Book Report: A bunch of my local favorites ready for sharing
There's a bevy of new books by Minnesotans and about Minnesota for the gift giver who's willing to look for them. Wisconsin, too.
My favorite this year is "The Last Hunter," by Will Weaver (Borealis Books, $24.95). Weaver has had a very successful career mining the rich resources of his native state. And, unlike many accomplished Minnesota authors his work has attracted the attention of Hollywood.
"Red Earth, White Earth" has been made into a movie, as has "Sweetland," a very sweet book about an immigrant farmer taking as his bride a woman from Germany just after World War I.
His adolescent novels have won awards and can profitably be read by anyone, including aged adults like me.
In "The Last Hunter" Weaver turns to memoir and it's a wonderful one. He writes of his beginnings on a farm outside Park Rapids, moves on to college, where he is a student of poet John Berryman at the University of Minnesota.
After Berryman's suicide, he gives up on writing and moves with his girlfriend to the Silicon Valley, where he works for a time in the computer industry. Then it's off to Europe, a teaching career and his eventual success as a writer.
His title comes from his lifelong enthusiasm as an outdoorsman, fisherman, hunter, how his family lived for the hunt and how his own offspring care little for the chase.
Weaver writes with disarming wit. His description of life as an English major with pretensions is indeed delicious.
The farmboy from Park Rapids even fancies himself a gourmet cook until Rose, his bride-to-be, shows him "...that salads were more than iceberg lettuce and grated carrots with French dressing slathered on top and that a good T-bone steak need not be cooked until it was gray in the middle -- nor did it require gravy."
"When Last on the Mountain: The View From Writers Over 50," edited by Vicky Lettmann and Carol Roan (Holy Cow! Press, $17.95): Duluth publisher Jim Perlman is to be congratulated for his latest book that highlights the nation's older writers, including several from the upper Midwest, including Thomas R. Smith of River Falls.
Smith has a sterling reputation as a nature poet, but I also like his "hometown" poems about Cornell. In this book, Doc Mittermeyer was the country doctor who delivered him:
"The last time I encountered the great old
doctor, I was strolling with my mother
on an unhappy visit home in the Seventies.
He looked frailer, his white brush cut a little
overgrown. My mother asked him, 'Well,
are you proud of your big boy now?'
She meant his eldest, Frank, recent college
graduate already making a career
for himself in medicine. But for the rest
of that evening I savagely berated
myself for my idiot grin, having for a
split second assumed she referred to me."
"Queer Twin Cities," by the Editorial Board of GLBT Oral History Project (University of Minnesota Press, $25), is a real eye opener. The various members of the Oral History Project takes us from early Minnesota history (was there homosexual activity in the lumber camps of the 19th century? Probably.) to the famous gay hangouts of the metropolis (The Viking Room at the Radisson, The Hollander Cedar Avenue.)
Tom Disch grew up in Minneapolis, then went on to become a significant writer in the New York scene, serving as a critic for the Nation magazine. He took his own life in 2008 and now the University of Minnesota Press is reissuing four of his books involving supernatural Minnesota: "The Businessman: A Tale of Terror," "The M.D.: A Horror Story," "The Priest: A Gothic Romance," and "The Sub: A Study in Witchcraft" ($16.95 each, paper).
The World War II craze is still upon us and now Lutheran University Press of Minneapolis has jumped on the band wagon, with "Cobbers in WWII," edited by James B. Hofrenning ($28, paper).
Hofrenning, a professor emeritus at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., has put together a telling group of essays written by Concordia alums who served in the war.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.