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Back in the 1960s, "Gonzo" journalism came on the scene with writers like Tom Wolfe with his hilarious "Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers," in which he attends a party thrown by Leonard Bernstein for a bunch of unruly Black Panthers. Then there was George Plimpton's "Paper Lion," his account of trying out at the Detroit Lions' Training Camp. Finally, there was the "Gonzo' of them all, Hunter S. Thompson, who reported that presidential candidate Edmund Muskie looked as if he were on drugs because he WAS doing drugs.
Holy cow! I didn't know there was such a thing as a Halsey Hall Chapter of the Society for Baseball Research until I received a review copy of "Minnesotans in Baseball," by Stew Thornley, prominent Minnesota author of sports stories and biographies based in the Gopher State, like "On to Nicollet" his fascinating history of the Minneapolis Millers and its stars, like Ted Williams. In this new outing, Thornley acted as editor and major contributor of biographies of Minnesotans who made their mark on baseball in Minnesota and other venues.
Ofttimes excellent novelists make poor critics, poor assessors of books written by their peers. Ernest Hemingway and his treatment of F. Scott Fitzgerald comes immediately to mind. Such is not the case with E.L.
Last month the U.S. lost one of the great writers in the pantheon of 20th century literature, John Updike, the kid from Skillington, Pa., who wanted to grow up and be a satirist for the New Yorker. Updike succeeded at that and then some. Eatablishing himself at the New Yorker in 1954 at age 22, he went on to write a series of novels about Rabbit Angstrom, the lower middle-class kid Updike followed through his entire life.
Still looking for last minute holiday gifts for hard-to-buy friends and relatives? I've got a few that just came across my desk in time for you to run out and buy a copy. Books, you know, are easy to wrap. If you get stuck with a batch of apples, you make applesauce. That's what a longtime acquaintance of mine did when the newspaper where he served as book review editor closed down its book review section. Nick Basbanes was middle-aged and the prospects were glum. But Basbanes put his shoulder to the wheel and pushed hard.
There's something comforting about reading novels set in places where you're fairly well acquainted. I loved Thomas Gifford's "The Windchill Factor" years ago. That was the espionage novel that begins in Taylors Falls, Minn., when the little white frame library blows up. When I read the book I had recently visited that little library, which had the weirdest classification system I had ever seen. Gifford followed with "The Cavanaugh Quest," a novel set in Prospect Park, which is within eyeshot of the college where I used to teach.
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.