The hounds are on the trail of a literary party that coaxes confessions out of revelers, a twisted, fantastical piece of theater and introspective bedroom pop.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Danette Olson can't shake the experience of seeing The Moving Company's "Out of the Pan, Into the Fire." Not that she wants to. Danette, who's a board member of Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls, Wis., calls the original work a multi-layered, metaphoric fairy tale about fear which will penetrate the heart of any parent. Through May 26 at the Southern Theater.
Paper Darts co-founder Courtney Algeo is giving props to fellow local literary magazine Revolver for conceiving a party where celebrants spend the evening visiting booths, making confessions and sharing secrets with strangers. The party is called "Confess," and it's happening at the Thorp Building in Northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, May 11 from 8:00 - midnight, with music from DJ Shannon Blowtorch.
Minneapolis printmaker and graphic designer Paige Guggemos has been captivated by the weird, edgy pop of Rupert Angeleyes for a while now. It's the solo project of Minneapolis musician Kyle Sobczak, who makes experimental, inward looking pop in the studio that really comes alive on stage with the help of a backing band. Rupert Angeleyes' next gig is Friday, May 10th, at Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.(0 Comments)
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.
"It's not exactly sausage making. It's more like making a banquet or a bouquet. We like to think we are making something really gorgeous," says Peter Brosius. "Not that I don't like sausage!"
The Children's Theatre Company Artistic Director is a bouncing spring of a man, never still in his office chair. His desk is awash in papers, books, and letters, a tideline left by the creative swells passing through his room.
His talk of sausages is not about his lunch plans, but how he put together the CTC's 2013-2014 season, which is released today.
It's a complex mix: knowing the CTC has lots of different audiences to serve, while looking at what original and classic work is available, and who might be available to do it.
"And you have a thing called 'a budget,'" he laughs.
Given all those things, Brosius appears to have put together a remarkable line-up.
"So we have a season, next year, that has three world premieres," he says. "Two extraordinary guest companies coming in, a Broadway musical, a classic that has never been on our stage before, 'Charlotte's Web' and bringing back 'Cinderella.'"
Amongst the premieres is what promises to be a remarkable stage adaptation of a book by one of the great living writers of children's literature
Brosius' son loved it, his teacher loved it and so did Brosius when he read it. He got the rights from Pullman, author of "The Golden Compass" and the rest of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Then Brosius commissioned internationally acclaimed Twin Cities playwright Jeffrey Hatcher to develop a stage play.
"It is a remarkable and incredible story," Brosius says. "Sort of a mix. Like if you put Don Quixote and the Wizard of Oz and all kind of stories in a blender and then put them in the gorgeous and inventive comic mind of Philip Pullman and Jeffrey Hatcher. You get this story of this wonderful friendship between this grand and extraordinary scarecrow who is off to seek fame and fortune and valor, and is gorgeously both clown, and fool, and grand presence in his own mind, and this poor orphan Jack who is in need of some food."
Together the pair head out on a series of adventures and end up confronting evil forces set to destroy where they live. Brosius says the play received a number of workshop presentations and Hatcher has reworked the script several times to a point where everyone is very excited about it.
"Jeffrey has done some things that have heightened the heart and the relationship and certainly the incredible humor."
"And he has created a wild anime-inspired action adventure piece about identity called "The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chucpacabra Go!"
It's the story of two youngsters Bruce and Violet who have to save the universe, but first of all they get over the fact they can't stand each other. Ma-Yi will open the show at the CTC and then move it to New York where it will play off-Broadway.
This is the first of two visiting companies in the CTC season. The second is the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, which specializes in black light puppetry. Brosius expects the company to mark a major milestone while it is in Minneapolis.
"I think they will have their five millionth viewer seeing Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories," he says. Mermaid has never been seen before on the CTC stage.
The third world premiere is "Balloonacy" by Ivey Award winning playwright Barry Kornhauser. The show is aimed at CTC's youngest audiences.
"For us the work for pre-schoolers is a huge priority for this theater," says Brosius. "This is the story of a little old man who doesn't like much about life, he's a grumpy old thing."
Then a balloon flies in his window and, despite the old man's best efforts, won't leave him alone. Gradually the old man softens and relearns how to play. Brosius says there's a message in "Balloonacy" for all ages.
"Sometimes age can take it away from you, and so this is a lesson for all of us, that sense of play, that sense of invention, that sense of joy, it's all there to be tapped," he says.
There is another local premiere in the list: "Charlotte's Web."
"Wildly it's going to be the first time it's been done here," says Brosius.
Rounding out the season are two returning favorites, the aforementioned Cinderella (below) with what Brosius describes as "the ugliest step-sisters. I love Dean (Holt) and Reed (Sigmund) but, boy, they are not beautiful women," he laughs.
There will also be the return of "Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" (see Thing 1 above) which will be presented in May through July of 2014 as the first of what will be an ongoing series of summer programming at the CTC.
Here is the 2013-2014 season in full:
By Joseph Robinette
Based on the Book by E.B. White
Directed by Greg Banks
September 17 - October 27
The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!
Co-Produced with Ma-Yi Theater Company
By Lloyd Suh
Directed by Ralph B. Peña
October 8 - November 17
Adapted by John B. Davidson
Original Music by Victor Zupanc
Based on the Fairytale by Charles Perrault
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
November 12 - January 5
Recommended for all ages
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites
Produced by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia
Adapted, directed, and designed by Jim Morrow
Music by Steven Naylor
Narrated by Gordon Pinsent
January 14 - February 23
Grades Preschool +
The Scarecrow and His Servant
By Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on the book by Philip Pullman
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
March 11 - April 6
Shrek the Musical
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig Directed by Peter Rothstein
April 22 - June 8
Recommended for all ages
By Barry Kornhauser
Directed by Peter C. Brosius
March 25 - May 4
Grades Preschool +
Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
Based on the book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Play originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain
Adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell
Directed by Jason Ballweber
May 22 - July 20
(All images courtesy Children's Theatre Company, except for MPR file image of Jeffrey Hatcher)(1 Comments)
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%.
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)
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced this week that it has awarded 14 theater companies in the U.S. grants to fully fund playwrights on staff for three years.
Two of those companies are in the Twin Cities.
The grant program is aimed at helping advance the work of American playwrights, while evaluating the impact of having a playwright embedded in the staff of a working theater company.
The fellowship supports and deepens what is already a longstanding working relationship between Ten Thousand Things and Kira Obolensky. Obolensky has written two plays for the company: Raskol (an adaptation of Crime and Punishment) and Vasa Lisa, a production based on Russian folk tales.
As part of the fellowship, Obolensky plans to write three plays for TTT, conduct workshops for prison audiences and assist Hensley in writing a book about the work of the theater company.
Playwright Qui Nguyen is known for incorporating comic-book style narratives and game play into his politically subversive productions, including his recent War is F**king Awesome developed at the Playwrights' Center in 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 Twitter Fiction Festival gets underway today. Would-be authors from around the world have been invited to share their stories and, possibly, give a new twist to the written word.
Today on The Daily Circuit, host Kerri Miller asked Egan if there's any real literary value writing, beyond pure experimentation, to "tweeting" a story.
"You would be a better judge of the literary value than I would, since I wrote it, but what I can say is that the particular story that I wrote could not have been written any other way except in these very small structural units that I wrote with Twitter in mind. Although I should mention that I wrote them by hand, because that's how I write fiction.
To the extent that I ended up being able to write a story that I am really proud of, I have to say - I think it may be better than anything else I've done - Twitter made that possible, so to that extent it had a real literary impact, at least on me."
Here are the first tweets of Egan's short story "Black Box," about a futuristic female spy and her mission as recorded in her mission log.
