejudice. The fact that we consider the N-word intolerably offensive today is in part due to the influence of Twain's writings. Especially if it's assigned reading in HS literature classes, it should be as Twain wrote it, if only so that students will see how far we've come.
Some suggested the book could be published, but it would have to have a different title; most agreed it shouldn't be published at all. But then there are those who say "not so fast" - check out this remark from "Sue de Nim"
There are middle-class white kids who say defiantly, "Mark Twain used that word," as a way of legitimizing their inappropriate use of it, and there are black kids who can't get past the offensive word to hear the powerful story Mark Twain was trying to tell. The ideal solution would be to have excellent teachers of American literature every high school who could guide thoughtful discussions about these issues and help our kids deal with the matter intelligently. Since we don't pay teachers well enough to attract our best and brightest into that profession and fail to give due respect to those who do, we don't have nearly enough of such excellence to go around. If the only other two options are excising the "N" word from Huckleberry Finn or excising Mark Twain from the curriculum, which would you choose?
To which "BruceJ" adds:
What's striking here is the puritanical dogmatism of many who probably consider themselves liberals or progressives. The facts are that many schools avoid assigning the book for fear of controversy and, in some cases, sensitivity or fear of legitimizing use of the N word. As the article linked to by Nick explains, the new edition substitutes the word 'slave' -- hardly an avoidance of discussion of slavery.
Do you really think that the word is the essence of the text? In any case, it would certainly be possible to argue that the meaning of the word in use has changed since the original publication. So a modification that makes the text accessible to more people is akin to a new translation of Tolstoy or Flaubert. Or do you only read those texts in the original language.
And then there are those who are still undecided. Jennifer writes:
My gut reaction to this question was a resounding "NO!" If we don't learn from the past, we're doomed to repeat it. This learning should include understanding why slurs or other language was 'acceptable' at the time. However, in reading the story, I've reconsidered. If an undisputed literary masterpiece is banned from many schools and public libraries because of the use of a single word, as in this case, wouldn't it be better to make an edit, but also explain the reasoning behind it? If Mr. Gribben (or editors to come) include a foreward or notification as to why language was changed, couldn't more teachers teach this work? Couldn't this open the conversation? I hope so.
So what do you think of the idea? Is it more noble to leave the original as it is, and have fewer school students read it? Or do offer a more "palatable" version, and lose the shock of the original writing?(1 Comments)
This morning while sub-hosting on Midmorning I spent an hour in studio with Saint Paul author John Reimringer, and had a delightful conversation with him about writing, capturing the history of Saint Paul, and growing up Catholic. Reimringer set his book in the mid-1990s, despite the fact that he only moved to Minnesota in 2001. He says he immediately connected with the city, which is where his father grew up.
"Vestments" has already drawn some national attention for how it gets into the head of a young priest questioning his career path.
To hear our conversation, and to hear Reimringer read excerpts from the book, click on the audio link below:(1 Comments)
America's greatest humorist - and, according to Garrison Keillor, a lousy autobiographer - Mark Twain.
"Rambling"... "excruciating"... "tedious"... "a wonderful fraud"; such descriptions sound like quotes from a publishing house turning down a young author's first draft of a novel.
But in this instance the author is Mark Twain, the book is the first volume of his long-awaited autobiography, and the reviewer is Garrison Keillor. Keillor, in a piece for the New York Times which will be printed this Sunday, pulls no punches.
The reader hikes across the hard, dusty ground of a famous man's reminiscences and is delighted to come across the occasional water hole...Here, sandwiched between a 58-page barrage of an introduction and 180 pages of footnotes, is a ragbag of scraps, some of interest, most of them not: travel notes, the dictated reminiscences of an old man in a dithery voice... various false starts, anecdotes that must have been amusing at one time ...you have to wade through 18 pages of mind-numbing inventory of the Countess Massiglia's Villa di Quarto, which he leased in Florence ("I shall go into the details of this house, not because I imagine it differs much from any other old-time palace or new-time palace on the continent of Europe, but because every one of its crazy details interests me, and therefore may be expected to interest others of the human race, particularly women"), the only point of which is that the man can afford to rent a palace that is fancier than anything you'd find in Missouri. His wife is dying, and he compiles an inventory of furniture.
I wonder if this will have any impact on Keillor's chances of winning the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
It's a big month in the Hollihan/Williams household.
For one thing Keith Hollihan's debut novel "The Four Stages of Cruelty," hits bookstores this week, and he'll do his official book-launch tomorrow at the Loft in Minneapolis.
The novel hits the ground running, having already been named one of the top books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly.
"I hope it gives the book some extra steam," he told me the other day when he came to MPR to talk about the book. "I really, really appreciate the recognition - love to get some more!" he smiled.
The novel is a tense prison tale which swirls around the drama caused by, of all things, a hand-drawn comic book. It goes missing after a prisoner is found hanged in an abandoned part of the building, and everyone has a different theory of its role in the death.
You can hear our interview about how he came to write the novel on ATC tonight, and on the MPRNews page.
However it's not just in the literary world Hollihan is getting exposure. He is married to Rosemary Williams, an artist who attracted some attention for her project to visit every store in the Mall of America, to collect a bag from each one.
Williams latest show "Belongings" opens at the Soap Factory on December 18th.
"Hopefully, we're both having a good December," Hollihan said.
"With this show she literally videotaped herself holding every single object in our house, including every scrap of paper, every toothbrush. It took her a great deal of time, and more computer memory than I think anyone would have expected."
The video images will be displayed on screens around the Soap Factory Gallery. Hollihan says it was a painstaking experience, and one which had an unexpected consequence.
"I think that interestingly that the genesis for that was when her father passed away,' he continued. "And she brought home some of his belongings that seemed so attached to him as a person, as a personality. And when they arrived at our house, they no longer seemed to be attached to him any more."
"It's interesting how that holding up of objects actually detaches it from the emotional sense that this is ours," Hollihan said. "I mean I do recognize, yes, that's my hockey stick, yes, that's a book that I've read, but...." he trailed off.
He says as he wrote "The Four Stages of Cruelty" there were times when he felt he was in prison. When I suggest perhaps the "Belongings" project is a form if imprisonment for Williams, he nods in agreement.
"She has some sort of strange desire to chronicle the infinite," he laughed.
Bloomington's Nancy Carlson has published more than 60 children's books, including such titles as Harriet and the Roller Coaster, I Like Me and Arnie Goes to Camp. Because she is both author and illustrator, Carlson's books are naturally the medium in which she and her readers are accustomed to viewing the work.
But if your Thanksgiving travel plans happen to involve going to Chicago, you can see Carlson's work in a different way.
At the Art Institute of Chicago, in an exhibition entitled "Everyday Adventures Growing Up: Art from Picture Books," Carlson's work joins that of two other children's book author/illustrators, Timothy Basil Ering of Massachusetts and Peter McCarty of New York. Their original artwork appears in frames in a traditional art museum setting. "Even though this is art from books, it's kind of nice to change how you see it and have it on the wall," Carlson says.
Children's literature often creates allegories to address kids' anxieties, and Carlson's illustrations use anthropomorphic animal characters to convey those emotions, ranging from ebullient joy to gut-wrenching fear. She also establishes each scene with careful detail, sometimes even inserting references to Minnesota places and things. Carlson's vivid color palette is similar to Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), while the expressiveness of her characters is reminiscent of Bill Peet (Big Bad Bruce).
Having her work displayed on a wall is not entirely new to Carlson. She graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a degree in printmaking, and she says her focus after graduating was getting her work into gallery shows. "I've never been in a big museum for a show," she says, "but I guess you could say it is getting back to my roots."
Carlson discovered her vocation as a children's book author some years after her graduation from MCAD, but her printmaking background informs her illustrations. Working in colored pencil and technical pen, she initially employed a lot of cross-hatching with color overlays as a way to reflect the intaglio printmaking she had done as a student. Over time, her lines have become bolder and she doesn't use cross-hatching as much.
Carlson's work on display at the Art Institute of Chicago comes from six of her titles, spanning as far back as 1985 (Louanne Pig in the Talent Show) to as recently as 2007 (Loudmouth George Earns His Allowance). Isolated from the text and framed on the wall, Carlson's technique and her artistic evolution are palpable.
Two illustrations from Nancy Carlson's I Like Me, published in 1988. At left, a character in the background reads a newspaper hailing the Minnesota Twins as 1987 World Series champions.
Carlson admits that having her work on display is exciting, but she maintains that creating books for children is her first love. "When you have a show, it's thrilling the entire run of the show, and there's nothing you like more as an artist than seeing your art up on the wall -- but then it's over," she says. "For me, the longevity of published books is very, very fulfilling. Publishing a book and having the art seen by so many more people is a thrill. I go to the library and I see my books, and I'm excited."
The exhibition featuring the work of Nancy Carlson, Timothy Basil Ering and Peter McCarty is in the Art Institute of Chicago's Gallery 10 (lower level) and continues in the Vitale Family Room in the Ryan Education Center (level 1). More information at www.artic.edu/aic.
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe: their friendship is the basis for her memoir "Just Kids"
Last night marked the 2010 National Book Award ceremonies
Young People's Literature in Manhatten. No local winners, but I thought you'd be interested in the results.
In the non-fiction category, punk rocker Patti Smith won for her memoir "Just Kids," which recounts her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The book is published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
Writer Jaimy Gordon delved the seedy underwold of cheap horse-racing for her book
Lord of Misrule, published by McPherson & Co.
An eleven-year-old girl with Asperger's is the main character of Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, which took home the award for Young People's Literature. It's published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Poet Terrance Hayes received a unanimous endorsement from the NBA judges for his collection of poetry titled Lighthead, published by Penguin Books. On the NBA website the book is described this way:
This innovative collection presents the light- headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. Fueled by an imagination that enlightens, delights, and ignites, Lighthead leaves us illuminated and scorched.
Click on the titles of the books to find out more about them, their authors, and to read excerpts.
Earlier today I mentioned author John Reimringer's book "Vestments" was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 2010.
Well, he's not the only St. Paul author on the list.
Set in a maximum security prison in the Midwest, the story revolves around the relationship between a female corrections officer and a young male inmate serving a lengthy sentence for murder.
Publishers Weekly writes "Hollihan combines a labyrinthine plot with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life in his impressive debut."
Published by Thomas Dunne Books, Four Stages of Cruelty is due in stores December 7.
It's the sort of praise every first time author dreams of.
Published by the Twin Cities own Milkweed Editions, the book is about "a wayward yet devout young priest who struggles to reconcile his faith with longings of the flesh."
A former journalist and newspaper editor, Reimringer teaches at Augsburg College, and lives with his wife, the poet Katrina Vandenberg, in St. Paul.
According to National Novel Writing Month organizers, in November 2009 more than 30,000 writers completed a 175-page (or 50,000-word) novel by midnight November 30.
Why? Because sometimes you need to stop obsessing over the details and just write, write, write.
On the NaNoWriMo website it states:
...The ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and--when the thing is done--the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
Of course, few of these novels actually get published, but close to 60 have made it to bookstore shelves.
Tonight NaNoWriMo participants in the Twin Cities are heading to Nina's Cafe in Saint Paul for a kick-off party. People are asked to bring gently used books to donate as part of this year's fundraiser.
A while back MPR's Euan Kerr attended a couple of NaNoWriMo meet-ups in the Twin Cities and had this lovely story.
So, are you ready to take on the challenge?(1 Comments)
Earlier this week a package showed up my desk containing a bright orange book with the bold title "Fierce and True."
To my surprise, it was a collection of plays commissioned by Children's Theatre Company: Lost Boys of Sudan, Anon(ymous), Prom and Five Fingers of Funk.
Huh, I thought, the theatre company is getting in the book business.
To find out more I checked in with CTC Artistic Director Peter Brosius, who edited the book along with Elissa Adams, CTC's director of new play development. Here's what Brosius had to say:
What inspired you to publish Fierce and True?
We have been blessed by working with some of the leading artists in the United States to create new work for this age group. These plays have touched lives, ignited imaginations and started community wide conversations. These artists have set a new standard in theatre for young people in the quality of the writing, the vividness of theatrical imagination, and the profundity of their engagement with contemporary society. We are immensely proud of this work and wanted to share it to have it performed across the country, to inspire others to create work for this age group and to challenge accepted notions of what constitutes theatre for teens.Who do you see as the market for this book?
Theatre companies both professional and community based, schools, colleges, community centers, teachers, camp leaders, academics, youth workers, libraries. People who are curious, people who are interested in new developments in the arts, People who like to read good plays.Are there many theaters out there doing shows specifically for teens? If not, do you think it's possible to change that?
Not enough. I think that by showing the quality of this work and the breadth of the artists we can inspire artists and inspire theatres to think about this as an audience of importance and vitality. At the Children's Theatre Company, we have seen firsthand how engaging with this audience feeds the artists, gives them new perspectives, new energy and hope. We have been thrilled to see our theatre filled with teens eager to see new work-coming with their friends, a date, their parents or their school. This audience is optimistic, engaged, extraordinarily savvy and sophisticated. We know that the professional theatre field needs to embrace this next generation and needs to do it now so that we find new ways to be in dialogue and be challenged and transformed by this next generation. This is a critical audience--they are tastemakers, innovators, breaking new ground and moving this culture forward--they are a cultural and political force and play a huge role in defining fashion, music and new media and more.Now that you've published this collection, do you think you will do it again? Is the first in a series, or a singular event?
