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Years ago, my wife and I traveled to Assisi, Italy, for a few days in the town St. Francis made famous. When we wore out St. Francis, we made our way to St. Clare's church to see the reliquary in its catacomb. As we waited in a long line, an aged nun swept by me, elbowed me in the groin and took my spot before St. Clare's skull. As I groaned in agony, my wife heard a local tourist tell his wife in Italian "No wonder Americans think we're crazy." He was wrong. We don't think Italians are crazy, but I'll have to admit we sometimes wonder. So does author Eric Dregni.
"Charles Dickens," by Michael Slater (Yale University Press, $35) is due out on Nov. 30. It's a long-awaited full-sized literary biography of the amazing writer who gave us "David Copperfield," "Great Expectations," and many more memorable Victorian novels. My first brush with Dickens was purely accidental. Back when I was a kid a company in Racine, Banta, published thick little volumes called "Big Little Books." I traded three of my Batman comic books for one old and worn "Big Little Book," a condensation of "David Copperfield" studded with pictures from David O.
What is "Alternate History"? It's not reinterpretation of historical facts as we have come to understand them. That's been around for a long time. Critics who say that the world would have been better off without Churchill, that Franklin D. Roosevelt goofed in his support of Chiang Kai-Shek. There's plenty of that stuff around and has been for years. Alternate History, however, is something relatively new. I well recall the first alternate history I ever read. It was a novel. Fiction. And it opened with the appearance of U.S. President Kennedy.
If you happened to catch the recent PBS series about World War II, or even better if you missed it, you'll probably want to run out and purchase "World War II Behind Closed Doors," Laurence Rees (Pantheon, $35). Reese, winner of the British Book Award for History Book of the Year, was the producer of the PBS offering and now he's out with a companion book full of detail that didn't make it to the screen.
A small, tree-killing insect from China has jumped across the state of Wisconsin in a single bound. Wisconsin officials announced Tuesday that the emerald ash borer had been discovered in Victory, a small Miss-issippi River town 20 miles south of La Crosse. "Our agency, in concert with other state and federal partners, is now working out the details of surveying the area and learning more about the age and extent of the infestation," Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a statement. It's the first confirmed outbreak of
ST. PAUL - Norm Coleman took the U.S.
After graduating from Harvard, Sara Houghteling studied for her master's degree in fine arts at the University of Michigan, where she received a Fulbright Scholarship to Paris and one of Michigan's highest honors, the Avery Hopwood Award for novels. This bodes well for the young woman. Older readers may recall that Arthur Miller received a Hopwood Award when he attended Michigan several eons ago. Houghteling's novel, "Pictures at an Exposition" (Knopf, $24.95) takes as its subject the Nazi looting of art from Paris during World War II.
A proposal to add an October firearms deer season in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has met stiff opposition.
A Red Wing church is out $94,000 after Internet thieves apparently hacked church computers. The Church of St. Joseph, 426 West Eight St., reported to Red Wing police on March 20 that a large sum of money was taken from the church's bank account without consent. "What's more shocking than the amount is that we've been attacked by an Internet crime," said church priest Thomas Kommers. In a letter written to church members, Kommers said on March 19 the thieves used a sophisticated Internet virus to gain confidential information that was used to execute electronic money transfers.
HENDRUM, Minn. - The Red River caught this community 30 miles north of Moorhead by nasty surprise Sunday. With ice jams impeding its advance downstream, the river swelled rapidly, from the base of the 5-foot dike surrounding Hen-drum to just a few inches shy of its top. The rise - three days be-fore a projected crest of just over 40 feet - yielded a desperate call for volun-teers and a scramble to build a half mile of sandbag reinforcements.