People rarely look the way you expect them to, even when you've seen pictures.
The first thirty seconds in a person's presence are the most important.
If you're having trouble perceiving and projecting, focus on projecting.
Necessary ingredients for a successful projection: giggles; bare legs; shyness.
The goal is to be both irresistible and invisible.
When you succeed, a certain sharpness will go out of his eyes.
What do you think? Is Twitter going to be the birthplace of great new works of literature?
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:
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)
The hounds hunt down a fight to the death among some Twin Cities writers, a festival celebrating the art of trading in Hewitt and celestial bodies and circuit bent music in Duluth.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Duluth art consultant Peter Spooner is drawn to events which merge art and science, like Planet Drone. It happens Friday, Sept. 21 at 8:30pm at the UMD Planetarium and features a tour of the planets and their mythologies with live circuit-bent, experimental electronic music, and vocalizing as a sonic backdrop. Artists include Tim Kaiser, Paul Broman, and narrators/vocalists Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir and Ben Marsen.
Sara Watson Curry will be on the road this weekend, taking her first trip to Hewitt, Minn. to experience Barter Fest on Saturday Sept. 22. Sara is a worker/owner of the Red Raven Espresso Parlor in Fargo. At Barter Fest, which runs from 10am to midnight, you trade whatever you like, precious objects, art works, kitchen items, your skills etc., while a host of music acts from across the Upper Midwest entertain you.
Don't get writer, actor and producer Maggie Ryan Sandford wrong. She loves going to literary events of all kinds. But Maggie thinks that Literary Death Match distinguishes itself in the way it coaxes local writers out of their shells and turns them into bloodthirsty performers. The next Literary Death Match is Thursday, Sept. 20th at the Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis. It features writers Heid. E. Erdrich, Lara Avery, Patrick Nathan and R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. performing their works in front of judges Mary Mack, Dylan Hicks and Peter Bognanni.
For more Art Hounds' recommendations, check us out on Facebook and Twitter. Art Hounds is also available as a podcast on iTunes.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Jim Denomie, R. Vincent Moniz Jr and Heid Erdrich were part of a panel discussion held at Minnesota Public Radio on August 8, 2012
Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with author and fiber artist Gwen Westerman, painter and sculptor Jim Denomie, actor and spoken word artist R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. and poet Heid Erdrich. We talked about many things, including what it means to be a contemporary Native artist working in a world that still has stereotypical notions of what it means to be an American Indian.
Listen to the conversation:
The conversation is part of a series of listening sessions in which MPR staff members engage with artists from diverse communities to find out more about what issues are most important to them. You can find the first of those conversations here.
Gwen Westerman says that right now is actually a great time to be a Native artist, in part because of the Legacy Amendment, which has helped to fund artistic projects and cultural intitiatives.
It's not just the money that helps get this flow going; it has a lot to do with the energy we as Native people share in terms of telling our stories. And we've been telling our stories for a long time in a lot of different ways.
I think it's a good time in that people are ready to listen - ready to listen with their eyes, with their ears, ready to listen with their hearts and minds as well, so while the river's getting crowded we're all going with the flow here and it's impressive to me to be a part of group efforts over the last couple of years because we don't collaborate, but when all the pieces are put together it's an incredible story. There's a strong, strong thread that's woven through everything that we do, so to me that says that we're all in a good place, and that we're all coming from the same place as well, from our hearts and our heads.
Visual artist Jim Denomie agrees that now is a great time to be an artist - he says that attitudes toward his work have changed dramatically over the years, for the better.
When I first went back to art school I felt an expectation by a lot of people to do native art - Indian art and in most people's minds it's a stereotypical genre - imagery of buffaloes and teepees, spirits and eagles and things. I grew up in South Minneapolis as a contemporary Native American person; I didn't grow up traditionally or on a reservation so my world view incorporates a contemporary experience. And so my work reflects that. But I also work in the traditional storytelling aspect and so when I was creating some of these contemporary political, social stories visually it wasn't understood and therefore not critiqued and supported by my professors, my art teachers at the U.
People would say 'why don't you paint a good Indian painting and go down to Sante Fe? you'd make a lot of money.' And I'd say, 'well if I'm in this just to make money I could be painting Elvis on black velvet.' It was a choice to be honest and innovative. And when you put yourself out there and you take a risk... you're subject to criticism and disappointment. But the response has been great by my fellow community members and the art community at large in terms of recognition and grants and museum collections. It all just encourages me to keep moving forward.
Actor and spoken word artist R. Vincent Moniz
While the audience for Native art has improved over the years, actor and spoken word artist Vincent Moniz says there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to teach people to respect Native cultures. He gave the example of a Tumblr site called "Hipsters in Headdresses" which calls out non-Indians, predominantly young white women, who pose for photos wearing headdresses as a sort of fashion statement.
And I think for me the frustration is that that larger stereotype has seeped into the Twin Cities here... there's a ... I don't know what to call it - a really overt 'hipster racism' - a kind of "oh no, I know the headdress was worn by specific leaders of your race but I'm doing it ironically - it's funny." And I really feel like there is a subconscious want to know more about us and so you reach into what you have and what you have is basic stereotypes - 'Indians wear headdresses and put on face paint.' There's even a T-shirt line where there's an Indian woman all in white surrounded by wolves... or the Urban Outfitters with their Navajo underpants. That was funny!
There are way more teaching moments out there than there are "oh you get it, you understand what you're doing." You have to reach past the decapitated heads on baking powder, or the football logo, or wherever it is, because our particular oppression is a commercialized nightmare. So it's important to be able to have these teaching moments - to be able to say I'm not that headdress - THIS is how it is.
Poet Heid Erdrich
Poet Heid Erdrich says these stereotypes are still ever-present in the publishing world.
In literature it's such a fine line. People will take on the voices of native people, there are genre books written about native people which will always outsell any book written by an indigenous person. I don't know how we'll ever catch up except that there's a lot more of us in this hemisphere - the book will be gone before we catch up! More books are written everyday about Native people than by Native people. So it's really really difficult. And it's not commercial to tell the story of a people who don't have redemption at the heart of their narrative. We don't get Oprah books because we don't have an easy ending - we don't have that same sense of history as a closed loop - I think - I think we have more a sense a time repeating and I don't want to generalize too much but I think that the story is not over, the story always continues is not satisfying necessarily to other people.
The indigenous people who do get big grants in this country often are people who will capitulate to the stereotypes - even though they may be excellent writers - I still believe they capitulate to the stereotypes and often play to a non-native audience. And when you actually are writing to a native audience, people don't get it. They're like "there's no leather and feathers here - there's no beads, no spirituality, no bowl of stubbed out sage in the middle of your poem - this isn't an Indian poem." They might not even recognize it whereas Native people might, and I'm saying "might" because we're a diverse peoples even within individual tribal groups - you have so many different ways of experiencing your cultures. So I think appropriation for writers is complete. That is the norm, and the true Native voice has just a little squeaky place to fit in - it's very difficult. People still don't accept it - they don't like the vision, they're not happy with the politics involved - I think it's really really difficult.
That said there are some amazing new writers right now who I'm really happy to read.
Many thanks to Heid Erdrich, R. Vincent Moniz Jr., Jim Denomie and Gwen Westerman for participating in this series.
All photos by MPR reporter Nikki Tundel(3 Comments)
(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."
On the hounds' radar this week: Yet another new Twin Cities lit mag, a play about a unique relationship shaped in part by physical mishaps, and a wave of Twin Cities-based Cuban and salsa music.
(Want to be an Art Hounds? Sign up!)