Funny, you should ask, I am writing an introduction now for the second in this series of new plays to be published by the wonderful University of Minnesota Press, which will look at the work that we have produced that examines the Face of America today. These are plays that we have produced for multi-generational audiences with a focus on 8-12 year olds that explore issues of assimilation and identity by a remarkable collection of playwrights.
Jeff Rathermel, the new Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis.
After a six month search for a new Executive Director, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts has named its own Artistic Director, Jeff Rathermel, to the position.
For the past six months Rathermel has been serving as interim Executive Director in addition to his curatorial and program management duties. While the MCBA board conducted a national search, in a letter to members Board Chair Luca Gunther stated "Jeff Rathermel stood apart outstandingly from the other applicants" due to his deep understanding of the craft, his sense of innovation and his management experience.
A press release announcing Rathermel's appointment stated it "is a sign that MCBA is refocusing its mission on the artist."
Back in April the MCBA let go of its then Executive Director, Dorothy Goldie, just as the organization was celebrating its 25th anniversary, citing a desire to expand its scope and reach as an organization.
Posted at 5:52 PM on October 20, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Books
The 2010 Twin Cities Jewish Book Fair is underway, with a series of readings by a broad range of authors.
Some of them are quite familiar (Rabbi Kushner and Nicole Krause for two,) but others you might know less well.
That was the case for many people when Howard Jacobson rolled through town almost three years ago for the 2007 edition of the Fair. Jacobson is a raconteur and a broadcaster, in addition to his scribbling, and we had a fascinating chat about his book "Kalooki Nights."
He recommended that as a radio person, I should do myself a favor and read Mario Vargas Llosa's "Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter," which I did. And he was right in his recommendation, as Mr Vargas Llosa's recent Nobel Prize for literature would seem to underline.
It came as no real surprise the other day when the Booker Prize Committee awarded Jacobson the 2010 award for his novel "The Finkler Question."
Of course it also makes you scurry back to this year's TC Jewish Book Fair list to see who might be the next winner they're quietly bringing in.
You can hear Jacobson talking about how he began writing "Kalooki Nights" after being challenged by an Orthodox man who recognized him as a writer here, about his characters here and reaction to the book here.
Attending the Twin Cities Book Festival gives an unobstructed view of an industry undergoing historic changes.
The tenth annual Twin Cities Book Festival, organized by the nonprofit Rain Taxi Review of Books, took place Saturday, Oct. 16, at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
A standing-room crowd packed the festival's opening panel discussion about the transformations sweeping the publishing world. "Much has changed, but in ways that call upon us as people who love books to be better, to be more innovative, to think quicker and not to be afraid," said panel moderator Kevin Smokler, CEO of BookTour.com and editor of the anthology Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times.
The appeal of books -- or good writing, more broadly -- appears as vibrant as ever. In the Twin Cities Book Festival exhibition space, 77 publishers, magazines, booksellers and arts organizations exhibited on tables alongside 36 individual authors with their own displays; cradled within the exhibition space was a massive used-book jumble sale. According to Rain Taxi board member Patrick McAvey, the event has grown steadily, increasing from about 1,000 people in its first year to more than 6,000 in 2009.
So what has changed? The panelists described the rise of independent presses, the decline of traditional gatekeepers such as major publishers and book reviewers, the advent of e-books and even the immense impact of social media such as Facebook and YouTube (because many books now have trailers, just like films).
"Here in the early decades of the 21st century, our collective problem as writers and as readers -- and most of all, as book lovers -- is not that the thing we love is vanishing, going away or becoming less important," Smokler said, "but there is simply too much of it. There is too much of it to decide how to spend one's time as a person who loves books and what to devote one's attention to."
I asked Smokler if publishers are simply publishing too many books. "I don't think they're over-publishing books in aggregate," he said. "I think there are too many books that attention and care and time is not paid to. The system seems to be set up where there's one or two big titles a season that get all the publicity dollars. So it's a completely stacked deck. That seems, from a business standpoint, a silly way to promote books."
Author Tim W. Brown of Chicago said the proper response to the industry's changes is for readers to empower themselves to find good books and for authors to empower themselves to get their books into readers' hands.
Steph Optiz, membership director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses in New York, agreed. "I think an exciting change is the ability to self-publicize and market books," she said. "For a lot of authors, that's really important and a great way to get their work out to a wide audience."
Brian Landon is one such author. The murder-mystery writer from Blaine, Minn., says his publisher assists a lot with promotion, but Landon also maintains his own website and blogs through Amazon.com, in addition to attending traditional book-signings and reading events.
Author Brian Landon likes to meet new readers at the Twin Cities Book Festival.
Author Joseph Mbele embraces online technology to self-publish his books and sell them on demand. "Publish-on-demand is a good idea because you don't have 10,000 copies sitting in a warehouse waiting for buyers," he said. "A book is printed only when somebody orders it. This is the future of publishing, there's no doubt."
Loonfeather Press in Bemidji doesn't do print-on-demand, but it does use a digital press to produce smaller runs of books. "You don't have to print 1,000 books right away," said business manager Mary Lou Marchand. "You can try it out, see if it works. If you're starting to sell, then you can get a bigger run going. I think that's a real advantage for small presses."
Larger presses, such as North Star Press of St Cloud, are also minding their inventories. "We're not even printing hardcover right now, we're only doing paperback," explained Seal Dwyer, business manager at North Star. "And all our books are on Nook and Kindle, which is not hurting our book sales, but is adding to our total sales."
Julia Opoti and Leyla Warsame come to the festival to meet authors and to find rare or underappreciated books.
Amidst these various responses to so many industrial changes, author Andrew Ervin (whose debut novel Extraordinary Renditions was recently published by Coffee House Press) pointed out one immutable element. "The biggest challenge is still putting the words together," Ervin said. "That hasn't changed. Actually writing something that's worth reading. Maybe this is old-fashioned, but I think you have to write a good book, too."
Posted at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Books
Minneapolis-based writer Matt Burgess tells a story which will make him the envy of many aspiring authors. He had just graduated from the University of Minnesota's MFA program, and applied for a retail job to make ends meet. He also sent off the manuscript of his first novel. A week later he got both news that his book was sold, and an interview offer from Target.
"And I was like, 'Forget it Target. I'm an author now,'" he laughs.
The novel, "Dogfight, a love story" tells the story of 19 year old Alfredo Batista, who Burgess describes as the world's worst drug-dealer, as he rarely, if ever, sells anything.
The book follows a chaotic few days in Queens NY as Alfredo and his family await the return of his older brother from prison. The situation is complicated by the fact that Alfredo is now living with Isabel, who was his brother's girlfriend when he was sent away. When Alfredo decides to mark his brother's return with a dogfight, both as a celebration and as a way to make some money, things spin crazily out of control.
The story which is tense, hilarious and poignant has been getting rave reviews.
Burgess is one of the many authors appearing this weekend at the Twin Cities Book Fair. We'll also have him on ATC tonight, and you can hear him read from the opening of the novel here:
Allan Kornblum was in a pretty good mood this afternoon after getting word that "I Hotel," a 600 page novel by Karen Tei Yamashita is one of the five nominees for this years National Book Award for fiction.
Kornblum, who founded Coffee House, and is currently the publisher, signed Yamashita (pictured below) some 20 years ago. He remembers sending her a letter asking to see a manuscript after she sent him the first chapter from her first book.
It was a different time when such communications took longer, and it was only six months later he realized he hadn't heard from her.
He wonders whether he would have bothered nowadays to have picked up the chase again, but he did, and has been delighted ever since with the series of manuscripts she has provided. Her four books are always in Coffee House's top ten sellers each year, and Kornblum says many colleges teach her books.
Kornblum describes "I Hotel" as Karen Tei Yamashita's magnum opus, exploring the heady days of the 1960's and early 1970's in northern California.
He admits it's been done before, but says what makes her book fresh is the way she does it through the eyes of the Asian-American community at a time when it was just coming to see itself in such terms.
Yamashita teaches in the creative writing program at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Allan tells some great tales about the book and what the nomination means. You can listen to our chat here:
Interestingly the other book with a local connection Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" which is set in St Paul, did not make the final five. The National Book Awards are announced November 17th.
Richard Kadrey relaxes at home (Image courtesy HarperCollins)
Richard Kadrey writes what he calls modern urban fantasy novels, so don't go expecting much Tolkeinesque prose in his new book "Kill the Dead." What you'll find is much more Chandler-like.
"Really what the book came out of was American crime fiction, the stuff from the 50's really up to the stuff from the 70's," he says on the phone from San Francisco. "That stripped down writing style, which has nothing to do with what most people think of as fantasy writing."
"The character named Sandman Slim is actually a man named James Stark who describes himself as a magician, because he refuses to use the words like wizard or warlock, because he thinks those are way too Harry Potter," says Kadrey running through the backstory. "He's very powerful but he has never been to rigorous because magic has always come very naturally to him, so he is very sloppy about it. He's like a lot of young men, he's very arrogant about it."
This arrogance leads him to ruffling the wrong sets of feathers, and Stark finds himself banished to Hell, where he earns a living (if that is the correct term for employment in Hades) as a hitman.
"'Sandman Slim'" the first novel picks up 11 years later with him escaping from Hell, and coming back to find all the people who sent him there, and killed his girlfriend while he was gone," Kadrey continues.
Like he said, not a lot of Harry Potter. And just to end any other Hogwarts thoughts, his tale is set in Los Angeles, a city with which Kadrey admits a real love/hate relationship. .
"I can't think of any other place other than LA and New York where people have such a strong impression without having been there," he says.
"It's fun to play off their assumptions and fun to play off the realities, so walking that weird line between the commentary, the reality and just nonsense you made up."
"Kill the Dead" opens with Stark chasing a Valley Girl vampire through a rundown Los Angeles shopping mall, which turns into a running battle which even the hardened locals can't ignore. As the story unfolds Stark runs into hoards of zombies who are appearing all over the city even as Lucifer is preparing for a biopic he's developing with a top Hollywood producer.
Kadrey has a great talent for taking what might be seen as stock characters by other writers and re-imagining them. He says the secret for him is to take away the characters supernatural elements, and then work out how their personalities fit into the plot.
"Is it going to be a smart vampire, or it is just going to be a dumb guy?" he asks himself, although he admits "It's an odd balancing act."
And like the great crime writers before him, the story examines more than the simple whodunit aspect of his stories.
"There's a lot of commentary about your basic class structure in LA," he says.
There is also a great deal of classical and biblical scholarship behind Kadrey's characters. He says he became interested in the topics as a result of the 2000 election.
"I owe George W.Bush a drink," he laughs. Kadrey says he couldn't understand the world-view of Bush supporters, and the conservative Christian right so he started to do a lot of reading. Beginning with the Bible, then on through the Gnostic Gospels, into Jewish mysticism and beyond.
"It all gets mixed up into the weird brew which really changes how you see, not just the religious part of things, but the society built on top of all those theories has been shaped and changed over time," he says.
But he funneled his new knowledge into novels rather than politics, saying he had a lot of fun playing with the ideas. And when it gets down to it, he wouldn't mind shaking things up a little bit.
"I am a very big believer in the power of trash: trash pop culture, trash literature," Kadrey says. "I really have a lot of affection and belief in that stuff, because art scares people. Trash, pop culture doesn't. You can put in all the subversive crazy stuff you want in trash culture that will change people's perceptions of the world, and they will read it and they will take it in. Whereas in art they are going to run from it. So subvert the world through trash. I'm right there with you on that."
Kadrey describes himself as the classic tale of the overnight success that came after 15 years of work. He's been working as a writer for years, but it's only now he knows his place in the writing firmament. He says he once had dreams of being the next J.G. Ballard, but no longer.
"I much more think of myself as Mickey Spillane than James Joyce," he says. And he uses the Spillane name with pride, saying he was a smart writer who knew his craft.
"One of the best pieces of writing advice you could ever get was this offhand thing he said: 'The first chapter of a book sells the book. The last chapter of the book sells the next book.' That's a little piece of writing advice every young writer needs."
Even as Kadrey pokes fun at Hollywood though the Sandman Slim stories, he's delighted that Dino De Laurentiis has optioned his first novel, and he has hopes it may even make it to the screen someday. He says he's enjoying the process as the producers oversee the creation of the script.
"Even though its really slow - it's glacial - I am really rather fascinated by it," he says.
Richard Kadrey will arrive in Minnesota having just finished the third Sandman Slim novel, which at the moment bears the spritely title "Aloha from Hell."
After that he's got a bunch of ideas, including for more Sandman Slim stories, and a screenplay he's going to try on his own.
Of course that's all after the upcoming book tour, comfortably leading up to, what else, Halloween.
You can hear the first part of our chat, about Sandman Slim and his origins here:
And then the second part about his classical and biblical studies here:
Tiphanie Yanique's book "How to Escape from a Leper Colony" gains national recognition
Each year the National Book Foundation presents its National Book Awards. And for the last five years, it has asked the winners and runners-up in the fiction category to select their favorite author under the age of 35. The 5 under 35 awards seek to highlight young authors 'whose work is particularly promising and exciting and is among the best of a new generation of writers.'
This year's awards went to:
Sarah Braunstein for The Sweet Relief of Missing Children
Grace Krilanovich for The Orange Eats Creeps
Téa Obreht for The Tiger's Wife
Paul Yoon for Once the Shore
Tiphanie Yanique for How to Escape from a Leper Colony
Yanique's book is published by Graywolf Press here in the Twin Cities. Yanique is from the Hospital Ground neighborhood of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She is an assistant professor of Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature at Drew University and an associate editor with Post-No-Ills, and is the winner of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award. She lives between Brooklyn, New York and St. Thomas.
