I’m gearing up for the Twin Cities Book Festival on October 17, 10-5 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Free admission.
Book festivals make great entertainment for readers. You get to talk to authors, check out new books and strike up conversations with fellow book lovers. I’ve found that there are little book festivals going on all the time, in addition to the big fests, such as the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. or the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.
I spent much of yesterday at the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato, Minnesota which is part of the Betsy-Tacy Deep Valley Homecoming. I sold a truckload of books—-okay about ten and I swapped one of those with another author for her book. However, I met a lot of local authors working on fascinating topics (fiction and non-fiction), swapped book promotion ideas, and gained lots of inspiration. Best of all, I met one of my favorite local writers, Faith Sullivan, a generous, delightful person and great writer who enthusiastically purchased a copy of my book, Off The Beaten Page. Keep an eye out for her new book, Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, coming out this fall from Milkweed Press.
I met a few other authors whose books I have to share with you. Odds are, if you’re not too far away, they’d be happy to stop by your book group to talk about their book. First on my list to read is Nancy Koester’s Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life.
Allen Eskens‘s debut novel, The Life We Bury, is a story of suspense involving a University of Minnesota student, set against the harsh winter of Minnesota. I’ll be settling in for that one this winter.
I also met the bubbly Anne B. Kerr, author of Fujiyama Trays and Oshibori Towels, a memoir of her experiences as a Northwest Orient Airlines stewardess in the 1950s. I pickup of a copy to give to my mother-in-law who was also a flight attendant in that era.
And finally, if you’re a fan of young adult paranormal romance, a very specific category, check out Unclaimed by Laurie Wentzel. Laurie shared book promotion tips and also explained that my college dating life didn’t qualify as paranormal.
I have a new article, The Wild Still Calls, in this month’s issue of a fun magazine, “Live Happy.” It’s about Jack London State Park and how the volunteers there are keeping the park and the memory of author Jack London alive.
London, author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang and many other adventure stories, was the most famous author of his time. Most people don’t know he was also a world traveler, sustainable farmer and oyster pirate. His own life was as adventurous as his stories.
Seattle is famous for its grey skies and currently, for another
grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Crowds of Shades fans are driving by the Escala condominiums in Seattle, the home of the fictional Christian Grey, among other sites in the books and movie. And, tour operators now offer travel packages that incorporate Fifty Shades sites, hopefully with a little more romance and a little less S and M.
One writer called the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing,” but darn, I wish I wrote those books; that woman has struck it rich. The movie has received equally stinky reviews, but it will probably do well financially, too.
A little mommy porn can be fun if you’re into, um, pain and bondage, but I’m here to tell you that whether it’s weather or reading, Seattle isn’t just about Grey. If you’re looking for books with a little more literary merit to inform and inspire a trip to the Emerald City, the folks at one of my favorite bookstores, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle have a reading list for you. Here’s a list they sent with some great and pretty recent fiction and nonfiction books set in Seattle, by local authors.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)
The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction) See my other post about Sherman Alexie and banned books.
Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (fiction)
Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (fiction)
Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock (poetry)
Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (nonfiction)
Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water by Art Wolfe (nonfiction – pictorial)
Mary Randlett Portraits by Frances McCue and Mary Randlett (nonfiction – pictorial)
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Bainbridge Island.
I love it when events and my reading coincide. WonderWomen, an art exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery in Minneapolis runs from now until February 14. Though they didn’t plan it that way, the exhibit came on the heels of the release of Harvard historian Jill Lapore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which details the weird life of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator and also the inventor of the lie detector test.
Wonder Woman—part superhero, part kinky-booted pinup girl—flew into American culture in 1941 and has been part of our pop culture ever since. Along with the biography of Wonder Woman and her creator, Lepore’s book is analysis of women’s history and feminism. The WonderWomen exhibit examines that topic from the pop-art perspective. It features works by women artists inspired or influenced by comics, animation or popular culture, and related screenings of work by women filmmakers presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Read my article about the show in the Minnesota Women’s Press.
One of my favorite works in the show, “Wonder Woman Katy” dominates the room at the Nash Gallery. She wears a red cape and she’s seven feet tall. Don’t mess with her. That’s the image Minneapolis artist Barbara Porwit wants to convey in her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project, a series of larger-than-life paintings of real women battling the disease, of which “Wonder Woman Katy” is a part. Porwit’s works celebrate the heroic nature of women affected by breast cancer
Frenchy Lunning, a professor of liberal arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an internationally known expert in manga, anime (Japanese comics and animation) and popular culture, is co-curator of the exhibit. She says, ”The takeaway for viewers is to become aware of the magnitude of feminine culture and how feminist art, with all of its potentially subversively qualities, is entering mainstream culture.”