When it comes to ethnic music of any kind, Minneapolis choreographer Kathryn Inoferio always has her ear to the ground. It turns out September 7-10 will be a fruitful period for seeing Cuban and salsa music in the Twin Cities. Kathryn has her eye on three local Latin bands. Havana Hi-Fi is playing Friday, September 7 at the 318 Café in Excelsior at 8pm, and then again on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Aster Café in Minneapolis. K-Libre 24 will be at the Monarch Festival in Minneapolis on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3:30pm, and Salsa del Soul performs at the Crooked Pint in Minneapolis on Sept. 8 at 10:30pm.
Minneapolis actor Katie Willer was completely sucked into Loudmouth Collective's Gruesome Playground Injuries when she saw it earlier this year. Loudmouth Collective, a new theater company in Minneapolis, is re-staging the production, and Katie definitely plans to see it again. The play disjointedly traces three decades of a relationship between a man and a woman, and the emotional and physical injuries that have affected its evolution. On stage at Intermedia Arts through Sept. 16.
Writer and actor Carl Atiya Swanson fills us in on Revolver, a new Twin Cities magazine that's coming into existence during what Carl says is a very fertile period for lit mags in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Carl says the launch party for Revolver happens Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis. It will feature the pugilistic skills of four members of the local literati, Courtney Algeo (Loft Literary Center, Paper Darts), Tony D'Aloia, Sarah Moeding (producer of Literary Death Match Minneapolis), and Chris Baker. Yes, they'll be boxing each other.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
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.
David Rakoff in the MPR studios in March 2007 (photo:Euan Kerr)
David Rakoff had an unsettling way of looking at you, as if he was working out whether you were someone who he found interesting or someone he would have to politely find a way of escaping.
He was unfailingly polite, and often in reality he was not judging, but merely considering how to respond.
News of his death at age 47 from cancer has me thinking back, and looking at the blurry picture above.
Rakoff came into the studios in 2007 when he presented a film called "Intolerable" at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He travelled with the director Alison Maclean and we spent a delightful time in the studio discussing the implications of what is a strange little movie.
It's about an audition for a film where a casting director asks the actors coming through to do something so horrible that one by one they run screaming from the room, past the line of others awaiting their turn.
Rakoff laughed when I called his role demonic.
"A whiff of sulfur?" he said with a huge smile.
The film really has to be seen to be believed and I won't give away what happens but Maclean admitted it was a cross between a social experiment and a documentary.
Rakoff said he didn't consider himself an actor, but he enjoyed playing the role, demonic or otherwise.
"I'm there as kind of both an interviewer or a co-improvisor or a tormentor or someone who is sort of friendly," he said. "It was interesting because it brought to bear some of the things I do daily in my work."
That daily work was writing, an art over which he displayed his mastery time and again in some of the great publications, and on the air with "This American Life." He talked about how acting in "Intolerable" was great for him just because he usually spent so much time alone at his desk, and it was good to be with other people even if he was being mean to them.
"The guy that I play is not the nicest guy in the world at certain times which in ways that are very embarrassing that's not a hard character for me to access," he said. Then he laughed and added "I'm not a mean guy. I love being seen as mean guy, it's kind of exciting, but it was tremendously difficult."
The difficulties in Rakoff life were more evident when he returned to MPR for an event with John Moe to talk about his collection of essays "Half Empty." He talked about his cancer, and how he was contemplating what life might be like if he was to lose his arm and shoulder to the disease as he had been told might be the case. He was quite calm, and again after a great deal of consideration seemed at ease. In a way it was quite breath-taking.
Looking back on the picture I took of him back in 2007, I see it's a little blurred. I have to admit I like it. While David Rakoff always seemed so still, behind those eyes things were moving fast.
I'm going to read a little Rakoff this weekend. How about you?
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.
This week the world is talking about sports, thanks to the 2012 Olympic games in London.
But 100 years ago the Olympics included not just sports, but art. Medals were awarded for sport-themed painting, sculpture, literature, architecture and music in games held between 1912 and 1952.
NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with historian John MacAloon, who explained the idea was conceived by the founder of the Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin:
MACALOON: [He] was inspired by the ancient Greek Olympic Games, which most expressions included competitions in musical performance, in singing and in heralding, public announcement, if you will, he wanted to make sure the modern games follow that.
Secondly, he felt very, very strongly that if you didn't have competitions in the arts, then all you had, as he put it, was a mere series of sporting world championships. So it was his idea. He fought for it, and it took till the Stockholm Games of 1912 for the first competitions to actually be organized.
CORNISH: Essentially, anybody could submit works of art to the competition to be judged by, I guess, by commissions in the host country. How seriously did the art community take the competition?
MACALOON: Well, this was the problem right from the beginning. The debates began almost immediately. True art is art for art's sake. How could this art for sport's sake really be authentic? Would you get any quality submissions? Why would artists create original works against such a new and uncertain format? Artists themselves are not always really happy to compete directly with one another. And when they do, they would prefer a jury of their peers. So the artists were afraid that they would be judged by people from sport, and the sports people were afraid that they'd get submissions from artists that really were not deeply connected with the theme.
As a result, winning submissions - especially in the literature category - were, well... not that winning.
This week's hounds are pointing us in the direction of an artist whose works emit light, a traveling Twin Cities reading series and a rock supergroup in love with our national pastime.
(Want to be an Art Hound? Sign up!)
Mankato painter and painting instructor Brian Frink is mysteriously moved by the work of fellow Mankato artist Allison Henline. Brian went see Allison's exhibition, "Archetypal Consonance," at Twin Rivers Council for the Arts in Mankato. He was enthralled with Henline's subtle digital prints, watercolors, and pen and ink drawings, which all play with light in some way. Her show in Mankato closed yesterday, but you can see her work next weekend at Ad Hoc Art Gallery in Minneapolis.
The Cracked Walnut Reading Series has piqued the interest of Minneapolis performance artist Diane Anderson. Diane is intrigued by the way the series travels to different, unusual venues around the Twin Cities and brings disparate audiences and writers together to focus on individual subjects. The next Cracked Walnut installment happens Friday, July 27 at 7:30pm, at the Braemer Ice Arena in Edina, with writers such as Geoff Herbach, Michael Kiesow Moore, Alison Morse, and Shannon Schenck reading works about bullying. There will also be a screening of the locally made anti-bullying film, "MN Nice?"
Mix together members of former alt rock stalwarts' Dream Syndicate, Young Fresh Fellows and R.E.M. with an undying devotion to the game of baseball and what do you have? One of Minneapolis musician Jim Bradt's favorite rock supergroups, The Baseball Project. Jim, who's the drummer for local indie rockers The Whole Lotta Loves, says the primary purpose of The Baseball Project is to transform baseball history and lore into catchy, rocking pop songs. The Baseball Project pays a visit to the 400 Bar in Minneapolis on Friday night, July 27.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.(1 Comments)
Every now and again MPR's Chris Roberts sits down with a local musician or band to find out more about one of their songs. The occasional series is called "Into the Song."
For his latest installment, Roberts interviewed the band members of Now Now about their song "Thread."
"Find a thread to pull," Dalager sings forlornly in the first verse, "and we can watch it unravel."
"A hint of light in the dark," she continues in the chorus, "but only enough to keep from giving up. If I could go back to the start, to break the pattern forming between us."
It sounds like someone at the beginning of a slow, agonizing end to a relationship. But for Dalager, "Thread" is about striving for something that is painfully out of reach. She wrote it when the members of Now Now decided to commit their lives completely to music, in the face of an unknown future.
"That's just kind of how I felt about everything in my life at that point," she said. " 'Cause we were writing this record not knowing what was going on pretty much with anything."