This is not the first time a Minnesota publisher has had an author recognized in the 5 under 35 awards; in 2007 Kirstin Allio made the short list for her book Garner, published by Coffee House Press.
When they visited the Walker Art Center last year Ethan and Joel Coen(right) said they wanted to remake "True Grit" because they felt the Henry Hathaway directed adaptation of the Charles Portis novel wasn't true to the book.
Now the St Louis Park natives are giving a little sneak peak of what they were talking about with the release of the trailer for their remake. While you can see small references to John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn in Jeff Bridges' portrayal, you get the sense there's a lot more "No Country for Old Men" than "McClintock" in the new film.
You can check it out the trailer here. The movie is released on December 25th.
Macalester College professor and author Marlon James was named the fiction winner today for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for his book The Book of Night Women.
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. It was founded in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Dayton Peace Prize, which commemorates the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ending the war in Bosnia.
Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium. Dave Eggers book Zeitoun took the prize for non-fiction.
They will be honored at a ceremony hosted by award-winning journalist Nick Clooney on Sunday, November 7th at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton, Ohio.
Set during a Jamaican slave revolt at the end of the eighteenth century, The Book of Night Women tells the story of Lilith, a defiant and mysterious woman who pushes at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave. According to a release about the award, "By honestly exploring the cruelty, brutality, and degradation of slavery, James reveals its lasting and devastating impact on mankind."
James' book also took home the Minnesota Book Award for novel and short fiction this past year.
Interested in learning more about James and The Book of Night Women? Check out Euan Kerr's interview here.
Jonathan Franzen talks with Kerri Miller on the "storied boards" of Fitzgerald Theater.
Attending Jonathan Franzen's talk at the Fitzgerald Theater Tuesday night was surprisingly delightful. But then I didn't go with much more information in my head than "he writes really big books that the critics love, and he dissed Oprah."
So imagine my surprise when Franzen, author of The Corrections, and more recently Freedom took the stage, and what unfolded was a conversation of great honesty, humor and warmth.
If you weren't able to get a ticket to the event (it was sold out quite early on), it was rebroadcast on Midmorning today, and the audio link is above. But for those who don't have an hour to spare, here are a few choice quotes:
1. On Minnesota, that "convivial planet" where his family hails from, where he spent many summers visiting relatives, and where much of Freedom is set:
It's a refreshing thing to come to the Twin Cities because there's... it really is a great cultural center and people take things like books and theater and music and good radio seriously in a way they don't everywhere in the country.
I was thinking about the fact that my parents were not particularly good at culture - they weren't readers, and the Nutcrackers was almost the extreme end of their classical taste - and that's no diss to the nutcracker - but I was thinking that what they had in common was some notion of at least acknowledging the authority of important ideas and of serious, well-made things.
They expressed that in different ways but I think that's money in the bank for somebody growing up who's going to be a writer or actor or something to come from a place were people still at least notionally take things a little seriously.
2. On writing - Franzen said some of the most formative books of his youth were Gone with the Wind and Watership Down, and that he had no desire to write a novel set in Washington D.C. because how could you top the great political drama that is reality?
You really don't have to know that much to write novels - that was the great attraction to me. It's more about creating a vivid and persuasive simulacrum - it's not about having the facts.
3. On fame, and how it inspired him to write a memoir at a relatively young age.
I'd been so exposed; I'd lived in blissful obscurity without realizing it was blissful. It didn't seem very good to me and I was desperately trying to get out of it, but once I was out of it there were some bumps along the way. and just the sensation of being explosed - some in very direct obvious ways - being on tv, being on the radio, seeing my picture in the paper, things like that - especially seeing a particularly bad AP picture over and over... and in a more general way, people say nasty things when you're getting a lot of attention, so I wanted to try to expose myself in a way that would paradoxically restore a bit of privacy - put on a mask, try to make the mask as life like as possible, but knowing it's a mask, would enable me to go on having my life behind it. That was the impulse behind it.
4. Lastly, on Oprah, and how Franzen went from being "uninvited" from her book club back in 2001, to invited once again just last week:
People have been coming up to me at book signings and writing me letters saying "I'm so glad you didn't do that show- I hate that woman!" How many times do I have to say "I don't hate that woman?"She's done wonderful things for books. And her project - which is daring - to try to expand the audience for not-so-easy reading is a noble one.
I actually don't think I was the first writer to be uncomfortable with the special [Oprah] covers that interrupted the design of the jacket, and the B-roll footage of you walking around, looking contemplative in your home town. I was just the first person to talk about how phony it was... I think others writers had been uncomfortable with this and at least one other author got in touch with me to say that she, too, hated it. And Oprah honestly didn't know - and I think she was genuinely apalled.
It will be interesting to see if Oprah gets as interesting and honest a conversation with Franzen when he appears on her show in November.
Yesterday I had two opportunities to hear Norwegian novelist Per Petterson speak. Last night the acclaimed author of Out Stealing Horses and I Curse the River of Time spoke before an audience at the Guthrie Theater, and earlier in the day he appeared on MPR's Midmorning with Kerri Miller.
If I had known in advance just how much he would repeat himself in the two conversations, I might not have bothered attending the evening event. But I'm glad I did.
Petterson, a diminuitive, soft-spoken man, went into great detail about the way in which he writes, which many aspiring writers might find surprising.
Rather than start out with a plot outline, or a character sketch, Petterson simply begins writing.
I just start on the first page. Perhaps I have an image, or a first sentence. I think it's going to be one story but then it turns into something else. And I tell the reader what I know as soon as I know it. I don't keep any secrets - that's cheating.
Petterson's stories draw heavily from his own family life, whether it's the character of the father in Out Stealing Horses or the mother in I Curse the River of Time. Petterson says he doesn't write about what happened, but about what could have happened.
Petterson decided he needed to be a writer when he was 18. He wanted to create in others the feelings that his favorite authors created in him.
For the next two weeks, he said, he suffered with the desire to create something amazing, but in total fear of failure. That's when he realized that to be a writer was to suffer.
Seventeen years later he finally finished his first story.
"When it's unfinished it still has som much potential," he chuckled, "but when it's finished you see how small it really is."
Petterson said he also doesn't believe a good book should necessarily be entertaining, or easy. He said a truly great story should reveal to the reader some truth about their own life, and often times it's a painful revelation. "I always move toward the pain," he said, in a conversation with Graywolf Press' Editor Fiona McCrae on the Guthrie stage.
McCrae, for her part, talked about what the editors at Graywolf call the "Petterson ache," after one editor finished reading Out Stealing Horses and dubbed it "achingly good."
Calligrapher Diane von Arx in the basement studio of her Minneapolis home.
Diane von Arx grew up as a tomboy on a farm in LaCrescent, but she soon learned that her hands were good at doing more than just chores.
In high school, girls would ask me to put the names of their boyfriends on their folders, in a calligraphic style, and then fill in the lines. The nuns were so taken with my talent that they gave me a speedball textbook that lettering artists use, plus pens and poster board to make posters.
Von Arx's career as a professional calligrapher took her from decorating her friends' folders to designing the graphics for General Mills' "Count Chocula" cereal, to lettering official documents and decrees. And now it's led her to illuminating one of the most important texts of our time - the Saint John's Bible.
To help you understand the importance of the Saint John's Bible, here are a few rather stunning facts:
- The bible is being written by hand and illustrated by a team of calligraphers and artists; this is a project that has not been undertaken in oh, about 500 years.
- The Saint John's Bible is separated into seven volumes, each two feet by three feet in size. Once completed, each bound volume will weigh as much as 35 pounds, with a combined weight of more than 165 pounds.
- The illumination of the bible began in 2000; if it stays on schedule, it will be finished next fall. That's eleven years of work.
- Pope Benedict XVI, upon seeing a completed volume of the Saint John's Bible, called it "a work for eternity."
Pope Benedict XVI pages through the Wisdom volume of The St. Peter Apostles Edition of The Saint John's Bible in April 2008. (L'Osservatore Romano)
So imagine Diane von Arx's reaction when project director Donald Jackson asked her to illuminate four different texts of the Wisdom Books.
I was ecstatic, honored - I would think this is a job that pretty much any calligrapher would die to be a part of it, just because of the nature of the project and the legacy. It's going to last a very long time, and will be around long after we're gone. Along with all this excitement and this honor, there was also this sense of "oh my God now I have to do this."
Tim Ternes is director of exhibition and programming for The Saint John's Bible and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. He explains the illumination of the Bible was calligrapher Donald Jackson's idea. Jackson is Senior Scribe to her Royal Majesty's Crown Office, a.k.a. "The Queen's Calligrapher." For Jackson, illuminating the bible was a life's goal. He approached Saint John's about the project in 1998, and they agreed to sponsor it.
Don is considered by most to be the worlds foremost western scribe, and he's gathered together his A-Team. Donald wanted to make sure that there was a Midwestern touch - he's based in Wales and has done much of the work there. For Diane to be recognized in this way is really important. This is a once in a millennium project.
In addition to von Arx's illumination, the bible also features depictions of nature unique to Stearns County, Minnesota, and references buildings from the Saint John's campus.
Donald Jackson examines sketches for the book of Psalms.
(Copyright Derek Evan, HUW Evans Agency, Cardiff, Wales)
The Saint John's Bible is written on vellum, or calfskin. So when it was von Arx's time to add her mark, the vellum pages were shipped to her, with most of the writing already done. She was given her words and her space to fill.
Before writing on the pages I had to stretch them out - it was fall, it was dry, and vellum doesn't like dry - it likes moisture and humidity. As Donald Jackson likes to say "that vellum forever wants to get back on the calf - that's its job." So I cranked the shower in the bathroom 'til the sheets were pliable, then put the vellum on my counter while it was still moist and stapled it to a sheet of coated plywood.
If the Pope only knew...
Von Arx created sketches, sent photographs of them to Jackson in Wales, and then they would chat about the ideas. Von Arx says it felt like an apprenticeship, with Jackson giving her a sense of direction but no explicit orders. She says she felt she had to do the best job that she could, and then take it up a notch further.
One of the four texts Diane von Arx illuminated for Saint John's Bible
While the Bible is an ancient text, the Saint John's Bible is being created for the modern age. Images include strands of DNA running through parts of the gospels, views from the Hubble telescope, scenes from Auschwitz and Rwanda. Von Arx says she finds the artwork compelling.
I think it is absolutely appropriate. I'm just blown away every time a new volume is released.It goes far beyond the literal, and creates layers of meaning. I think each person, when they look at them, brings something different. It makes people think.
Tim Ternes agrees; he says the Saint John's Bible is meant to give the viewer something to think about without telling them what it means, or what it's supposed to mean.
We'd like to see the St. John's Bible become a spark for a really high quality visual bible study - this can unite imaginations. What excites me is this notion of the Bible truly being communal. It is one of the very few things in the religious world that's received such support on both ends of the conservative and liberal spectrum. This invites discussion and dialogue among traditions.
Ternes is hoping the Saint John's Bible will serve as a source of inspiration for thousands of years to come.
Put it into the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls: they've lasted centuries, without any real protection, and we'd like this book to last at least two or three thousand years [by using ancient bookbinding techniques]. We're not trying to recreate history, but there's simply no better method to create a work that lasts.
Calligrapher Diane von Arx says she's only recently begun to appreciate the value of her hands, and the work they can do.
For Diane von Arx, the idea of her work being around for not just hundreds, but thousands of years is a humbling one.
I don't have kids - this is the only creative thing that I've done that will live far beyond me. My part in it may have been relatively small, but it's going to last for a very long time. It's a calligraphic legacy for our time.
You can see pages of the Saint John's Bible, including some of Diane von Arx's work, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, as part of the exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It runs through October 24.(3 Comments)
This week, the hounds track down a day full of blues and roots music, magical (and free) theater for all ages and zinesters running a temporary publishing house.
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Rolf Erdahl is a bass teacher and bassist in the Vecchione/Erdahl Duo. He liked Open Eye Figure Theatre's Milly and Tillie so much that he's planning on seeing it for a second time this weekend. Rolf loves how this slapstick, magical show reminds him of the feeling of possibility that he had as a child. The show is free and can be seen tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7pm.
Tom Haakenson, chair of liberal arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and one of the editors of the online journal Quodlibetica, thinks you should try to get published this weekend. Hot Off The is a pop-up publishing house that is offering a behind-the-scenes look at publishing, from taking submissions to printing and binding books. They'll be at The Soap Factory every Thursday, Friday and Sunday through Aug. 22.
Danette Olsen is the executive director of Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls, WI. She's really looking forward to this weekend's Red House Barnfest. Danette is impressed by the line-up of blues and roots musicians, but she's especially excited to see Danny Schmidt. This Austin, TX-based singer-songwriter is being compared to everyone from Bob Dylan to Greg Brown, but she thinks his unique voice should be heard live. The Barnfest starts at 1:30pm at the Hobgoblin Music Outdoor Amphitheater outside of Red Wing.
The cast of the musical "Stinky Cheese Man," which opens Friday at Steppingstone Theatre in St. Paul
When Richard Hitchler read the children's book "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" by Jon Scieszka, he knew it had the makings of a great children's theater production.
It's that twisted fairytale kind of story that seemed fun and well suited to a musical production. It's not so different from Into the Woods, but much more comical and upbeat, I think. And the kids all lit up when I mentioned it.
