Friday, April 23, 2010
Yesterday we got copies of Wing Young Huie's newest book. He's well-known for the large scale work he's done on Lake Street and in Frogtown. This project takes on University Ave and contains pictures of people and images along a six mile path of that street. A path that will be changing in the very near future as light-rail makes its way toward the state capitol building.
Huie has always done interesting things with public art and display. This time he's teamed with some other arts organizations to make the photos and the book accessible, in, in a variety of ways, to as many people as possible. For starters, the book is being published in two volumes--the second is due in August. The price for each volume is $12.95 which is less than most standard paperback novels cost. This is due to grants for the project and working together with Public Art St. Paul. Public Art St. Paul is the group also behind the Sidewalk Poetry Project in which residents submit poems and a handful of winners are selected to have their work imprinted in city sidewalks. I had the honor/challenge of judging last year and it was so much fun to see poems we had chosen written in cement.
It's great to see another part of St. Paul get its 15 minutes of artistic fame. There is no artist better equipped to take on this big challenge and, from the looks of the first volume, the work is really strong.
You can learn more about the project at its website and Public Art Saint Paul here
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
David Foster Wallace had a meteoric rise to the top of literary American fiction in 1996. He went from a published, if little-known, novelist and college professor to 'the guy' who was on the cover of magazines and in the minds of young readers, writers and cultural critics. "Infinite Jest" with its sprawl and footnotes and obscene amount of popular culture references was greatly admired and hailed as the new, great, thing immediately upon publication. And that alone would send almost any writer into an orbit of happiness. But Foster Wallace was not most writers. He was a highly self-critical person and one who dealt with the extremes of depression for nearly twenty years.
Age-wise, I'm right in the wheelhouse for most of the huge DFW fan-boys. Yet while I knew of him and had lots of friends who were massive admirers I just never got around to reading him. I finally took on the massive "Infinite Jest" in the summer of 2007 and admired it and was confused by it. Later on I did read some of his short stories and read some of his essays--though many of them were, frankly, just too smart for me. Even though I never *got* all of his stuff, I was saddened greatly to hear of his suicide in 2008.
David Lipsky travelled with DFW for five days on his reading tour for "Infinite Jest" to write a piece on him for Rolling Stone. The piece never ran--but the book "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself" is Lipsky's story about those days. It reads, at times, like pure transcript because that is what is. But the reader soon gets into that rhythm. What is apparent is that these two men bonded over things--music, movies, books and nicotine. Wallace comes across as wildly bright and down to earth. Inquisitive and imaginative and, ultimately, quite sad.
I think it was a smart idea to publish the book in a paperback original($16.99) and while it probably isn't the best place for someone to start with DFW it is great for fans. It shines a light on one of the brighter writing stars of the last twenty years and shows, in part, just what might have been. Like all suicides, the questions will always far outweigh the answers. But in this book Lipsky has given readers something to smile about.
Friday, April 16, 2010
It is Friday and really unseasonably wonderful out and the MN Twins are looking very good. So I'm going to keep this very positive. Plus, it's been an easy week to think glass half-full. For example, there is this thing called the Pulitzer Prize and it's, like, a fairly big deal. So imagine my shock and laughter and fist-pumping when I heard that Paul Harding and his quietly wonderful, little, novel "Tinkers" had won the big prize. The book is distributed by our local book friends at Consortium and we just couldn't be happier for everyone involved. Like all great surprises, there is a backstory here that deserves a little telling. Go here for a nice story from the Boston Globe. Thanks go to John Mesjak for that link.
Second, we had the rare problem last weekend of having too many people at an event and not enough books. Gayla Marty, author of "The Memory of Trees", read at her church in Dinkytown last Sunday. This article helped the crowd far exceed anyone's expectations and we sold out of books before the event even began. That is something that has never happened in our nearly 7 year existence. Good problem.
I'll finish with a couple baseball books. Baseball books are like Abraham Lincoln books. They never stop being published and for people who aren't zealots it can be difficult to tell any of them apart. Jason Turbow has written "The Baseball Codes" with Michael Duca. This is a real insider's guide to the written and unwritten rules of the baseball world. It contains stories of brawls and brains and the kind of stories that our national pasttime is so good at creating.
The next one is a book I'm in the middle of right now and am just crazy about. Mark Kurlansky is the guy who pretty much created the micro-history craze with his book "Salt." His newest is "The Eastern Stars" and focuses on the small Dominican town of San Pedro de Macorís. This town has two industries: picking sugar cane and creating outstanding baseball players. But why? And this is where Kurlansky excels. 79 men from this town have played Major League Baseball and this is a huge success. But those who don't make it really don't make it. This isn't cultural history, so much, as digging around an issue and looking at so many little facets in smart and new ways.