You can find out more about the song "Thread" and the band Now Now here.
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.
This weekend a new play by a veteran playwright will get its first reading at Penumbra Theatre.
Ed Bullins, a major voice of the Black Arts Movement, is now in his 70s. His latest work, "In Search of Assata" looks back at the tumultuous life of Black Panther Assata Shakur through the lens of the media and her personal memories.
Associate Artistic Director Dominic Taylor says the reading is part of Penumbra's ongoing effort to develop new works that explore African American identity, culture and history.
The goal of these readings and of OKRA, our new play development program, is to make Penumbra like Hitsville used to be in the 60s. I'm trying to set up an environment where people can explore and find the 'right sound' for their work.
Photo courtesy Penumbra Theatre
Taylor says while each play is not guaranteed to end up on stage, since the OKRA program started several of the plays have gone on to be fully produced across the country.
In the past, the staged readings have been all the works of emerging playwrights, Taylor says he decided it was time for a change, and this year brought Ed Bullins into the mix.
We want to keep finding new ways of looking at theater; looking at new work doesn't have to mean just the work of new playwrights. We're trying to find that elusive thing that makes art shine.
Penumbra presents a staged reading of "In Search of Assata" tonight at 7:30pm.
For a decade the Loft has been staging Equilibrium (or EQ) - a spoken word performance series - to showcase local and national artists of color, as well as indigenous artists.
EQ founder Bao Phi says the Surdna grant is important both for the Loft and for spoken word in general.
Multi year grants are hard to get. This is our tenth year and for the last two years funding has been difficult to find. To the Loft's credit it has kept the program running, paying for it with general operating funds.
Spoken word has always been marginalized, and also difficult for people to categorize. So as a result it's hard to seek out funding - do you apply for a theater grant? Or a literature grant? For us to get this grant and recognition is a big deal, because spoken word is largely still a marginalized art form.
Phi says that EQ pays decent wages for artists, sound technicians, and other talent, but also believes in being accessible to low-income audiences, so tickets are only $3 -$5. That means it needs outside funding to stay alive and healthy.
Phi, an accomplished poet in his own right, has been actively involved in community organizing since he was a teenager, and the series reflects that commitment. A recent performance looked at indigenous land rights, pairing a Native Hawaiian artist with a Palestinian performer.
In addition to supporting the Equilibrium program, the Surdna grant will also fund spoken word immersion fellowships, in which six to eight artists of color or indigenous descent complete self-designed projects that help them better understand the communities and issues that inform their work.
According to the Loft, the hope is that these efforts will increase exposure and conversation around the art of spoken word, and lead toward broader acceptance of spoken word as a literary genre.
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.
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.
The hounds this week are caught up in the swirling psychedelic rock of Chatham Rise, art that goes above and below the surface of the water, and a literary journal devoted to sci-fi writing set in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
(Have an idea for Art Hounds? Tell us!)
"Above and Below" is a show tailor made for St. Paul make-up artist Julie Swenson, largely because it features two artists she admires. The exhibition, at the Coffman Art Gallery at the University of Minnesota, juxtaposes photographer Rhea Pappas' graceful, underwater shots of models with Carla Holmquist's abstract paintings of water surfaces from high overhead. The exhibit runs through April 12.
After reading a few stories in "Cifiscape: The Twin Cities," Courtney Algeo now has no trouble envisioning a swarm of zombies marching down Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. Courtney, who works at the Loft Literary Center, writes for the Twin Cities Daily Planet, and is an editor for Paper Darts, is going to the launch party for "Cifiscape: Twin Cities, Vol. II" on Saturday, March 31, at 6pm, at University Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Cifiscape is a literary journal of science fiction writing about the future of the Twin Cities.
Psychedelic rock musician and aficionado Dan Churilla has a spot reserved in his reverb- and feedback-drenched heart for Chatham Rise. Dan, who's a guitarist with the Minneapolis band Delta Lyrae, says the music of Chatham Rise will envelop you, penetrate your core, and put you in a dream state. Dan says he's also been exposed to a wealth of psychedelic music from outside Minnesota from bands Chatham Rise recruits to share bills with. Chatham Rise plays Saturday, Mar. 31 at the Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
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.
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.
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:
A couple of weeks I wrote about a Twitter challenge the Loft Literary Center started, asking people for their six word memoirs.
One of the more than 700 six word memoirs Emily Lloyd has collected
It turns out Emily Lloyd of Eden Prairie Hennepin County Library has been asking people for their six word memoirs for some time, and her hope is to get all of Minneapolis to participate.
That's 382,605 residents, six words each.
Lloyd says she was inspired to create the project after the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure arrived in her library. Inspired, she created a display where people could leave their own abbreviated memoirs.
Suddenly, the 6-word memoir concept was flooded with meaning: I was reading the memoirs of patrons (and staff) that lived in the community where I work, people I passed on the street or in the stacks every day. Some were endearing, some were angry, some were silly, some were prayerful, some were witty, and every last one mattered. I felt my love and compassion for the community increase. I looked forward to every new addition. I felt more connected to the struggles and joys of the people I was sharing space with. And I thought, Someone should do this with Minneapolis.
To date Lloyd has collected more than 700 memoirs, which you can see on her flickr stream. She'd like to gather thousands more before she starts displaying them on portable murals around the city.
To participate, it's as easy as tweeting your memoir to @6wordsmpls. In addition to the memoir, be sure to include your first name, neighborhood and age.
The State of the Arts blog will be a little slow this week, but it's all for a good cause.
This week I'm filling in as host of Midday, and every day at 11am we're taking on a different arts-related topic. I'll also be joined by a different co-host for each hour.
Today we talked about what happens when classical music is performed outside the concert hall. My co-host was Minnesota Orchestra violist Sam Bergman, who hosts "Inside the Classics". Joining us as guests were cellists Matt Haimovitz and Laure Sewell. Matt Haimovitz is known for performing Bach in bars and clubs; Laura Sewell performs with the Twin Cities' based Artaria String Quartet, and this summer they started performing "flash concerts" in bookstores, wine shops, and even a gym!
If you missed it, not to worry - you can listen to the audio here:
Tomorrow we're going to talk design when look at "surplus space." How can we best take advantage of abandoned strip malls, empty parking lots, and even closed down overpasses in ways that benefit our community? This conversation is inspired by a New York Times piece by Michael Kimmelman
My co-host will be architectural historian Larry Millett, and our guests will be Thomas Fisher, Professor of Architecture and Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and Jay Walljasper, a writer and speaker focusing on urban and community issues and sustainability.
Wednesday we'll talk about songwriting - how do you write a song that stands the test of time? My co-host will be local songwriter Jeremy Messersmith. Guests: TBD.
And on Friday we look at the legacy of the Black Arts Movement, and how it's impact is still felt today. My co-host will be performer/arts educator T. Mychael Rambo. Joining us in studio will be Penumbra Theatre Artistic Director Lou Bellamy, who just launched a series of conversations on this very topic. Playwright and Scholar Paul Carter Harrison will join us by phone from New York.
So if you can, tune in to Midday this week at 11am, and join the conversation!
So my Wednesday post on @loftliterary's Twitter contest, asking for #6wordmemoirs, drew some great responses. Submissions continued to pour in on Twitter, as well as on the blog. Here's a look at some of your ultra-condensed lives:
On my own at age five
Started flying, once I dropped anchor
He never quite finished what he...
Need dirt on my hands, surprisingly.
Trying to have it both ways.
Finally grew into my parents' skins.
Aged faster than I had planned.
Alive 30 years, just getting started.
Wild party girl gets a job
Entrepreneurial gypsy now dog-loving homebody. (That's only five, but I'm downsizing.)