Hitchler says he was particularly drawn to the title:
Stinky anything is funny; the word itself is funny, just like the word "banana." Just like "Captain Underpants" is funny.
The story is a warped remix of the famous fairytale "The Gingerbread Man." In this case the wannabe parents take a large wheel of cheese, give it a strip of bacon for a mouth, two olives for eyes, and bake it in the oven until it's just... ripe.
Hitchler says kids love creating their own warped versions of familiar stories, and so they relate to the adaptation. He got permission from Scieszka to commission a musical version of the story for Steppingstone Theatre, and hired Kent Stephens to write the script and lyrics, and Gary Rue to set it to music.
An illustration by Lane Smith from the children's book "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales"
What they created is a more upbeat, lighthearted version of the story. What appeared dark and strange on the page is transformed into highjinx and high spirits on the stage, says Rue.
We put a Gilbert and Sullivan, fast-paced spin on the music. It's big, slap stick stuff which forces you to plug in and pay attention, because jokes come fast and furious. There are punch lines within punch lines. When I see those punch lines in the script, I write those punch lines into the music as well.
The Stinky Cheese Man, as illustrated by Lane Smith, and as performed by Ayden McCloskey at Steppingstone Theatre
Steppingstone Theatre is now readying to open its third production of the musical since it commissioned the piece back in 1998. And the production has found legs on stages across the United States over the past decade, including the Dallas Children's Theater, San Diego Junior Theater, and theaters in Boston, Michigan and Washington State. The Dallas Children's Theater took the show on a national tour, and even to Shanghai for an international children's theater festival.
All in all the musical has been staged well over 120 times, and Richard Hitchler says he still gets e-mails inquiring about production rites. Hitchler says one of the joys of producing childrens' theater is that the audience is constantly changing, so staging the same show five years later is no problem. And while Stinky Cheese Man may seem ridiculously odd, he's also a character that kids can relate to.
No It's No Picnic Being Cheese
There's always someone that you're bound to displease
But since this is what I'm meant to be
I don't question why
Some days we all feel like a curd
But life doesn't have to be so absurd
Just look up at that big chedder wheel
As it rolls across the sky
As part of the opening night celebrations, Gary Rue will don a tuxedo and perform tunes from the play and other SteppingStone productions on the piano. And there will be a variety of "stinky" cheese for the audience to sample.(1 Comments)
Open Book cohabitants Milkweed Editions and Loft Literary Center collaborated to produce "Views from the Loft," a distillation of more than three decades of Loft newsletter essays and interviews.
For the past few years Loft Literary Center's Director Jocelyn Hale has wondered how best to celebrate the center's impending 35th anniversary. How to capture the creative writing, teaching and inspiration that happens in its classrooms, lectures and even hallway conversations?
It was while perusing the archives of the Loft's newsletter (titled "A View from the Loft") that she realized the center already had the makings of a great book, comprised of original essays by - and interviews with - some of the state's top writers, offering their thoughts on putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
For example, here's an excerpt of Sandra Benítez' essay for "A View from the Loft":
When I write, I touch the core of the girl I've always been, and with this heart I try to access mythic stories. When I write, I allow my mind to travel. Crossing time and space, I stand once again on the threshold of a Salvadoran hut. In my stories, I do not hold back. I step inside a simple hut and am surprised by tesoros [treasures]. ...Writing stories is the mirror that tells me who I am.
Hale approached her colleague - and Open Book cohabitant - Daniel Slager, Editor-in-Chief of Milkweed Editions about the idea of publishing an anthology. Slager immediately saw the appeal. On August 5th, Milkweed Editions will release the product of their collaboration, Views from the Loft: A Portable Writer's Workshop.
Hale says the book is for anyone who loves to read and aspires to write:
Many of the essays are very funny and so many musings about the writing process are applicable to all creative processes and life in general.
While Hale was not involved in the selection process (a diplomatic gesture), she admits she was particularly pleased to see the anthology starts off with Kate DiCamillos' "Comes a Pony" and includes Lewis Hyde's "A Tall White Pine: Thinking About Prophecy." There are also words of wisdom from Lorna Landvik, Pete Hautmann and J. Otis Powell! (FYI: the exclamation point is part of his name, not my personal commentary).
Hale says the book also marks a turning point in the life of the Loft's newsletter - one from physical to digital. The Loft continues to produce essays and articles in the View and on the Loft's Writers' Block blog on its website. But Hale admits to a sense of loss since ceasing to provide the View in print. She says the printed anthology is a book many in the literary community will treasure for years.
Starting July 19, the Hennepin County Library is offering e-books for download on its website.
To start, approximately 700 titles will be available for download to portable eBook readers or other electronic device. Those titles include nine of the top 10 titles on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list, Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books, and children's books by Kate DiCamillo.
According to Chair of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners Mike Opat, providing library books in a new format will encourage more kids and familis to read. It's also being done in response to customer requests.
While the "eBooks" can be downloaded byt he Sony Reader and the Barnes and Nobles' Nook, they are not compatible with either the Amazon Kindle or the Apple iPad.
People interested in downloading eBooks will need to provide their library card barcode number. Due to restrictions on the number of portable devices that can be supported by each computer, eBooks cannot be downloaded at a Hennepin County Library computer. Hennepin County Library is the first public library in the Twin Cities metro area to offer the format.
According to senior librarian Vicky Helgeson, the default loan period is 21 days, but patrons have the option of selecting a seven or 14-day loan period. Patrons also have the option of renewing their eBook loan. After the loan period expires, the patron will no longer be able to view the eBook content but will still need to delete the file from his or her computer.
A lot of people were disappointed when the Icelandic volcano put the kybosh on Alexander McCall Smith's visit to the Twin Cities recently - including the author himself.
"Vulcan, who is the god of volcanos, and who is actually in charge of these matters, was very inconsiderate," he told me recently. We were sitting in the book lined study in Edinburgh Scotland where he writes his very popular "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" novels - and four other series as well.
"It's bad enough to have unsettled economic circumstances, when you become geologically unsettled, that's piling...."
He then laughs and makes a reference to a geological phenomenon which this writer still trying to decipher.
It's a typical exchange with McCall Smith, who blends a gentle way with a story with deep erudition born of his past career as a Professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. He's set that aside now to focus full time on his writing.
"I'm told that I am breaking all known rules of publishing," he says. "I'm told that the general rule in publishing is that you write one book a year, and no more than that. Well we are breaking that I am afraid in that I am writing either four or five a year."
Along the way his books have gathered legions of fans, including the hundreds of people who bought tickets to hear him speak at the State Theater in Minneapolis in April. McCall Smith admits people get very attached to his books, and get worried by the thought that his output will dwindle or end.
"People write to me and they are quite direct. And they say: "Please don't die soon." That's a very nice sort of letter to get," he laughs.
There are plans to reschedule the cancelled tour, perhaps in September. although no details are available as yet, including whether there will be a Twin Cities date. McCall Smith says it's all up to his publicists in the US, but he like Minnesota, to the point that there is a character in the latest "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" book "The Double Comfort Safari Club" who is from St Paul.
You can hear more of our discussion on MPR's All Things Considered this evening.
Posted at 1:06 PM on May 31, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
The cover of Anthony Caponi's memoir "Voice from the mountains"
89 year-old sculptor Anthony Caponi, the founder of Caponi Art Park, has lived a life rich in both art and experience. Born in an Italian mountain village, Caponi immigrated as a teenager with his family to the United States, where he suffered all the struggle and wonder involved in making a new home. But just as soon as he started to feel at ease, he was enlisted in the army to fight in World War II, and was sent back to Italy, this time as "the enemy."
Caponi's memoir, "Voice from the Mountains" - reprinted this month in paperback - reads like a lyric poem, starting with his childhood in which he describes how it was the surrounding mountains that carved him into the man he has become, and continuing on to describe how he was torn by his love for two countries:
My home, on two continents,
My soul, tossing in mid-ocean,
My body, carried by the tides,
Landed ashore on the native soil.
On a ledge between two worlds,
Where plants lose their roots,
Where the sea discards its dead,
I stood on no-man's land
Between my double sorrows
Of leaving an dreturning.
A son, I departed,
Tripping sideways with each "Addio."
A soldier, I returned,
Transformed and reassembled
Into an army of thousands,
As an interchangeable segment
Of an armored millipede walking on many legs.
Caponi's memoir is remarkable on several fronts. First, in that it gives readers a window into the heart of a new immigrant, his love of "America" mixed in with all the frustrations and judgement he endured. Secondly, it lends both an artistic and philosophical voice to the horror of war, as experienced by a soldier. Finally, to read Caponi's account of his experience in war-time, both witnessing and suffering atrocities of all sorts, makes his life's work after the war that much more impressive.
Returning to the United States, Caponi came to Minnesota in 1946 to study at the Walker Art Center School and later at the University of Minnesota where he earned his Masters in Education. In 1949 he settled in Eagan, and worked for more than fourty years to realize his dream: a large outdoor sculpture park where anyone could walk and reflect on the natural beauty of the world alongside the art it inspires. Creative expression, Caponi believes, is an integral part of the well-being of both the individual and the community. Caponi writes:
My work with stone is not so much a choice as it is a realization of what I am, philosophically and physically. In this age of planned obsolescence, fickle ideals and cellophane expressions, I find it most appropriate that my sculptures should be of durable, resisting, elemental materials, as stone and steel. I want to wrestle with my work and caress it into its final form. I want to release my pent-up energy through hammer and chisel and the sweat of my body, until my spirit finds its calm, my mind its order and the work will have recorded in tangible forms the process of transforming frustration into a wholesome, satisfying expression.
Anthony Caponi's 60-acre art park, located in Eagan, is open to the public for visits May through October, six days a week. It is home also to theater and music performances. Caponi's memoir "Voice from the Mountains" was reprinted by Nodin Press. The memoir was originally published in 2002.
Open Book is the home of the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
This Saturday Open Book is celebrating its ten year anniversary as a center for the literary and book arts.
After watching the center grow and thrive over the past decade, the biggest surprise is that Open Book remains unique in the country for what it offers.
There are centers for the literary arts (that focus on reading and writing), and there are centers for the book arts (that teach printing and book-binding). And in the years since Open Book opened, its three tenants - Milkweed Editions, the Loft Literary Centery, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts - have fielded numerous inquiries from organizations seeking to bring the literary and book arts together under one roof in their own communities. Yet nothing has emerged from those initial conversations.
So what makes Open Book such a singular entity?
Milkweed Editions Editor Daniel Slager points to the then directors of the three non-profits who, more than a decade ago, realized together they could become something greater than the sum of their parts.
I think it's really a Minnesota story, in terms of the level of cooperation between the three organizations. I got a whiff of that when I first arrived [in 2005], but didn't really get it until a few years later. I feel such admiration for the visionaries who put this together in the first place.
Those three founders were Emilie Buchwald (Milkweed), Linda Myers (Loft) and Peggy Korsmo-Kennon (MCBA). While their vision was in part aspirational, it was also practical; they were facing increasing rents in their respective buildings, and wanted a permanent, sustainable home. Thus Open Book was born, located on a strip of Washington Avenue in Minneapolis that was known best for metrodome parking and the Liquor Depot.
Since the spring of 2000 a lot has changed both inside and outside the building.
Open Book is looked upon as a pioneer settler in what is now a cultural corridor, featuring the Guthrie Theater, the MacPhail Center for Music, the Mill City Museum, a farmers' market, several restaurants and upscale condominiums.
Open Book Board Chair Moira Turner says the vibrancy of the community is feeding right back into the health of Open Book:
The building is buzzing; ten thousand people a month come through the doors. I'm just amazed.
None of the three original founders remain, but the legacy of their work is evident. Loft Director Jocelyn Hale says what once seemed like an excessive amount of classroom space is now almost at capacity.
Working in this building is an absolute pleasure. And all the run-ins, the coincidences that happen because there's so much activity in this building - it's really enhanced our work.
Hale recently ran into Milkweed Editor Dan Slager in the hall, and started talking about the Loft's newsletter, which has been offering insights on the writing process for 35 years. Fast forward several months, and Milkweed is now working on publishing an anthology of "A View from the Loft."
Jeff Rathermel, Artistic Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, says he's enjoyed having the freedom of letting his shows bleed out into communal spaces:
Something that I've been able to do over the past six years, is look at the building itself as an exhibition space - moving it out into the building in general - lobby, literary commons, there are many more opportunities for artists to present their work.
Rathermel says he's also thrilled to see other organizations adopt Open Book as their home base for meetings and events.
As for Milkweed's Dan Slager, he says by being based in Open Book, Mildweed Editions is able to have a direct relationship with the community and many of its readers - something few publishers have.
Yet for all its success, one key component has yet to fall into place for the center: a bookstore.
Over the years the space next to the coffee shop has been occupied by Rosalux Gallery and Ruminator Books, but nothing lasted. Daniel Slager says he's eager to see a place on the first floor where people can buy Milkweed's work. While past efforts have failed, Slager thinks now may be the time to try again:
My own take is that the book store was a little ahead of its time with the neighborhood. Our area has changed, we've changed. We have a new opportunity to engage with a growing community here, and to establish not just a traditional bookstore, but books in all sorts of formats. It would have to be something beautiful, in line with the aethetics of the three organizations, but also innovate and forward looking.