Even if you can’t make it to the WonderWomen exhibit, you’ll want
to read The Secret History of Wonder Woman. A New York Times review of the book called Wonder Woman’s creator “….a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast. As Wonder Woman would say, “Suffering Sappho!” How can we resist?
Who doesn’t feel like they know just about everything there is to know about 9/11? We’ve seen the video tapes of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September, 2001 countless times and viewed special reports and documentaries without end. Yet, when I stepped into the new National September 11 Memorial Museum I found that there actually was more to learn, but more importantly, to remember.
Located underground in the heart of the World Trade Center site, the museum tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The exhibition explores the background leading up to the events and examines their aftermath and continuing implications.
Even though we’ve seen them so many times, when those video clips and films of what led up to the attack played in the museum the people watching them with me all had the same reaction: “Oh my God.” There are video taped stories from people who were there, displays of artifacts ranging from fire trucks and twisted metal beams to personal objects of people working in the towers that day (really personal things like shoes and purses), papers that rained down, and a portion of one of the stairways from which survivors escaped the building.
As one would expect in such an emotionally and politically charged situation, many parts of the museum have been controversial. Some people object to the the way one exhibit connects Islam and terrorism and the simple fact of tourists gawking at what is essentially hallowed ground offends some of the families. Nonetheless, I felt like the curators struck the right balance.
Many survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center and their families are very involved with the museum and give tours and talks at the complex. I felt lucky to be there for a presentation by an NYPD officer who was on site that day and a young woman whose father died trying to get people out of one of the towers. Their stories made it all very personal. Not a dry eye in the house.
I left the museum to stroll around the 9/11 Memorial outside with its two square waterfalls surrounded by the names of those lost in the attacks. The newly opened One World Trade Center–the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth tallest building in the world–towers, symbolically, over it all. I’m sappy enough to feel proud of the way the city and the country has moved on, but still remembers.
If you go: Admission, $24 for adults. Go to 911memorial.org to reserve tickets, download the free 9/11 app to enhance your tour and for directions.
Read up: As usual, I recommend a bit of reading before you go which adds immensely to enhance your experience. And, as usual, I recommend fiction books for their ability to layer events and emotions to create a story that is almost more real than non-fiction. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close– Jonathan Safran Foer, Falling Man, Don DeLillo. For nonfiction, check out an anthology of New Yorker articles, After 9/11– edited by David Remnick.
Since the beginning, Minnesota’s lakes and rivers have been the engine of the region’s development and the focus of recreation, not to mention the source of a whole lot of fish. The Twin Cities, for example, have their roots on the Mississippi River, which has transported timber and grain from the Midwest to markets in the east and powered the four mills of the Pillsbury family, among others, since the early 1800s. That made the riverfront in Minneapolis primarily an industrial area. Interesting, but not particularly scenic.
All of that is changing as the city rediscovers and redevelops its waterfront. The mills and warehouses have been converted to trendy apartments and condominiums now and that section of the riverfront is part of an expanding Mill Ruins Park. It’s the sight of the Mill City Farmers Market in summer, where you can eat and buy great organic produce under the watchful gaze of some of the world’s great playwrights who look down from the Guthrie Theater next door.
Though the new version of the riverfront is more vibrant, it’s the unusual history here that makes it so intriguing. You can revisit the city’s early days in several ways. First, pick up a copy of Mary Relindes Ellis’s novel Bohemian Flats, which is named after the area slightly downriver from the mills which was home to the city’s poorest immigrants, mainly from Germany and eastern Europe (or Bohemia) who are the subject of the story. Set after World War I, the book traces the progress of a German immigrant family who settled in the ramshackle village that grew up along a low point along the river, many of whom worked in the flour mills.
Next, start a riverfront tour at the Mill City Museum, which offers an in-depth look at the flour industry and the early days of Minneapolis. It’s built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. Wander the across the Stone Arch bridge for a terrific view of the river and St. Anthony Falls, which powered the mills and check out the paths and ruins along the water. Grab some grub at the Farmer’s Market and watch the river roll by as you eat.
Book lovers will want to wander down Washington Avenue to explore the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at Open Book. You can view the artistic assembly of the pages, covers, and spines, then peruse the shop at MCBA, which is a reader’s delight of books, gifts, handmade paper, and journals.
Rent one of the green bikes from one of the Nice Ride Minnesota stations near the museum and head downriver for a scenic tour. Make a stop at Izzy’s gourmet ice cream to fuel your trip. You’ll arrive at Bohemian Flats, which is no longer a wild collection of shacks, but rather a lovely park inhabited mainly by University of Minnesota students throwing frisbees. It’s a great pastoral place to enjoy the view of the river, the university campus and, in particular, the futuristic Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum. It makes quite a contrast to the image of the old Bohemian Flats on the cover of Ellis’s novel.