Worked/played with, for, about children.
She loved cupcakes and making out.
Lost the damn manual. Guessed right!
I am bad at math
Born, lived, wrote memoir, brutally murdered
Rich food performances. Repeats pro bono.
"Say it politely," they suggested. No.
Gypsy blood ran from my pen.
I just wanted to be useful.
He said, "never write anything down."
Fourteen homes, ten jobs, one family.
Vietnam born. Minnesota raised. World wanderer.
She teetered but did not fall.
Creative effervescence still mistaken as bubbly.
Always moving, losing money, laughing loudly
Love makes for strange bedfellows, too.
Flattened to death by a bookshelf.
Finally bored with her own story.
Can't find my glasses anywhere. Crunch.
The Loft Literary Center will close its contest at noon. A select winner will win participation in an online writing class.(3 Comments)
The Loft Literary Center has been having fun on Twitter today, getting people to sum up their lives in six words. A select winner will win participation in an online writing class. Here are some of the wittier responses:
I erred by caring too much.
Started scribbling at six, never stopped.
You would think I'd have learned.
Left too many books, friendships unfinished.
I came, I saw, I ate.
Never a bridesmaid, always a bride.
Theater major. Will work for food.
Wrote lesbian novel. Married a guy.
So much icecream, so little time.
I walked, fell, then grew wings.
Wait here, sweetheart. I'll come back.
Trust me, you'd rather not know.
My heart was right all along.
Stayed up all night writing this.
Tripping up the curb of love.
Failed, failed, failed. No matter. Learned.
Young, threw discus. Now, torn meniscus.
Crafty gal reporting on artsy world.
So which six words would you choose to summarize your life? Share your abbreviated memoir in the comments section, or on Twitter with #6wordmemoirs and @loftliterary in the tweet. Better yet, do both!(8 Comments)
Twin Cities playwright Katie Ka Vang is currently in the University of Minnesota hospital after being diagnosed with stage four anaplastic T-cell large lymphoma.
According to Vang's Caring Bridge website, a PET scan revealed there were tumors in about 60-70% of her body.
For patients with this degree of lymphona, there is a 50% chance that they will live longer than five years. Doctors say Vang's young age and her strong spirit are working in her favor.
Vang is also keeping a video blog of her experience, which can be found here. In her most recent clip she ended with the following.
I really appreciate and value all of the great energy that everyone has been sending me. It's really been helping my spirit alot, and I don't think that I can get through this without everyone's support. I am truly humbled by this, and I ask that you keep the prayers and good thoughts coming, because they are working tremendously for me.
The hospital has set a tentative release date of Tuesday for Vang, with the expectation that she will be strong enough to walk by then and can continue treatment from home.
Information about making donations to offset Vang's medical expenses can be found at the Caring Bridge site.
89.3 The Current has named Andrea Swensson, long-time music editor and critic for City Pages, to serve as primary author for a new music blog about the Minnesota music scene. The blog will launch the week of January 9, 2012, on thecurrent.org.
Program Director Jim McGuinn says 89.3 The Current's website is already a hub for local music fans, but he wants to "turn it up to 11" by adding more depth and information about the local music scene.
Andrea has a track record for being a champion of local music and an excellent writer and editor, not to mention a guru in the social networking world. She's a great addition to our scrappy group of local music junkies.
Swensson founded the popular Gimme Noise blog for City Pages as a way to extend the weekly's music coverage.
The new local music blog will include reviews, updates and news from the Minnesota music scene. Swensson will also discuss significant events on the radio with The Current hosts.(1 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)
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
The week's installment has an ancient Greek flavor...the hounds are trailing a movement theater piece based on a Euripedes translation and a drama inspired by Aeschylus. Oh, and they're talking up Minnesota writer Matt Ryan's new book.
Robbinsdale poet Matt Rasmussen favors the comedic literary stylings of Minnesota writer Matt Ryan. Matt thinks Matt's new book, "Read This or You're Dead to Me," which Mr. Ryan describes as a collection of prose poems and flash fiction, is wildly inventive, brash, and hilarious. The Minneapolis publication "Paper Darts" is throwing a launch party for 'Read This' tonight at Moto-i in Minneapolis from 7 - 10pm. Matt Ryan will be reading, along with writerly guests Matt Mauch and Leah Drillias and there will be musical entertainment by Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees.
Budding director and dramaturge Molly Budke says Savage Umbrella's "The Ravagers" is memorable on a number of levels. They include the manner in which the company has updated Aeschylus's tragedy, "The Supplicants," and the way it uses the decaying environs of the Hollywood Theater in Nordeast Minneapolis. It's the final weekend of "The Ravagers," on stage at the Hollywood through Nov. 19.
The New York-based Big Dance Theatre's multi-media circus of movement combined with New Yorker Anne Carson's poetry is an irresistible combination to Minneapolis writer and poet Juliet Patterson. "Supernatural Wife" is Big Dance Theatre's interpretation of Carson's translation of Euripides' "Alkestis." You can see it Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 - 19, at the Walker's McGuire Theater.
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.
Garrison Keillor on my show today saying he's rethinking retirement from PHC in 2013.
"I'm starting to doubt that myself. I've been thinking about it, thinking: what else would I do? And I can't come up with anything....If I didn't do it I would wind up in a tiny walk-up apartment with a couple of cats."
Of course, anyone who has been following this story closely will know the Old Scout has mused about the various possibilities of stepping down from Prairie Home in coming years, and even experimented with a guest host on the show.
However, while he has ruminated about retiring with various outlets, most notably the AARP, he has never actually set a date. In recent weeks people working on the show have told me the topic of retirement hasn't really come up.
A call to the Prairie Home office this morning revealed Keillor is again on the road, doing a city-a-day tour on the east coast, and so he was unavailable for comment. So, the mystery continues...
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
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:
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.
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:
Gary Eichten interviewed Garrison Keillor today at the State Fair.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
While Midday generally presents two distinct topics each hour, each day, sometimes the conversation from the first hour bleeds into the second.
For instance, today Gary Eichten interviewed economist Chris Farrell in the 11 o'clock hour, and Garrison Keillor in the second. Lo and behold, Keillor's first question from the audience was an economic one.
Mike from Minneapolis asked how Keillor thought English majors could contribute to the health of the economy.
Here's Keillor's response:
They can take themselves out of the economy by writing poetry. Poetry has no economic impact whatsoever - very little money ever changes hands. And so you become a neutral force in the economy.
And poets have very little expectation of prosperity - they do it for the love of what they're doing, and that's not a bad place to start. I think that if you were advising young people going out into the job market, in this very tough job market, I'd say find something that you're passionate about, regardless of what the prospects are. Do what you are passionate about and stay interested in it and it will work out for you some how, one way or another. Because there's unemployment among lawyers for Heaven's sake, there's unemployment among MBA's, so why go the practical route?
Do you agree with Keillor? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
And here's the audio from the entire hour with Keillor:(1 Comments)
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!
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.
"Eww" argues Roy Blount Jr., is the universal sound of disgust. So how does that affect our reaction to words that contain that sound, like "cutie" and "beautiful?"
Author Roy Blount Jr.
(Photo courtesy Joan Griswald)
Blount's recent talk at the Hennepin County library is filled with such questions and interesting tidbits, which break words down into their component parts.
The humorist and word lover talks about everything from Mark Twain's friendship with Helen Keller (brought about by the sound "MMM"), to stepping on a friend's hamster and how the experience revealed so much about the word "squelch."
Midday recently rebroadcast Blount's talk, which you can listen to by clicking on the audio link below.