A bookstore was just one of the ideas discussed as part of a recently developed five year strategic plan to further "open" Open Book. Other plans debated - and approved - include removing a wall on the first floor so that the MCBA's gallery is visible as soon as a patron walks in the door, and installing more outlets to accomodate all the laptops people bring with them. And this fall the Loft Literary Center will offer its first online writing class, for people who can't afford to commute into the Twin Cities week after week.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Slager thinks Open Book should work on raising its profile. While the individual non-profits have varying national reputations, the Open Book building does not. Considering its enduring singularity, and the community destination Open Book has created for book-lovers, it's time to spread the word.(1 Comments)
A recent report from the Center on Education Policy shows that boys across the nation lag behind girls when it comes to their reading skills. Over the years, that gap spreads, and many education researchers believe it's in direct corrolation to the declining numbers of boys enrolling in college.
So why aren't boys reading? And how do you inspire them to pick up a book?
That was the focus of this morning's conversation on Midmorning, which I had the pleasure of hosting (Kerri Miller had the day off). Teen lit author John Coy joined me in studio, while Professor John Chec, of the University of Florida, joined us by phone. Chec teaches children's literature, and has also served as the president of the Children's Literature Association. Coy has written several books aimed at young boys, including "Eyes on the Goal," "Crackback" and "Box Out."
One of the first revelations of the conversation was how the publishing industry helps perpetuate the problem by offering next to nothing for boys to read. The bookshelves for teens are dominate with fiction and fantasy aimed at girls. Girls (and women) are far more likely to spend their money on books, and so they get the bulk of the attention.
Secondly, boys are often embarassed to read aloud or discuss books in mixed company. Much success has been had with segregating reading groups by gender, so that boys can choose more action-oriented novels, and not fear what the girls will think when they speak up.
Also, there aren't many role models out there for male readers. Being bookish is for nerds, not the cool guys. The best inspiration for a young boy is a father or other male mentor who models reading as a cool thing to do. One caller said his father, whose eyesight was so poor he couldn't read, sat with him and they listened to audio books together, which then inspired the caller to check out books on his own.
For school teachers, there is the challenge of getting a boy interested in reading without getting in trouble with parents for recommending violent or "edgy" work. Professor Chec says edgy work is often the most compelling work, and no single book is going to destroy a boy's upbringing, so it's worth taking the risk. But still, librarians and school teachers may feel compelled to recommend the "safe" book in order to avoid controversy.
Finally both John Coy and Professor Chec agreed that there needs to be a broader definition of what qualifies as "reading." Families and teachers often place higher value on novels than they do on, say, a magazine about cars. But both are types of reading, and if the magazine inspires a boy to spend more time with the written word, it should be viewed as a valuable resource. As the boy grows up, it's likely his interests will expand, and the magazine will be replace by a manual, a biography or a novel.
Poet Theo Dorgan, winner of the 14th annual O'Shaughnessy award for poetry, bestowed by the University of St. Thomas.
Sitting in an MPR studio yesterday morning, poet Theo Dorgan jokingly grumbled that the O'Shaughnessy award is the only award for poets that comes with a week of hard labor.
Dorgan, the 14th recipient of the prestigious University of St. Thomas award, has been spending the week talking to students, speaking at the Minnesota Book Awards and, of course, visiting with the local media. He'll cap the week with a reading on the university's campus Friday night at 7:30pm.
While Dorgan is a native of Cork, Ireland, his work also speaks to a deep affinity for Greece (his most recent collection is titled "Greek"). Dorgan and I talked about his connection to the Greek Islands, his visit to Minnesota, and the role of the poet in political life, which you can listen to by clicking on the link below (note: the interview is 15 minutes long, and he has a lovely accent).
Listen to the interview with Irish poet Theo Dorgan:
A couple of Dorgan's remarks particularly stood out for me. One is the notion of how nations' cultures are in conversation with one another, and how that conversation is far more lasting and important than international politics:
You know, no country is properly represented by its professional, political class, or by its foreign policy. America is represented by its authors and its filmmakers and its musicians far more thoroughly and far more comprehensively. And it will be interesting to see in 20 or 30 years time when a cultural historian will look at transformations within Ireland and will, I think, be surprised by the extent to which it's influenced by that "greater" America.
Dorgan is former director of Poetry Ireland, an organization that fosters poetry throughout Ireland. He also is a member of the Irish academy of arts and letters, and serves on the Arts Council of Ireland. And he's a passionate editorialist, not known for pulling punches.
The poet Michael Hartnett, in a very prescient poem he wrote in about 1982, said "poets with progress will make no peace or pact/ the act of poetry is a rebel act." And I like that - the act of poetry is a rebel act. But at the same time we hold language in common with everyone - bus drivers and pediatricians, nursery workers and senatorial aids - we all have language in common and nobody owns it, so you have a duty to language to keep it clean and keep it clear.
Dorgan calls poets "the ecologists of language:"
You can't have a world where people bend a word like justice to mean "my justice" - there has to be a common understanding of what justice is. The word "honor" - we don't hear the word "honor" in a political context much, for very obvious reasons I suspect, but a poet can bring the word "honor" in to her poem and make us all think about it and say this word means something, it has a history, it has a value in both private and public discourse.
While Dorgan's editorials are pointed, his poetry is lyrical and romantic. Enjoy!
Listen to Theo Dorgan read his poem "The Backward Look"
Listen to Theo Dorgan read his poem "Me, John Wayne and the Delights of Lust"
The $5,000 O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, established in 1997, honors Irish poets. The award is named for Lawrence O'Shaughnessy, who taught English at St. Thomas from 1948 to 1950, formerly served on the university's board of trustees and is the retired head of the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Foundation.(1 Comments)
Tonight marked the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards. I just got back from the event, and thought you'd want to know the winners:
The Kay Sexton Award is bestowed on an individual or organization involved in fostering books, reading, and literary activity and for outstanding contributions to Minnesota's literary community. This year's winner is Carolyn Holbrook, a long-time advocate of arts in education. She founded the Whittier Writers' Workshop in 1981, was Program Director of the Loft Literary Center from 1989-1993 and founded SASE: The Write Place in 1993. Her work has been strongly focused on keeping the arts accessible and establishing links between various communities.
The award for "genre fiction" - given for crime, science fiction and other specific writing genres - went to David Housewright for his book Jelly's Gold, which follows a hunt for gold treasure that turns deadly.
Concordia College professor Joy K. Lintelman won the Minnesota Book Award for general nonfiction with her book I Go to America: Swedish American Women and the Life of Mina Anderson.
Kate DiCamillo was awarded the Young People's Lit prize for The Magician's Elephant which follows a young boys search for his sister, and a mysterious elephant's imagical arrival in town.
Joyce Sidman's Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors won the Children's Lit prize. This book describes the changing colors of the seasons with poems and vivid illustrations.Sidman says she thinks it might be Minnesota's long winters which make her appreciate colors all the more.
The award for poetry went to Jude Nutter for I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman in which Nutter revises Whitman's civil war poems using contemporary and female perspectives.
Wilber "Chip" Schilling, proprietor of Indulgence Press, received the Book Artist Award. The award recognizes a Minnesota book artist for excellence throughout a body of work, as well as significant contributions to Minnesota's book arts community.
Cary J. Griffith's account of Goliath's Cave in southeastern Minnesota, titled Opening Goliath: Danger and Discovery in Caving won the book award for work specific to the state of Minnesota.
The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn won in the category of memoir and creative non-fiction. It's the story of his journey to help an elderly Native American man discover what happened to his long lost sister. Nerburn brings light to the complicated friendship between a white American and a Lakota Indian, and a glimpse into the life and wisdom of a tribal elder.
The award for novel and short story went to Marlon James for The Book of Night Women. Set in James' native Jamaica, the book tells the story of Lilith, a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation who possesses a dark power, and the group of women who hope to use it to fuel a slave revolt
And the Readers' Choice Award, voted on by Pioneer Press readers, went to Honor Bright: A Century of Scouting in Northern Star Council by Dave Kenney. The book covers a century of Boy Scout history in central Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
In addition, the evening featured a talk and reading by Irish poet Theo Dorgan, who is in town to receive this year's O'Shaughnessy award from the University of St. Thomas.
Those gathered at the awards also paid tribute to Will Powers, the design and production manager at the Minnesota Historical Society Press, who died in August after devoting 50 years of his life to books.
Posted at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
If you live in the Twin Cities, a famous author could be coming to your neighborhood this summer.
Club Book, a new series funded by money from the Legacy Amendment, will bring the likes of Garrison Keillor, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Hampl and Kate DiCamillo to libraries in Chaska, Blaine, Stillwater and Apple Valley. The initial series of readings/discussions will take place from April to August. You can see the full list of authors here.
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (Image courtesy Music Box Films.)
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Repo Men" will pull in very different audiences, yet they share one thing: a story based on two people who have to deal with the moral challenges of their work together.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's hugely successful novel, the first in the Millenium trilogy. It's the story of a disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomquist who sets out to solve a 40 year old mystery, the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a 16-year-old member of a powerful family of industrialists. He's hired by Harriet's uncle who believes one of his close relatives killed the girl. Blomquist's efforts attract the attention of Lisbeth Salander, she of the tattoo, who is a brilliant but eccentric investigator. She is so successful because she is a hacker who has no qualms about diving into other people's hard drives. Salander is perhaps the most anticipated character in Scandinavia, and certainly amongst fans of the books.
"Repo Men" is a very bloody futuristic tale of a world where medicine can provide replacements for just about every human body part. That's the good news. The bad news is they are expensive devices, so expensive in fact that most people have to get them on a long term payment plan. If you don't pay, then the company sends the Repo Men to take back its property. Few patients survive the repossession. Jude Law plays Remy, a repo man who loves his work. His partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) loves what he does even more, even taking on extra repos on the weekend, much to the disgust of Remy's wife.
Things go well until Remy has an accident and wakes up with an artificial heart in his chest. He's suddenly on the other side of the fence, and sees things very differently as he struggles to pay his bills. In time he has to start worrying about whether Jake will hew to his mantra of 'a job is a job.'
The plot of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is known to many of the people who will see the film, and "Repo Men" plays out in relatively predictable ways. What makes them interesting is the relationship between the two central characters. In "Tattoo" Michael Nyquist and Noomi Rapace make for a compelling couple, in part because Rapace is wonderful at maintaining her character's glowering distance from Blomquist, even as they become physically entangled. The film explores themes of violence against women, and the ethics of modern journalism, and where to draw the line in dealing with the first and preserving the second.
Law and Whitaker also are the most compelling thing in their film, adding levity to what might be seen as a heavy-handed commentary on healthcare funding. They face their own moral dilemmas too, and if you can stomach the blood, there's some food for thought here too.
It'll never happen, but one has to wonder about how much fun it would be to have a post-screening discussion on morality, and whether ends justify the means, involving audience members from both of these movies.
"If you lived here... " is a collection of short stories published by "Replacement Press," a husband-wife publishing team based in St. Paul.
This is a big weekend for Andrew De Young. On Friday his publishing house "Replacement Press" launches its first book. And on Sunday, De Young turns 27.
De Young and his wife Sarah make up the entire staff of their publishing house, or should I say 'publishing apartment' since the entire operation is housed in their Highland neighborhood rental. De Young says his desire to start publishing grew out of his own concern for the industry.
You hear in the industry a lot of speculation: "Gen Y is not going to read." I felt personally about it because those are my people, and I'm invested in the future of books. But at the same time, I was realizing some things make the future brighter. There have been advances in technology - e-books, printing on demand - that make it easier for a diversity of voices to get into print. Now it's a possibility for a couple like my wife and I with a little bit of know-how to start a publishing company of our own.
By day De Young works as a project manager at Augsburg Fortress Publishers and his wife is a graphic designer at Riley Hayes Advertising. He works with text, while she works with layout and images (including their website).
It's pretty gutsy for a young couple to start up a new literary press in the same town that is home to Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions and Graywolf Press, three of the nations top five independent literary presses. But De Young looks to the publishing scenes on the east and west coasts, where little independent presses are popping up all the time.
It's daunting for us to be taking our place next to these three - and in some respects we'd never put our names next to theirs. It's humbling - we have nothing but love for them. We just want to do something that we're passionate about.
De Young says he and his wife are not trying to fill a void in the Twin Cities publishing scene. Instead they see themselves as 'the next guard,' forging a new literary culture that will eventually "replace" (hence the name) the writers and readers that keep the scene thriving today.
In that vein, John Jodzio is actually a little bit on the outside of the age range (read that "older") De Young was initially aiming for in his writers. But De Young says Jodzio is an emerging writer, and the book captures the voice of the audience he's trying to reach.
What speaks most to me is the characters' sense of disappointment - they're not where they expected to be. They're disappointed with the world as they find it. And I think that speaks to a lot of people right now. The voice is perfect, hardnosed, but with humor.
De Young doesn't really know who his audience will be - he just started selling books on Monday - so he's excited to see who will turn up at Friday's release at Magers and Quinn. De Young says his biggest fear is that the initial attention the press is getting will fade, and with it, so will book sales for Jodzio.
John is a really excellent writer and he took a risk on us. He didn't know if we were going to do right by him, and I think as far as the book is concerned, we did. But I really want to do right by him in terms of generating a lot of sales, support and exposure. I really want to launch his career.
As a young publisher, De Young does have a few things in his favor. Things like facebook and twitter are second nature to him, whereas they might seem like an added communications burden to folks who've already been in the business awhile. And financially Replacement Press can be pretty nimble.
We don't have to have a warehouse, spend as much on shipping, or deal with returns from bookstores. So while we're financing it out of our personal savings, we're not starving.
