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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.
When I was a wee tad, I went to the little movie house in town. I can't remember the feature, but I do remember a short subject that came on right after the RKO Pathe weekly news. The little movie starred Frank Sinatra, who was a big heartthrob in the 1940s. The plot went something like this: Sinatra comes out of a school building and overhears students at recess voicing racial and ethnic slurs. He lectures them about how tragic it is that we've just fought a war to end such stuff and now little kids are starting all over.
Let's start with a regional topic. Let's start with Orson Welles, who grew up in Kenosha and became a famous actor at 18, director at 20 and the brains behind and in what many folks call the greatest American movie, "Citizen Kane." And then it was all downhill for the boy genius whose Mercury Theatre of the Air gave us actors like Agnes Moorhead (another Wisconsinite), Joseph Cotton, Ray Collins and Everett Sloane and scared the pants off half the radio audience when it broadcast H.G.
Donald Lee "Doggie" Berg, 78, long-time resident of River Falls, Spanish professor emeritus at UW-River Falls, and "best snare drummer of his generation," died suddenly on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. A founding member of the Hall Brothers Jazz Band and part-owner of the Emporium of Jazz in Mendota, Minn., he was also the catalyst for the Semester Abroad Program to Mexico at UW-River Falls. He is survived by his wife, Mimi Trudeau; sons: Clint (Freya Larson) of Nashville, and Jason (Wa Stella) of Minnetonka, Minn.; two step-sons: Brent Griffin of Burnsville, Minn., and Phillip (Jeanne) Griffin