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
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)
Author and stand-up comedienne Pat Dennis believes the ability to make someone laugh, whether on stage or in print, is not only a gift but quite possibly a genetic defect. She writes "It's as if we were shot into this world, straight from our mommas' wombs, wearing 3-D glasses perched atop rubber noses."
Dennis should know. She is the author of, among other things, Hotdish To Die For, a collection of six culinary mystery short stories in which hotdish is the weapon of choice.
But of course, there are some people out there who would LOVE to be funny, and so far haven't had much luck.
Not to worry: in a recent essay for The Loft, Dennis writes even the smallest sense of humor can be nourished over time.
I have read novice comedy scribblers who managed to write an entire 200-page manuscript without once bringing a smile to my face. Years later, I'd read their newly published and highly remunerated humor pieces and be green with envy, while doubling over in laughter. What happened?
Butt time, as in sitting on your butt, that's what happened.
In the stand-up world, we call it stage time. Give a struggling comic wannabe enough stage time, and she or he will eventually turn into a pro. The same thing is true with writing. If you want to be a writer, then you have to stay in that chair, putting words on the page, over and over again, until you get it right. Getting it right in humor writing, means tweaking and twisting your work until it makes you laugh, and then someone else.
If you're writing humor, you need an audience, the same as a stand-up comic. You can be the funniest comedian in the world, but if no one ever sees you, then you're just considered a crazy postmenopausal woman talking to herself in the Lane Bryant fitting-room mirror. For a writer, if no one reads your work, what's the point? That's why I strongly believe in both writing classes and writers' groups. Nothing will bring out your inner funny and motivate you more than making someone laugh.
There's something else about time you need to know. As in stand-up, timing is one of the most important elements in humor writing. You need to allow just enough words to get your funny across, but too many, and your punch line will be lost in the onslaught. As that laugh-a-day Polonius once quipped, "Brevity is the soul of wit." (Or am I the only one who finds Hamlet funny?)
What is the most important thing you need to know about writing humor? You need to write it well. Comedic writing needs the same editing, tightening, punctuation, and grammatical finesse as any piece of literature. Don't think you can get away with bad grammar because you're going for laughs. Trust me, there ain't no way that will work. See what I mean?
You can read Dennis' full essay 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.
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.
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?
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:
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:
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?
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.
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?
This photo taken on February 15, 2011 shows professional typist Purushottam Sakhare typing an affidavit on his typewriter at a sidewalk outside a city court in Mumbai.
Photo credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
So about an hour ago I forwarded on the news reported in the CBC, that the last known typewriter factory had shut its doors.
Gawker.com proves otherwise. Here's an excerpt from their post:
From the fake typewriter ashes, a million nostalgic personal essays bloomed.
But rest easy, annoyingly hirsute hipster Luddites loitering at local cafes: The typewriter is alive and well. How do I know? Well, because I looked on Staples' website. But don't take my word for it. Let's check in with a typewriter manufacturing expert:
The typewriter is "far from dead," [says] Ed Michael, General Manager of Sales at Moonachie, NJ-based Swintec.
"We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia," Michael says. "We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can't hide contraband inside them," Michael explained.
There you have it: So long as you can smuggle a nail file inside a MacBook, the typewriter will live to jam another day.
Well, I, for one, am happy to find out I was misled.(3 Comments)
Did you miss Jeremy Messersmith's "Works for Words" show on April 9th?
Evidently it was quite the event, featuring performances by Dessa, Chris Koza, Lucy Michelle, Brian Tighe, and others.
Now you can listen back to the entire show, at your leisure:
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)
So on Saturday, Jeremy Messersmith is presenting an evening celebrating songwriters and the craft of writing for music at the Fitzgerald Theater. It's titled "Works for Words."
Sounds like it could be a little earnest in tone, but fear not - the above video is proof that Messersmith plans to have more than a little fun. Enjoy!
The hounds are sweeping the state, uncovering a Duluth theater company specializing in Shakespeare, a songwriter in Milan (MN) who personifies creativity, and three artists in Minneapolis who are diving into the print publication business.
(Want to be an art hound? Sign up!)
Actor Lawrence Lee tells us about a welcome addition to the growing Duluth theater scene. Wise Fool Shakespeare, according to Lawrence, not only puts its imprint on the Bard's work, but also other classics. Wise Fool's inaugural production of Hamlet, is at Scottish Rite Auditorium in Duluth through March 20.
Emily Wright says listening to the songs of Malena Handeen will help you let go of your small town Minnesota stereotypes, if you have any. Emily, a folk musician and music teacher in Montevideo, says Milan, Minnesota's Malena Handeen fuses blues, zydeco and even hip hop on her new CD "Toothsome Favorites."
As founder and moderator of the open book club "Books and Bars," Jeff Kamin knows the challenge of matching writers with readers. Jeff applauds Meghan Suszynski, Jamie Millard and Regan Smith for venturing into the world of literary arts print publications with their handsome new magazine, Paper Darts. Paper Darts is holding a launch party celebrating its third volume at Honey in Nordeast, Saturday March 5th, from 7-10pm. Music by The Chord and the Fawn, plus readings by local lit heroes, including John Jodzio, Matt Mauch and Michelle Campbell.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
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."
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)
Julian Assange, a man surrounded by drama
Max "Bunny" Sparber, who's temporarily filling in as editor of Minnesota Playlist decided to conduct a little experiment. Noting the inherent drama in the current "wikileaks" scandal, and the jailing of its director Julian Assange.
Since many plays are inspired by events of the day, Sparber asked several local playwrights how they would take the wikileaks story and turn into a stage production. Here are a couple of examples:
From playwright Jeffrey Hatcher:
The premise is that Julian Assange moves from safe house to safe house, never sleeping at the same place twice. The stage is bifurcated -- two sitting rooms side-by-side. On the left, a wealthy couple are terribly excited that their Hampstead house has been chosen for tonight. On the right, a suburban couple of the "Keeping Up Appearances" type wait for a Repairman to come fix their television. A computer crossed-wire sends the Repairman to the Hampstead couple and Julian to the suburban couple. Code words, expectations, and the like lead to mistaken identities, sexual high-jinks, and the eventual arrival of both MI-5 and an inspector out of Joe Orton.
From playwright Carson Kreitzer:
For me, it's the boy-who-cried wolf aspect that may be the most interesting ... the next WikiLeaks dump was supposed to be on the banks!!!! What if that one is actually more damning (which I'm pretty sure it will be), the actions revealed even more destructive to the lives of those not in power? What if more poor people are displaced, subject to violence, or even killed (by starvation or disease rather than bullets) by the movement of capital than by the current wars? How many of the current wars, in various parts of the globe, are caused by the aggressive movement of capital? (Violence surrounding diamonds, coltan, oil, etc. etc.)
What if no one is listening anymore?
You can read all the playwrights' responses here.
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)
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.
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."
This week the hounds take us to Liberia during the civil war, a fictional reservation in Northern Minnesota and to an alternative future.
(Want to be an art hound? Sign up!)
Gregory J. Scott is an arts writer for the Downtown Journal and Vita.mn. He's excited about the new work being shown by Allen Brewer and Pamela Valfer in "Alternative Futures" at SOO Visual Arts Center. He particularly likes how Valfer's work, which involves returning things like fur and rodent-shaped piggy banks to some form of a natural state, plays with people's reactions. The "cuddly yet repulsive" work reclaims objects that could easily be forgotten and gives them new life. The show runs September 18 through October 31, with an opening reception this Saturday, 6-9pm.
Claire Wilson, a writing teacher at the Loft Literary Center, is always eager to see the plays put on by Frank Theatre. She knows that they will take her somewhere she's never been before, and even if it's uncomfortable or difficult, she knows it will be worthwhile. "Eclipsed," Frank's latest production, will take Claire to Liberia during the civil war. The play, written by Macalester alum Danai Gurira, opens today and runs through October 10 at the Playwrights' Center.