As such, De Young, says they're more likely to take chances on someone unknown who deserves to be discovered. He says ultimately he hopes to publish three or four books a year, but it will take some time for Replacement Press to build its capacity.
You can read an excerpt from John Jodzio's "If you lived here you'd already be home" at the Replacement Press website.(1 Comments)
"Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit seem mystified in Tim Burton's adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland." (Images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)
There's a danger in messing with childhood favorites, no matter how much they may deserve it. As Spike Jonze showed with "Where the Wild Things Are" it can work very effectively to take a beloved story and flesh it out in ways that add whole new dimensions.
However adding that flesh has to add muscle to a whole body. Tim Burton's adaptation tries to do this, but just succeeds in adding appendages which get in the way.
Burton's Alice is not a girl, but a 19-year-old, who is chafing against the plans the rest of the world has for her. When she discovers she is being railroaded into marriage with a chinless wonder of an aristocrat she bolts, chasing a white rabbit she's noticed running through the bushes.
Moments later she falls down a rabbit hole and her adventures begin
Or re-begin. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska (pictured here with Burton,) apparently has been here before, she just doesn't remember it. This isn't Wonderland, but Underland, a place which holds much more menace for someone with Alice's now adult understanding of the world. She meets Lewis Carroll's characters, many of them augmented with the wonders of modern CGI wizardry. Johnny Depp becomes an eye-bulging, fright-wig body-popper of a Mad Hatter, who is still keeping company with a tea-cup hurling March Hare, and a mildly homicidal Dormouse.
It is they who tell Alice how they are also struggling against the murderous Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) whose obsession with beheadings has the entire country trembling. Alice also learns she is the one who prophesy has anointed as their savior - if she is indeed 'the right Alice.'
Burton is exploring issues of growing up, responsibility, conspiracy theories and responsibility, yet the film doesn't add up, and lapses into a fantasy action film near the end.
You can't help but wonder if this movie had come out 6 months ago, before "Wild Things," before "Avatar," indeed before the whole new 3D revolution, whether this film might have sparkled. But it didn't, and despite some great performances from Depp, Bonham Carter, and Wasikowska, "Alice in Wonderland" just doesn't satisfy.
As ever we want to know, if you have seen the film, what did you think?(2 Comments)
Last night I had the honor of hosting "Literary Twin Cities," an event marking the milestone anniversaries of three local non-profit presses (Milkweed Editions, Graywolf and Coffee House Press) as well as the Loft Literary Center.
It's an occasion worth celebrating: those presses I mentioned make up three of the top five independent literary presses in the nation. Minneapolis and the Twin Cities as a whole have on multiple instances been cited as literary hubs in the country. Open Book, the home to both Milkweed and The Loft, was the first cultural institution to move into a previously downtrodden neighborhood, one that has since become a cultural corridor featuring the Guthrie Theater, MacPhail Center for Music and the Mill City Museum. As a center for the literary arts, it's the first of its kind.
Milkweed, Graywolf, Coffee House and The Loft are all just a part of a multi-layered dynamic literary scene that includes (but is not limited to) several fiercely independent bookstores (Macawbers, Magers and Quinn, Birch Bark Books and Common Good Books), SASE, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Rain Taxi Review and the Playwrights' Center. Then there's the number of writers and poets based here, as well as a strong network of public libraries.
Over the course of an hour we discussed not only what drew some publishers to move to the Twin Cities, but what it is about our local culture that has allowed the literary scene to thrive as well as it does. Is it the winters? The foundation support? Our level of education?
Coffee House Press founder Allan Kornblum said he was drawn to Minnesota by the "community spirit" (an early invitation to a Twin Cities book fair said "couches will be found for visiting publishers to sleep on" and proffered a celebratory dinner afterward).
Others agreed that community spirit, combined with strong education, philanthropic support and a cultural dedication to service all work together to create a dynamic literary scene.
But what about the future of publishing? All three literary presses are publishing e-books, which they say actually saves them money, and creates less "waste" (i.e. books that have no buyers). Their greatest concern is developping a generation of new young readers who enjoy not just pulp fiction, but literature.
Milkweed Editions is one of just two non-profit presses in the nation that publishes books for young readers, in part to provide an alternative to the mass-marketed fare that dominates bookstore shelves. CEO and Publisher Daniel Slager says that's in part to help develop young readers appetites for good quality literature.
What drives these non-profit presses is a desire to bring more diverse literature to the fore. The larger for-profit presses are motivated by the bottom line, which means they publish only those authors who have mass appeal. Non-profit presses nurture new voices, and translate foreign works we might never otherwise get to read.
Graywolf's Fiona McCrae said she's excited by some of the changes on the horizon of the publishing world. Already she's experienced how technology can help level the playing field between large and small presses. McCrae sees a new generation of young publishers getting in the business, and that's inspiring her to stay on top of her game.
Jocelyn Hale sees The Loft Literary Center as a bridge between the community and its non-profit presses. She said the mission of The Loft is to to support the development of writers, to foster a writing community, and to build an audience for literature. All of that in turn creates both a pool of potential authors for these presses, as well as informed and appreciative readership.
Author Maaza Mengiste left Ethiopia when she was about 4 years old.
It was two years after the revolution which brought down Emperor Hailie Selassie, who many Ethiopians believed was a direct descendant of King Solomon.
The Derg, the military junta which rose to power ruled ruthlessly, killing countless people along the way.
Such was the trauma of those days, and the change in her life when she arrived in the USA soon after, Mengiste remembers parts of her life in Ethiopia quite vividly. Those memories stayed with her as she grew older, and eventually she realized she needed to find out more if only to put them in some sort of context.
In time she began to write a novel about those troubled times. She began about five years ago when she was a graduate student. Not having a proper place to write, she set herself up in that great haven of writers everywhere, the local coffee shop.
"They were great," she laughs, "They used to give me free coffee."
Yet Mengiste soon ran into a problem. As she began writing about the violence which rained down on Ethiopians during and after the revolution she found it hard to handle. Several times she bust into tears as she sat tapping words into her laptop.
"People thought I was crazy," she says. She eventually realized she couldn't keep writing the way she was going, and invested in a desk she could use at home.
This solved the problem of disturbing the coffee drinkers, but it didn't make writing some of the story any easier. Her finished novel, "Beneath the Lion's Gaze" tells the story of a family living through the revolution, and some of the people around them. Several of them have very close encounters with the brutal agents of the new regime.
She says after writing some of those passages she had to set them aside and not get back to them for weeks because she found the stories so traumatic even though they were fiction.
The novel is now out to critical acclaim, and it has been warmly received in the Ethiopian community. She says that has been a humbling experience, but she feels honored that many people who lived through those dark days have greeted her book so warmly.
She says she hopes it comes through as a tribute to the power of the human spirit just to continue in the face of overwhelming horror.
You can hear an interview with Maaza Mengiste this evening on the local segments of All Things Considered, with a reading and a longer excerpt online too(2 Comments)
Posted at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Books
With all the end of the decade lists going around (even if it isn't really the end of the decade) one list that caught my eye is in the Guardian newspaper in the UK about the top selling authors of the last 10 years.
These are British sales of course, and so bear the strange quirks and biases of my homeland, but there are some interesting things to be gleaned.
Not surprisingly J.K. Rowling came in far and away the top earner, selling double the number of copies of her nearest challenger. However that challenger was not some high-brow member of the literati, but Roger Hargreaves, who writes extremely the popular "Mr Men" books, aimed at pre-kindergarteners. Indeed many of the top sellers write for children, or wrote as Enid Blyton, who was a top seller when I was devouring her books as a lad, has been dead for 40 years. Shakespeare makes the list too, although way down at 45, 10 below Lemony Snicket. (A.A. Milne, Charles Dickens and Tolkien, make the top 100.)
Surprising entries near the top (although not when you think about it) are the cooks: Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson. and Gordon Ramsey.
William Shakespeare finger puppets and business strategies gleened from his plays, on sale at 'Play by Play' bookstore in St. Paul.
Kelly Schaub has worked on the administrative side of various Twin Cities theaters for over a decade. She says she kept wondering why, in such a thriving theater town, there wasn't a better resource for finding plays and reference materials; most directors and dramaturgs mail order their plays from New York or L.A.
Finally Schaub decided if no one else would offer books for the theater community, she would. And thus "Play by Play" was born. The cozy shop is located on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, not far from a couple of restaurants and several antique shops. While it's grand opening will take place sometime in January, it's already open for visits and events. This coming Monday, Play by Play will host a reception for Sonya Berlovitz, the costume designer whose artwork currently graces the walls. So far the store mainly features used or out-of-print books, but Schaub plans to gradually focus more on new works.
Kelly Schaub in her new bookstore "Play by Play." On the wall behind her are designs for stage costumes by local artist Sonya Berlovitz.
You might think commone sense would dissuade anyone from opening up an independent bookstore in this economy. But Schaub says working for theater companies has taught her to be comfortable with the financial risk. Plus, she says, online shopping doesn't really cut it for people in search of a good play.
If you're going to direct a play and it's not something that you've seen or read before, how do you tell by the one paragraph description [online] if that's the play you want to direct, or if those are characters that you're going to care about? You need a physical store to do that.
On the day I stopped by to check out Play by Play, so did playwright Barbara Field. Field is probably best known in the Twin Cities for her adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater. Field says she was disappointed when the new Guthrie opened, boasting eleven bars, but no bookstore.
The fact that this is suddenly here now, excites me. For people in the art, we need to run into a place we know will have what we're looking for. I just bought a copy of "Ruined" by Lynn Nottage; I would have had to send away probably to the drama bookstore in New York.
While Play by Play is billed as a "theatre bookstore," Schaub is quick to point out that she's working on stocking her shelves with books on all the performing arts: dance, opera, film, and more. She also offers free coffee and wifi, and comfortable nooks for reading or meeting friends. She says her goals for the bookstore are similar to those of a non-profit.
If I can help the theater community, help build it and help bring people together... then I'm going to feel like it's a success.
Schaub says she hopes the store will become a resource not only for performers, but for students and for lovers of the arts.
"Play by Play" bookstore is located at 1771 Selby Avenue in St. Paul.(1 Comments)
The New Zealand Book Council clearly has no interest in those who claim the days of the book are numbered. The council is going to the mat with this TV spot. (Click on the box to the right of the volume control at the bottom to make it full-screen.)
While there is always danger in doing what amounts to readers work for them, this packs a punch.
Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in "The Road" (Image courtesy Dimension Films
There are weeks when the movie theaters seem filled with visions of a post-apocalyptic world, the likes of "Zombieland" and "2012." But few pack the punch of John Hillcoat's "The Road."
The blogosphere has been full of questions as to whether he could capture Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of a father and young son's determined march through a ravaged America. The simple answer is he has done a remarkable job.
The story is set several years after the world has been devastated by earthquake and climate change.
With animal life pretty much wiped out, and farming impossible, the remaining humans are left to scavenge for ever-dwindling supplies of food. Some have turned to cannibalism. This is truly the Hobbesian world, where life is nasty brutish and short.
The unnamed Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) live in constant fear as they push a supermarket trolley loaded with their possessions across the country. They are headed for the ocean, believing that if they get there life will be better.
Yet they are always prepared for the worst. The Man carries a pistol with two bullets, which he has told the Boy are meant first and foremost for taking their own lives should the need arise.
Travelling the road they talk about right and wrong, bolstering each other to survive, and to live as 'good guys,' a code which gives them a glimmer of hope in a hopeless world.
Mortensen and Smit-McPhee are both dead-on in their portrayals. Mortensen carries himself with the look of someone who has to dig to the bottom of his soul each day to go on, but will not give up because of his son. On the other hand Smit-McPhee's open earnestness, which occasionally slips to reveal the youngster still surviving inside is gripping to watch.
"Are we still the good guys?" asks the Boy after they survive a violent confrontation with marauders.
"And always will be, no matter what happens," replies the Man.
As the story progresses, the important subtleties of their relationship emerge. The Man provides protection and wisdom for the Boy. Yet it is the Boy who provides the pair their real strength, demanding that they live up to their ideals even in the face of bleak reality.
Along the way they meet others who test their humanity. They have to dodge terrifying groups of armed men and women who have crossed the line into murder for food.
Mainly there are just loners scrabbling to get by themselves. Michael K Williams, the fearsome Omar Little of "The Wire" appears as a thief. And there is Eli, an elderly invalid, they pass one day. The Man wants to ignore him, but the Boy insists they share some food.
As they eat the Man asks Eli (Robert Duvall) "Did you ever wish you would die?"
"It is foolish to wish for luxuries in times like these" he replies.
Ultimately "The Road" is about hope, and how little you need to keep going.
It can be argued that Hillcoat's "The Road" is slightly less bleak than the McCarthy novel, although it is by a very small measure. And opening as it does the day before Thanksgiving it will no doubt make many of us realize just how much we have for which to be grateful.
Posted at 5:31 PM on November 13, 2009
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
Illustration by Barbara Knutson from "Love and Roast Chicken"
The University of Minnesota is celebrating 60th anniversary of it's collection of children's books with an exhibition. The Kerlan Collection contains more than 100,000 children's books as well as original manuscripts and artwork for an additional 12,000 children's books.
|Gustaf Tenggren illustration for "Saggy Baggy Elephant"|
The Kerlan Collection was established in the 1940's by University of Minnesota alumnus Dr. Irvin Kerlan (1912-1963). Dr. Kerlan was a researcher for the U.S. FDA who collected rare books as a hobby. Soon his interest focused on children's books.
