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On Tuesday, Oct. 7, River Falls Journal columnist Dave Wood will appear in dialogue with author Samuel Hynes at 7 p.m. on the University of Minnesota campus at the Elmer L. Anderson Library.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. Thus begins Samuel Taylor Coleridge's haunting fragment, "Kubla Khan." There are all manner of theories about why Coleridge never finished the poem, one of which avers that Coleridge wrote it while in an opium-induced haze. Just when he was writing For he on honeydew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise. a bill collector knocked on his door.
I opened "A Remarkable Mother," by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, $22.95) with some trepidation. Ex-presidents don't usually make great writers, unless you count U.S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt. Nixon made too many excuses, Bill Clinton was way too windy.
There are so many wonderful poems in "This Brightness," by William Richard (Mid-List Press, $13) it's difficult to select a suitable work by one of St. Paul's talented writers, who was already named a finalist in the James Laughlin Award for his 2003 book, "How To," also published by Mid-List. So I'm going to indulge myself, fat as I am, with "The Luminous Body." Listen up before you worry about going to workout.
In May, my wife and I joined friends Jane and Larry Harred and Kermit and Sharon Paulson of River Falls, and Ralph and Grace Sulerud of St. Paul, for a trip to southern Italy and Sicily. Ruth and I spent a few days some years ago in southern Italy and Sicily, but lack of time and money precluded our doing the neighborhood justice.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sitting in for Dave Wood today is his wife, Dr. Ruth Wood, an English teacher at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I'm a teacher of international and multicultural literature, so when Coffee House Press sent three intriguing new books by Asian-American writers, I asked to be a guest columnist. This is a great array: A novel by Japanese-born Yuko Taniguchi, a short story collection by Chinese-born Wang Ping, and a poetry collection by Sun Yung Shin, a Korean adoptee. My favorite of the three is Wang Ping's story collection, "The Last Communist Virgin" ($14.95).
If you're fascinated by post-Edwardian society of the Roaring '20s, if you like Evelyn Waugh, if you enjoy the high jinks of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. If P.G. Wodehouse is your cup of tea laced with gin, of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey is your idea of a gentleman detective, then you'll probably like "The Bee's Kiss," by Barbara Cleverly (Delta, $13 paper). Cleverly, a recipient of the Golden Dagger Award for fiction, sets her sights on Great Britain eight years after World War I. It was time for the Beautiful People to kick up their heels.
Last year, Allegra Goodman made a splash with her fourth novel, which I missed by a country mile. Fortunately it's now out in a snazzy paperback edition "Intuition," (Dial Press, $13.95) so I can get another crack at it. "Intuition" is a rare mixture of science and passion, a love story set in a lab populated by a publicity-hungry oncologist, a talented research scientist and a post-doctoral fellowship recipient. Books like this don't come off the presses with much regularity, so it's difficult to scare up comparisons.
Ever since I watched the movie "Heartburn," I've wanted to know more about its heroine, based on Nora Ephron. In "Heartburn" Ephron is played by Meryl Streep and her husband Bernstein, is played by Jack Nicholson. They argue a lot, they eat a lot and finally they get divorced. In real life both have gone their varied ways, Ephron, now married to writer Nicholas Pileggi is a screen writer and a funny one.
Here's a bagful of books to get you started on an eclectic autumn reading program. Start with "Bitter Ocean: The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945," by David Fairbank White (Simon & Schuster, $26). For those of us who grew up with 1940s movies like "Action in the North Atlantic" (Bogart, Massey, Greenstreet, et al.) White's new book isn't exactly news. We remember the German U-Boats, and our Liberty Ships that brought precious cargo to Britain as it held out alone against the Axis. But for younger readers, "Bitter Ocean" is a fascinating study of the ravages of war.