Ben Kimball is an engineer by day, and by night a book reviewer for Minnesota Reads. He loved Linda LeGarde Grover's collection of inter-connected short stories, The Dance Boots. The stories span several decades and are set on a fictional Indian reservation in Northern Minnesota. Ben loves Grover's powerful writing, her use of Ojibwe language and the complexity of her characters. Grover, a professor at University of Minnesota - Duluth, will be reading from her book this Friday at Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
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)
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.
The Playwrights' Center's new Producing Artistic Director Jeremy Cohen
After an extensive search that required starting over from ground zero, the Playwrights' Center has found itself a new Producing Artistic Director in Jeremy B. Cohen.
Cohen comes to Minneapolis from Hartford, where he's served as the Director of New Play Development at Hartford Stage. Previous to that he started Chicago's Naked Eye Theatre Company, where he developed and directed 20 new works.
Cohen replaces former Producing Artistic Director Polly Carl, who left the Playwrights' Center to become the Director of Artistic Development at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.
The Playwrights' Center, based in Minneapolis, supports playwrights and the development of new plays across the country.
After you finish Chris Roberts' excellent piece about Prince's relationship with his hometown, you might want to spend a little time with David Henry Hwang's wonderful post about the joys (and challenges) of working with his purple idol.
He was overjoyed when he learned Prince had gone to see a productions of his play "M. Butterfly" on Broadway, but he was not prepared for being approached about collaborating on a musical.
It didn't work out quite as he had expected, but it's a fascinating tale of how talents can, if not merge, at least ricochet in intriguing ways.
Writers and artists pondering their Jewish identity, tabla and sitar sounds at Gandhi Mahal and a teen revival of a musical about young people changing the world while not cutting their hair are all on the hounds' radar this week.
(Have an idea for Art Hounds? Tell us here!)
Rachel Reiva is privy to the latest and greatest in local youth theater as Teen Fringe Festival Reviewer for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. That's why Rachel's looking forward to a production of the musical "Hair" by Blank Slate Theatre, a company by and for Twin Cities teens and young adults. Given Blank Slate's track record, and that hippie values and concerns might be making a comeback amongst the younger crowd, Rachel predicts this will be an awesome show. On stage at the Lowry Lab in St. Paul, June 18-26.
For Shahzore Shah, one of life's pleasures is going to the restaurant Gandhi Mahal in Minneapolis, and listening to North Indian Hindustani music on tabla and sitar. It's performed by Minnesotans Mark Ilaug and Rikki Davenport. Shahzore, who sings in the Twin Cities choral group Cantus, says Ilaug and Davenport have been studying Hindustani music for the last several years and are excellent musicians. They play this Friday, and most Fridays, from 5-9pm.
Beth Mayer is a writer in Lakeville who strongly recommends the latest linkage of writers and visual artists by the group TalkingImageConnection. "Fitting the Profile" is happening tonight at 7pm at the Tychman Shapiro Gallery in St. Louis Park. It's a juried art show featuring artists exploring diversity in the Jewish community, and local writers responding to their work.
The hounds track down a sculptural music festival, a satirical sketch comedy show that tends to repeat itself and a memoirist who's somewhat anti-memoir.
(Have an idea for Art Hounds? Tell us here!)
As editor of the online book review blog, "Minnesota Reads," Jodi Chromey reads...voluminously. When she encounters something fresh and innovative, it's reason to celebrate. That's why she's singing the praises of Ander Monson's new memoir or anti-memoir, "Vanishing Point." Jodi says it's short, experiments with form, incorporates the web in a unique way, and perhaps best of all, is published by Greywolf Press in Minneapolis. Ander Monson visits Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis, Tuesday, June 15th, at 7:30pm.
St. Paul actor Andrea Guilford knows great sketch comedy when she sees it, which is why she's a big fan of the Recovery Party. The Recovery Party is a troupe consisting of several former Dudley Riggs alums and its latest production, "The Department of Redundancy Department," is on stage at the Bryant Lake Bowl, Fridays and Saturdays during the month of June.
There are maybe 10,000 outdoor music festivals in Minnesota any given summer. Jessica Pack, executive director of ArtReach St. Croix, says they won't get any better than the 3D Music Festival at Franconia Sculpture Park. Jessica says over the course of eight Saturdays this summer, a broad range of Minnesota music will ring out from Franconia's new amphitheater, which is right in the middle of the park, surrounded by sculpture. The festival starts Saturday, June 12, with the old timey twang of the Roe Family Singers.
For more Art Hounds' recommendations, check us out on Facebook.
Katie Vang performs "Hmong Bollywood"
Photo by Nancy Wong
The majority of playwrights working today, while their creativity and styles may vary drastically, tend to represent a very common point of view: predominantly white, male, educated, middle-aged and middle-class. And while there's a lot of talk about the desire to diversify mainstream theater, it's often difficult for a young playwright or a playwright of color to get their stories off the page and onto the stage.
That's why Pangea World Theater put together its Alternate Visions Festival. Unlike many play development programs, Pangea partners with playwrights from the germination of the idea, through draft after draft, until finally a work is ready for a full, professional staging.
Starting this weekend and running through July 25, Pangea is presenting five works in various stages of their development process, from staged readings all the way up to a fully realized theater piece.
Pangea co-founder Meena Natarajan, says some of these works have been in development for as along as two years.
It's really about supporting playwrights, and particularly playwrights of color. And we're exploring different ways of making work. It's really important to give creators a space in which they can take risks and feel what that's like, and see the results. So much today is geared on the finished product - this festival is focused on the process.
For Katie Vang that process has meant digging deep into her own relationships, and looking at how belonging to a displaced culture has affected herself, her family and friends.
I'm working on a one woman show called Hmong Bollywood. There's this phenomenon of adopting other cultural media because we don't have our own traditions. When I was a kid I was a huge Bollywood fan, and we commented on Bollywood film as a way of indirectly commenting on our own culture.
Vang says her work with Pangea has forced her to plunge even deeper in her exploration of love and relationships than she initially imagined. It's often been painful, but she says it's worth it.
Art is really an exploration of living consciously - and I think if anything I'm exploring myself as a human being and the relationships around me. And being able to speak about myself from an honest place - in the hopes that will contribute to a larger social movement.
Aviator Jean Batten
For Katie Herron Robb working with Pangea on her piece "Solo Flight" has also meant confronting her fears. Herron prefers to develop work instinctively and visually, using movement and improvisation. For her, writing doesn't come easily. But her piece, based on female aviators in the 1930s,required both intense research and the courage to fill in the gaps in these women's stories.
So many people know the feats of these women, but going back into their biographies and autobiographies, we're finding out about who they were as people. They were doing this in a man's world; female pilots would get the rotten planes, they weren't treated well. So they took on these male personas, and they had these strange relationships with men, using them to finance their planes or trips. I'm exploring the consequences of fame for these women, and whether things have changed for women aviators today.
Herron Robb's character is an amalgam of women like Jean Batten, Beryl Markham, Amy Johnsona and Amelia Earhart.
The festival will also include performance pieces by poets Heid Erdrich and Bao Phi, as well as a world premiere of the play "Ady" by Rhiana Yazzie.
Meena Natarajan says the festival will help all of the artists determine where they want to go next with these works, informed in part by feedback sessions with the audience. Herron Robb says she's looking forward to the sessions, but she's not counting on everyone liking her work.