Dr. Kerlan organized exhibitions and shipped them to libraries and art galleries in North America, Europe, and the Far East. In 1949, he made arrangements with the University of Minnesota, his Alma Mater, to provide a permanent home for his collection. Since then, the University of Minnesota libraries have supervised the collection's development.
Tomie dePaola's illustration for "Shhh! We're Writing the Constitution!"
The University is marking the exhibition's opening with a talk Sunday afternoon by Children's literature critic Leonard S. Marcus. The talk is free and open to the public.
Featured in the exhibit will be materials from notable children's and young adult literature authors and illustrators, including "Goodnight Moon" illustrator Clement Hurd; National Book Award finalist Walter Dean Myers; Newbery Medal winners Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Paterson, and Lois Lowry; and Caldecott Medal winners Stephen Gammell and Chris Van Allsburg.
The exhibit will be open to the public through Thursday, Dec. 31; exhibit hours and directions to Andersen Library can be found here.
Wanda Gag's illustration for "Frog Prince"
Jason Reitman says as the son of "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman he felt uncomfortable about following his father's footsteps into the film business.
"Right when I got to college I started getting nervous that I shouldn't be a director," he said today during a visit to the MPR studios.
"I was well aware about the presumptions about the children of famous people, that if you are the son of a famous film director, most likely you are a spoiled brat, you have no talent, and more than likely you have an alcohol or drug problem. And I thought why go into a career where these are the presumptions going in? Best case scenario I live in my father's shadow. Worst case scenario I fail on a very public level."
So he went to college as a pre-med student.
Then his father stepped in.
"He's the first Jewish dad in the history of Jewish dads to tell their son 'Don't be a doctor. Be a film maker,'" Reitman smiled.
It turned out Ivan Reitman was following in his own father's footsteps who had advised him against sinking money into a submarine sandwich shop he was considering.
"There's not enough magic in it for you," Jason Reitman says quoting his grandfather. Ivan Reitman, who was a music major who ran a film club, began developing his interest in movies and eventually became a hugely successful director. He told Jason that he would be immensely proud of him if he did decide to be a physician.
"But," says Jason, now quoting his father,"'There's not enough magic in it for you. You have to follow your heart. You have to be a storyteller.'"
Three days later Jason Reitman was out of his pre-med classes in New York, and talking his way into English classes at USC in Los Angeles. He made short films, and in time was able to parlay that into feature films.
First there was "Thank you for smoking," which was funded by David Sacks, one of the guys who had just sold PayPal to eBay, and had some money to invest in a film as a result.
"I've been accused my entire life of having a career that undoubtedly came from nepotism," Reitman laughs. "And nepotism didn't deliver. It was supposed to bring me a career and it didn't work! Come on nepotism! It ended up being an internet millionaire from San Francisco who started my career."
Then came his meeting with Diablo Cody.
"I remember being very intimidated to meet her. She's covered in tattoos, and she's kind of hyper-cool. And I'm the last thing from that," he said. "I just kind of fell in love with her because she is just so funny and so direct. Her ability to come up with clever dialog in the moment was unmatched by anyone I've ever met."
That meeting resulted in "Juno," and a shower of Oscars.
Now Reitman is publicizing "Up in the Air," a dark comedy about a man who makes his living travelling the country firing people, starring George Clooney. It's based on a Walter Kirn novel
When asked about his apparent attraction to writers with Minnesota ties he responded "I really should live here. I don't know why have been avoiding this so long. I seem to be a natural. Maybe it's because I'm Canadian."
In all seriousness though he says he learned a lot about the trauma many people are going through as a result of the losing their jobs.
"Of the 27 people fired in "Up in the Air," 22 of them are real people who actually just lost their jobs. They are not actors," Reitman says. The film makers recruited the people through a newspaper ad, and then had them come in to be interviewed and then fired again on camera.
It's a tough sequence to watch. Reitman says he had assumed that the worst thing about being fired was the loss of income.
"But it wasn't that. It was actually a loss of purpose. The question they would ask was 'I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Where am I supposed to go after this interview? I get in my car but I don't have anywhere I'm supposed to be."
The film doesn't fit easily into categories. It's funny in parts, and quite dark in others.
On that note, it's intriguing to take a look at the two trailers for the film available one line. The first one focuses much more on the tougher edge of "Up in the Air."
The second, which is in theaters at present is much lighter, although you can still see the edge.
"Up in the Air" opens in the Twin Cities on December 4th. We'll air the interview closer to that time.
George Clooney (left) and Jeff Bridges star in the new film adaptation of Jon Ronson's book "The Men Who Stare at Goats." (Image courtesy Overture Films)
Jon Ronson says initially it didn't occur to anyone that there was an irony in hiring Star Wars star Ewan McGregor to play a role in "The Men Who Stare at Goats."
The movie is based on Ronson's non-fictional account of efforts within the US military to train soldiers to develop paranormal powers and become what the military called Jedi warriors.
"Nobody had sussed it out," Ronson said to me during a phone interview today. "Only after Ewan had been offered the role did he mention it. Total coincidence. May God strike me down if I am lying," he laughed, and then quickly admitted he doesn't believe in God.
It's just one of the many strange things about Ronson's story. He is a writer and documentary maker who began his explorations into the psychic soldiers shortly after 9/11 when he ran into the infamous silverware bender Uri Geller who had long claimed to be a psychic spy.
When Ronson asked him about it, Geller would only say a) that he had been 're-activated' and b) he would deny making his first statement if Ronson told anyone.
This set Ronson off on a series of adventures meeting some of the people who had tried to do such things as pass through walls, make clouds disperse, make people forget about what they were thinking (especially if that thought was about killing you,) and yes, trying to kill goats, and possibly people, by staring at them.
Ronson knows people will be skeptical about the story. "My own skepticism is utterly intact," he says. "I firmly believe that all the things I say happened in the book did happen, but what I don't believe for a second was that any of this paranormal stuff actually worked."
Such was his confidence in this he actually submitted to being a subject by one of the 'goat-starers.' The man said he would enter Ronson's mind and make him so fearful that when he touched him Ronson would fly across the room.
"And indeed that's what he did," Ronson says.
However on reviewing the videotape he had made of the interaction Ronson saw something different happening. He described the soldier in question as 'an enormous Special Forces martial arts trainer.' he describes himself as being quite small. On the tape he saw that the soldier actually hit him quite hard and it wasn't surprising he flew through the air.
"It was an interesting lesson in a kind of pragmatic application of paranormal techniques, which was basically freak somebody out and they will be debilitated and you'll be able to have your way with them," he says.
The movie based on Ronson's book opens with a declaration "More of this is true than you would believe." The film takes Ronson's true tales of paranormal experimentation and builds a fictional story of a mildly hapless journalist Bob Wilton (McGregor) who stumbles across the remnants of a disbanded supersecret psychic soldier group, including Lyn Casady (George Clooney) who takes him into Iraq. Along the way Casady relates the history of the First Earth Battalion and its founder Bill Django (Jeff Bridges.) Things don't go terribly well, all in all.
Ronson says he was advised by his friend Nick Hornby that he should just relax and not worry about the whole film making process. He decided to just enjoy the adventure.
"I think they have made a really nice film," he said. "It's a very sweet, funny warm film that I think people will engage with. Even though my book is quite dark, the film is light. And I think that is fine."
"Because I am such a sceptic, I don't believe for a second that people could actually have these paranormal powers, " he continued. "But I loved that the movie toyed with it: that you don't really know at the beginning of the movie whether its going to change into a kind of X-Men and these people will have these amazing powers and they kind of toy with that possibility in a very funny engaging way."
The movie opens this weekend across the country, and anyone eager for a brush with stardom can meet one of the goats used in the film at the Mall of America this evening. Word is you can try to 'drop the goat' yourself if you are so inclined.
But Jon Ronson isn't holding his breath.
Posted at 8:24 PM on October 28, 2009
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
In the fast moving world of publishing, Coffee House Press has adapted to the digital age while still remaining true to its original artistic vision.
Coffee House Press is on the eve ofcelebrating its 25th anniversary as an independent publishing house. Just making it this far is quite an accomplishment; senior editor Chris Fischbach can count on his hand the number of other independent presses that have lasted this long (two of the other top independent literary presses in the nation are based in Minnesota - more on that in a bit). But Coffee House Press has not just survived - it's doing well.
Fischbach credits CHP's success in part to technology:
The internet has allowed us to reach more people and tell them about our books. In some ways the internet levels the playing field. Our books are on Amazon in the same way more or less that a big house's books are.
While the financial crash that occurred in the wake of 9/11 has had a lasting effect on publishing houses, CHP has managed to end the last few years in the black, and in this past year has been able to erase its deficit, thanks to a bestseller (Sam Savage's book "Firmin").
Fischbach says the press is poised to get even stronger in the coming years. It's just received a Bush Foundation grant which will allow it to both revamp its website and work with a distributor to release its books as "e-books" available for download.
Coffee House Press associate publisher Chris Fischbach
Fischbach says the key to Coffee House Press' long term success has been a combination of staying true to its vision (strong design, new voices and compelling stories) while remaining nimble when it comes to new means of doing business.
Our primary focus now and in the foreseeable future is the printed book, and the other things are extra experiences around the book, such as author interviews on the website, podcasts,etc.
Coffee House Press founder and publisher Allan Kornblum has been both savvy and pragmatic in his running of his company. While he still prints broadsides (limited edition prints that usually draw from CHP authors or poets), he was quick to embrace computers. And now he's gradually transferring the running of the press to Fischbach.
Coffee House Press publisher Allan Kornblum stands next to a Gem paper cutter, a stack of broadsides in his arms.
Fischbach says while he doesn't expect e-books to be a significant part of CHP's revenue for years to come, he does imagine that changing reader habits will force the literary industry to evolve. He imagines in decades to come the printed book will become more rare, and as a result, more precious:
Publishers like us have an opportunity to further establish [printed books] as objects of worth. We're showing the work respect, by giving it a design that's worthy of the content. And that's what we want to do going forward, wherever the book goes.
Coffee House Press is not the only Minnesota publishing house to celebrate a major anniversary this year. Milkweed Editions turns 30, and Graywolf Press turns 35. The three are co-celebrating their anniversaries with a literary scavenger hunt.
Okay, the comparative literature geek in me thinks this is just brilliant. This month the Hennepin County Library is hosting two "literary smackdowns" in which teams of teenagers will debate and defend their favorite fantasy series/publishing & film phenoms -- Harry Potter or Twilight. The audiences will pick the winning team. And of course, teens are encouraged to wear costumes supporting their favorite characters. The public debates take place on October 20 at Central Library and October 27 at Ridgedale Library in Minnetonka.
Either way, Robert Pattinson wins, doesn't he?(1 Comments)
Just a reminder - the Twin Cities Book Festival takes place tomorrow at Minneapolis Community & Technical College from 10am - 5pm. If you're at all bookish, this event is for you, featuring author talks, a storytelling circle for kids, and lots of books and literary magazines for sale. For more information on the featured authors, see my previous write-up here.
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recounts her own experience growing up with "single stories" - in other words believing there is one truth, instead of many truths. The daughter of college educated parents, she grew up reading American and European novels. The result? When she started writing her own stories, they featured characters with white skin and blue eyes who ate apples and played in the snow. Adichie didn't know her own story was a valid one to tell.
In the United States, Adichie encounters people who have their own "single stories" when it comes to life on the African continent. How does she know how to speak English so well? One student, after having read one of Adichie's novels, expresses sadness that African fathers are so abusive to their children. Adichie retorts that she just finished reading "American Psycho" and isn't it a shame all young men are mass murderers?
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete...The consequence of the single story is this - it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
Adichie argues eloquently for the importance of having a diversity of stories, and for readers to never assume that the story they read is the "single story."
Posted at 6:11 PM on October 6, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Books
"Wolf Hall" which was the hot favorite to win this years Booker Prize took the prestigious award in London this evening.
Hilary Mantel's novel of Tudor intrigue doesn't go on sale in the US until October 13th, but winning the Booker all but guarantees major sales here, and across the world.
"Wolf Hall" beat novels from double Booker winner J.M. Coetzee, past winner A.S. Byatt, and bestseller Sarah Waters.
Being the favorite has been an impediment for some books in the past, as the decision is made just hours before the announcement, and some judges have apparently not taken kindly to the odds being placed at the bookies. (Turf accountants as they are known in the UK don't limit betting to the horses, and are willing to take bets on just about anything.)
As in years past the Guardian newspaper has provided excellent coverage of the final decisions which you can read here. And if you don't have time to read all the books the Guardian also provides a tongue-in-cheek digest of all the finalists here.
A friend of mine recently convinced me to check out Shelfari, the website for book lovers. Shelfari was inspired by the simple pleasure of perusing your friends' bookshelves. The website allows you to do this virtually, so you're not limited to what they own. You can see what they've read, what they're currently reading, and what's on their "to read" list.
The site is also incredibly useful to people who want to chart their progress on their own reading lists, or who are interested in seeing just how well-read they are. Readers can post reviews about a book, or partake in an online discussion.
There are a couple of downsides to the site: there are many different listings for the same title - one for each edition. This can make navigating what you have and haven't read tedious (I know I've already clicked on Wuthering Heights three times!). The site also requires a pretty steep initial time investment, as you try to remember just how many of those classics you read in high school and college.
Have you tried Shelfari out? If so, what do you think? Any tricks or features I should know about?
Posted at 6:04 PM on September 8, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Books
The simple story behind National Book Award-winner Pete Hautman's new novel is a teenage girl just told him what she wanted to read.
He was with a group of teens, trying to divine their reading tastes.
"And there were all kinds of different answers: 'I like to read girlie books,' or 'I like books about dragons,' or about vampires or whatever," Hautman says.
However he says he was stopped short by a young woman who made a simple statement.
"She said, 'I'm 14 and my life is really boring and I just want to read about a girl like me who goes out and steals a car.' And there was like a flash in my head," Hautman says. "This is bringing the teen reading experience down to its most basic element. They want to know what it is like. They want to know know what everything is like, even things they never expect to do or hope never to do. They want to know what it is like to battle a dragon. And reading brings this to them. So I wanted to write a book that was about that."
And that's how "How to Steal a Car" came to be.
Of course Hautman's tale about Kelleigh, a 15 year old Twin Cities girl is a lot more complicated than a single car boosting.
Hautman takes Kelleigh through a series of adventures over the course of a summer. She learns a lot about car theft, but she also learns a great deal about friends and friendship.
"Friendships that are made in childhood don't need to be based on anything other than proximity," says Hautman. "But as we grow older and a person develops more interests, the interests diverge and it tears friendships apart. And that's part of what Kelleigh is experiencing. She's entering a larger world, but she hasn't found it yet."
Now it's "How to Steal A Car" which is entering a larger world. Hautman says most of the reviews he's seen so far are from adults, as they are the people who get advance copies. Now he's waiting to see what his teen readers will say.
He has a couple of readings coming up, which may attract different readerships. He's be at the Red Balloon bookshop in St Paul on Friday September 18th, and then at "Once Upon a Crime" in Minneapolis on Saturday September 26th.
We'll have him on the air at MPR early next week.
When it comes to the "going green" movement, Elizabeth Kolbert thinks so, and she writes about it in the New Yorker.
Kolbert takes issue with the spate of books in which people document their attempts at voluntary simplicity. A few examples from the genre:
In "No Impact Man," author Colin Beavan lives with out electricity, a car, and even toilet paper in New York City, as he seeks to reduce his carbon footrpint over the course of a year.
In "Farm City" Novella Carpenter documents her attempts at keeping a farm in the middle of downtown Oakland and ultimately attempts to survive eating only from her urban lot for a month.
And in "Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 mile diet," Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon attempt to source everything they eat within 100 miles of their Vancouver home.
So what's wrong with inspiring others through example? Kolbert argues that these are merely stunts. She says they are the modern equivalent of Henry David Thoreau's time on Walden Pond, aimed, just like Thoreau's, at selling books.
The nouveau Thoreauvians have picked up from "Walden" its dramaturgy of austerity. Their schemes require them to renounce (if only temporarily) various material comforts--cars, elevators, Starbucks--that their neighbors take for granted. Renunciation sets them apart and organizes their lives in the name of some higher purpose. The trouble--or, at least, a trouble--is that it's hard to say exactly what that purpose is.
Kolbert goes on to say that each of these books comes with a structure it must adhere to - a month or a year of making no carbon impact, eating from your yard, or eating locally. The problem is that these conceits drive the authors to do things that make no sense. The authors of "Plenty" end up making a 12 hour journey to the sea to harvest their own salt. Colin Beavan turns off his radiators, and lives off the residual warmth from his neighbors' apartments. What's the point? According to Elizabeth Kolbert, "The real work of "saving the world" goes way beyond the sorts of action that "No Impact Man" is all about."
What's required is perhaps a sequel. In one chapter, Beavan could take the elevator to visit other families in his apartment building. He could talk to them about how they all need to work together to install a more efficient heating system. In another, he could ride the subway to Penn Station and then get on a train to Albany. Once there, he could lobby state lawmakers for better mass transit. In a third chapter, Beavan could devote his blog to pushing for a carbon tax. Here's a possible title for the book: "Impact Man."
However what Kaiser fails to address is the impact of each of these authors' books. While standards are being put in place for the energy efficiency of buildings, and the fuel efficiency of cars, it's much more difficult to legislate an individual's consumption. No one likes being told what they can and cannot do. So if one person's actions manage to inspire 500 or 1000 or maybe even 10000 others to take steps to consume less, who's to say they didn't make a difference?
The other frustration in all these attempts to "go green" is the math. People are constantly trying to calculate their impact, but it's almost impossible to do.
For instance, these environmental authors, for all their good intentions, are sending millions of people to websites, selling hundreds of thousands of books, and are each engaged in national book tours involving numerous plane flights and time on the road. How can they possible figure out whether they've done more good than harm?
How can any of us, really?(1 Comments)
It's called Replacement Press and its goal is to publish "culturally engaged fiction by new and emerging writers."
Replacement Press is out to discover the "voices of a new generation" but is not giving that generation any age limits. Instead the founders, Andrew and Sarah De Young, say it's about a fresh voice and a new perspective.
What we're looking for are stories that place their characters in a dynamic social setting. Make connections between the personal and the communal, find that place where individual lives collide with the wider world around them, and then live in that space.
Currently, Replacement Press is accepting submissions and plans to release its first book in Winter 2009. In the meantime, the De Youngs say they want to start a conversation on the future of literary publishing. That shouldn't be a problem, since the Twin Cities are already home to several nationally recognized literary presses: Graywolf, Milkweed Editions, and CoffeeHouse Press.(1 Comments)
Each year the Rain Taxi Review of Books organizes the Twin Cities Book Festival. This year the festival takes place on October 10 from 10am-5pm on the campus of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College in downtown Minneapolis.
The day long event features, amongst many other things, readings and talks by acclaimed authors. This year ten authors will talk about their most recent works, covering not just fiction and poetry, but pop culture, nature and food.
Here's the complete list, from the press release:
Award-winning novelists who inspire, challenge, and entertain:
NICHOLSON BAKER is the author of a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels The Mezzanine and Vox. He has loudly campaigned against the destruction of printed matter in the digital age, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his book on the topic, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. His new novel, The Anthologist, is narrated by a little-known poet; in this and throughout his work, Baker is a champion of things otherwise unsung, like elevators and the word "lumber."
ROBERT OLEN BUTLER is the author of sixteen novels and short story collections, a book on the creative process, and several plays and screenplays. His work has been honored with Pulitzer Prize, among many other accolades. He has, at various points, worked as a translator, counter-intelligence officer, editor, and professor. His newest novel, Hell, allows the ever-inventive Butler to cast many surprising historical and contemporary characters down into the underworld.
LORRIE MOORE is the author of three short story collections and three novels, the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim, Lannan, and Rockefeller Foundations, and the winner of the Rae Award for the Short Story and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. A Gate at the Stairs, her newest novel and her first book since 1998's acclaimed Birds of America, is an ambitious and visceral examination of racism, war, young love, and employment as a part-time nanny.
Celebrated poets from different countries and different aesthetics:
Acclaimed poet, novelist, and essayist ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI is one of Poland's most famous literary figures, and his talent has influenced many English-speaking poets as well. In addition to such acclaimed poetry volumes such as World Without End, Mysticism for Beginners, and Canvas, he has also published the memoir Another Beauty and two prose collections. His newest volume of verse, Eternal Enemies, came out earlier this year.
The sound poet CHRISTIAN BÖK can read very fast. He can willingly enslave himself to the tyranny of a single vowel. He can build books out of toys. He can create and translate alien languages, having worked as a xenolinguist for Gene Roddenberry and Peter Benchley. And his Eunoia--the single bestselling Canadian poetry book of all time--won the Griffin Poetry Prize and is newly released here in the states. Listen carefully...
Acclaimed writers on the art and beauty of the everyday:
DIANE ACKERMAN is a poet, essayist, naturalist, and the author of two dozen works of nonfiction and poetry. She is the recipient of the Orion Book Award, the John Burroughs Nature Award, the Lavan Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. (Fun fact: the molecule dianeackerone, a sex pheromone in crocodilians, is named after her.) Her most recent work of literary naturalism, Dawn Light, explores what life is up to when the sun comes up.
RUTH REICHL has been writing about food since the book Mmmmmmmm: A Feastiary in 1972. Her acclaimed food memoirs now include Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires. The recipient of numerous awards, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times and is now Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine; her books for them include The Gourmet Cookbook and the newly released Gourmet Today.
Wildlife artist DAVID ALLEN SIBLEY started birding at the age of seven. He is now the author and illustrator of more than a dozen acclaimed books and field guides on American avian life, including the fastest selling bird book of all time, The Sibley Guide to Birds. Lightning is bound to strike twice with the soon-to-be-released Sibley Guide to Trees. Mr. Sibley will give a visual presentation on how he researches and illustrates these amazing books.
And pop culture experts on comics and geekdom:
GABRIELLE BELL was born in England, raised in California, and currently resides in Brooklyn. Not ten years ago she was self-publishing her own mini-comics; since the turn of the century she has published the acclaimed autobiographical work Lucky, placed her work twice in the Best American Comics series, and appeared in the prestigious Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction. Her newest collection, Cecil and Jordan in New York, includes a story that Bell and noted film director Michel Gondry adapted for Gondry's latest film, Tokyo!
ETHAN GILSDORF's book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks is a travel-memoir quest that explains and celebrates fantasy and gaming subcultures, whether inspired by fictions like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, or by role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft. Gilsdorf will introduce some of the characters he encountered in his journeys across this world and other worlds; he will then invite audience members to share their "geekiest moment" onstage. PS: the audience is also encouraged to attend in costume--prizes will be awarded!
Carolyn Pool and Shanan Wexler rehearse their show "2 Sugars, Room for Cream" for the Minnesota Fringe.(Picture Euan Kerr)
The summer arts scene explodes tonight with the opening of the Minnesota Fringe. Fringe Executive Director Robin Gillette can provide the numbers off the top of her head.
"There are 162 different companies, doing a total of 847 performances," she says.
Other important numbers: 11 days, 22 venues (including one in St Paul!) We'll have a piece on the air later today on ATC.
Also how about some laugh-out-loud cinematic satire? Armando Iannucci's "In the Loop," (not to be confused, as some have, with the fine MPR podcast of the same name,) pokes fun at the political relationship between the US and the UK in the fun-up to an invasion of an un-named Middle Eastern country. The film opened to strong reviews on the coasts last week and now comes to the Twin Cities.
The readings at local bookstores are always of interest to the MPR newsroom, because it allows tremendous access to writers who have interesting things to say. Case in point is next Tuesday evening Common Good Books in Cathedral Hill in St Paul is hosting a reading by retired Macalester professor Mahmoud El-Kati of his new book "The Hiptionary: A Survey of African American Speech Patterns with A Digest of Key Words and Phrases." It's a fascinating work on the origins and usage of words and phrases, backed with history and insight.
Posted at 12:29 PM on July 21, 2009
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Books
One of the great joys of being an arts reporter is the occasional surprise package that shows up in the mailbox. Often it contains stuff not worth a mention, but today I opened one up to find an uncorrected proof of "The Magician's Elephant," Kate DiCamillo's latest work. It's the story of an orphan boy in search of his sister, and a strange fortune that sends him on an even stranger journey.
Flipping through, I found this lovely bit of prose, which I thought you might like:
She dreamed that she was flying high over the world, her habit spread out on either side of her like dark wings.
She was terribly pleased because she had always, secretly, deep within her heart, believed that she could fly. And now here she was, doing what she had long suspected she could do, and she could not deny that it was gratifying in the extreme.
Sister Marie looked down at the world below her and saw millions and millions of stars and thought, I am not flying over the earth at all. Why, I am flying higher than that. I am flying over the tops of the stars. I am looking down at the sky.
And then she realized that no, no, it was the earth that she was flying over, and that she was looking not at the stars but at the creatures of the world, and that they were all, they were each - beggars, dogs, orphans, kings, elephants, soldiers - emitting pulses of light.
The whole of creation glowed.
The Magician's Elephant is published by Candlewick Press and appears on bookshelves this September.
The conversion of Jane Austen's romances into horrorific tales more worthy of Mary Shelley continues. From the creators of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" comes "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters." Here's their video trailer for the new book:
Evidently Quirk Books is also at work on "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."(1 Comments)
It's the time of year when Minnesotans love to sit outdoors and enjoy the great weather, and many of us prefer to do it with a book in hand, whether it's on the deck or by the lake.
Today on Midmorning, Kerri Miller discussed the best bets for summer reads with Washington Post book editor Ron Charles and Los Angeles Times book reviewer Sarah Weinman. Their conversation resulted in a list of books they (and Midmorning callers) think would make for time well spent.
So what are you paging through this summer? And what would you vote for as the perfect summer read? (My choice? Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)(3 Comments)
Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Sandman and so many other wonderfully creepy tales, is sitting in one of the MPR News studios at this moment. Except he's not here to be interviewed. Instead he's interviewing British character actor Martin Jarvis about the art of voicing audiobooks. Word has it he's doing a series of interviews for National Public Radio, which should air on Morning Edition in the next few weeks.
Gaiman actually lives not far outside the Twin Cities. MPR's Euan Kerr interviewed him earlier this year when Gaiman won the Newbery honor with his work "The Graveyard Book."
Minnesota author (and former MPR reporter) Leif Enger was interviewed in yesterday's edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Enger is the author of two acclaimed books, "Peace Like a River" and more recently "So Brave, Young, and Handsome," the latter of which has just been published in Italian. Seeking atonement for one's sins is a major theme in the novel.
This on the heels of the announcement that the Vatican has declared the Cathedral of St. Paul a national shrine.