I don't need them to be nice, necessarily. I want them to ask questions, to let me know what stood out for them, what spoke to them, and what they did or didn't understand. Liking or not liking isn't necessarily useful at this point. You can't please everybody.
The Alternate Visions Festival runs June 10 - July 25 at the Pangea World Theater's studio in Minneapolis.
Want to check out the work of a bunch of playwrights for free? Interested in supporting theater by playwrights of color?
Easy! Just head over to the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis tonight at 7:30 for "Madness," a monthly "new play testing ground' organized by "The Unit."
"The Unit" is an independent collective of emerging playwrights of color and theater artists "devoted to pushing the development of new work beyond the conventional parameters of play development such as sit down readings and workshops."
Each month a different thematic challenge is assigned to participating writers; this month's theme is "The Loss of Innocence." The writers then create a ten-minute play over the next 3 weeks. At each monthly "Madness" event, the plays are staged by actors (with scripts in hand). The performance is followed by refreshments and feedback from the audience.
Check out the Madness facebook page for more information.
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)
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)
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.
Quodlibet - definition:
Main Entry: quod·li·bet
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin quodlibetum, from Latin quodlibet, neuter of quilibet any whatever, from qui who, what + libet it pleases, from libēre to please -- more at who, love
Date: 14th century
1 : a philosophical or theological point proposed for disputation; also : a disputation on such a point
2 : a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts
Christina Schmid says she looked long and hard for a name for her new website, before she stumbled across the word "quodlibet." Schmid says she found the word a perfect description of what she hopes to accomplish with her new online magazine dedicated to arts criticism.
As people who write about art, we're engaging with these elements that are already out there, and we're interested in argument as well as these elements of whimsy. Plus it looked really good in our typeface.
Quodlibetica officially launched in September, and every other month presents a series of essays (called a "constellation") around a basic theme. September's theme was "wilderness," while November's theme is "death" (coming on the heels of Halloween).
Schmid is one of two managing editors of the site . She says she fell into writing about art a short while ago and was faced with a few different paths, none of which really appealed to her. She contemplated journalistic writing about the arts, which would force her to be very up to date about current events and artists.
But there's a certain rush and breathlessness to that. And I wanted to go deeper, take more time with the art. I wanted to stay away from arts writing that is just cheerleading for the arts, and I didn't see a place for that on other local websites. Unless you go to the academic sites, and that's not necessarily what I wanted to write or read.
Thus the creation of Quodlibetica, a site which Schmid hopes will balance great writing and great artistic insight while creating room for plafulness, experimentation, and thoughtful argument. The work is heavily weighted on reviewing visual art, but also includes poetry, photo essays, and first person tales.
The new site marks the first foray since mnartists.org at creating a destination for thoughtful arts criticism in the Twin Cities. Schmid says anyone is welcome to submit an essay (they will be edited), but to date the most willing contributors have been academics looking for a place to write with a more personal voice.
The site is Twin Cities based, and as such focuses primariloy on Minnesota artists and exhibitions. Ultimately Schmid says, if the website truly succeeds, it will generate not only great writing, but will stimulate the creation of better art.
Luminaries from the Minnesota literary world will gather this evening at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis to remember Bill Holm and to read from his latest work (published posthumously), "The Chain Letter of the Soul."
Those reading from his new book will include Minnesota Poet Laureate Robert Bly, Holm's wife Marcella Brekken, Milkweed Editions' publishers Emilie Buchwald and Daniel Slager, and poets Phil Bryant, Phebe Hanson, Jim Heynen, Jim Lenfestey, Freya Manfred, Joe and Nancy Paddock and John Rezmerski.
Pianist Sonja Thompson will accompany the evening, performing selections of Hayden (one of Holm's favorite composers) and other classics.
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)
Congratulations to Arts Journal which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its first post over the weekend.
AJ serves as both an arts news aggregator and as an originator of content in several different area. It taps into the arts scene through some 200 publications from all over the US and across the English-speaking world. There is always something, if not many things, of interest to read.
Readers can also sign up for a free daily or weekly digest, depending on their appetite for arts news.
Founder and editor Douglas McLennan tells a little bit of the Arts Journal story in his blog Diacritical.
In it he promises much more, including a new design: We're working on the next version of ArtsJournal, which we hope to launch in the next month or so. As the media world changes from newspapers to other sources, we want to make sure we're casting our nets in the right directions. And we want to make it easier to find the stories they're looking for. Here's to another ten.
It could be a scene from the movie "Helvetica." People around the world are in an uproar at the Swedish furniture store Ikea, not for the quality of its workmanship, or the prices, but the new typeface used
to display its four letter namein its catalogues.
Evidently Ikea wants to make its global image more consistent, and that means using a font that will work in all languages, and with asian characters. Verdana is also the typeface of choice on the web.
But for many Futura is a classic. And Ikea has been quite happy with it for the past 50 years.
While the typophiles are in a heated debate over the move, the bigger question is how (or whether) it will affect the store's brand reputation. It's hard to imagine that a store with such a recognizable image
(four blockish yellow letters on a bold blue building) could take a hit from a slight change in font, but comparisons have already been made to the launch of New Coke back in 1985.
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)
Michael Steinberg, widely recognized as one of the most important writers on classical music of our time passed away this morning at age 80. Steinberg, husband of recently retired Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
During his career Steinberg worked as a critic for the Boston Globe, a lecturer at several colleges and universities including Smith College, Hunter College, Brandeis University,
and the New England Conservatory. He was in later years program annotator to the New York Philharmonic while also serving as an advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra.
Born in Breslau in Germany in 1928, he spent part of his childhood in England after his mother managed to get him included in the Kindertransport, the rescue effort which got 10,000 children out of Germany before the outbreak of World War II. He moved to the United States with his mother and brother before the end of the war.
It was in England that he first discovered his love of music. In his book "For the love of Music: Invitations to Listening" co-authored with Larry Rothe, Steinberg revealed it was not in a concert hall, but in an alley behind a movie theater.
"It was Fantasia, the original 1940 version that did me in. I saw it just once, at the Cosmopolitan, a dingy movie house in Cambridge England, and although this was more than sixty-five years ago, I remember it more vividly than most of the movies I have seen in the last sixty-five weeks. I saw it just once because as a schoolboy on threepence a week in pocket money - even in 1940 that bought hardly anything, and surely not more than half a movie ticket - I couldn't afford to go again. Besides the guardians of Good Taste would not have encouraged, let alone subsidized, a return visit. But I also realized I did not need to see it again because the most important part was available for free. Behind the sweet little fleabag where Fantasia was playing, there was this alley where I could stand every day after school, stand undisturbed, and listen to the soundtrack of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and Stravinsky. On a recent visit to Cambridge I was happy to see there is still a movie theater on the same site, but it is now called the Arts Theatre and is a lot cleaner."
In a statement today Rothe said this of Steinberg:
"In the last years Michael defined what it means to battle an illness. He
continued to hang tough, determined not to let anything keep him from doing
what he had always done, which was to put listeners in touch with the music.
In his writing and in his talks, Michael knocked down walls with
intelligence, wit, and a broad sense of culture. He was a great storyteller.
He expected much from his readers and offered much. You get a taste of all
this in his books: The Symphony, The Concerto, and Choral Masterworks, three
compilations of his program notes. Another book, For the Love of Music,
gathers his reflections on an array of musical subjects.
Concerts to celebrate Michael Steinberg's life will be presented in San Francisco and Minneapolis at times to be announced.
Posted at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2009
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Writing
Check out Carol Muske-Dukes' poem "Twin Cities", published in the current edition of the New Yorker. Muske-Dukes uses images of the Mississippi and its east and west banks to recall a friendship from childhood. What holds us together, and what keeps us apart?