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Kathleen Vellenga reads from "Strangers in Our Midst," and Pauline Knaeble Williams reads from "Finding Hollis"
09/15/2014 7:00 pm
In Strangers in Our Midst, Two young women learning to survive in their own worlds are forced to confront even greater challenges when those worlds collide. Elisabeth, a passenger on the Mayflower, and Attitash, a young Wampanoag, discover differences in their core beliefs—but also a common humanity. As they learn to trust each other, their covert friendship forestalls starvation but can’t overcome the distrust that’s widespread in both cultures. In time accusations of witchcraft and betrayal threaten their friendship and the survival of both societies. Strangers in Our Midst reimagines a critical moment in our continent’s history, remaining faithful to the historical record while avoiding both stereotypes and finger-pointing. It describes a time when love, trust, and understanding struggled to overcome cruelty, hardship, and deception in all societies—and it does so with great imagination.
Kathleen Vellenga taught young children and was an active volunteer as well as a mother of three until she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1981. Kathleen left the Legislature in 1994 to become the executive director of the Saint Paul Children’s Initiative, a new early childhood collaborative. While considerable historical research is the basis for the plot, Vellenga drew deeply upon her personal relationships for the emotional heart of the story. She lives in St. Paul with her husband, Jim Vellenga.
“[Pauline Knaeble Williams] knows how to both break and heal hearts in her debut novel, Finding Hollis...masterfully portrayed”--Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Finding Hollis, is Pauline Knaeble Williams’ debut novel. Set in 1944 in North Minneapolis, Finding Hollis is a journey in search of more than just a name. Within it the threads of three separate worlds become interwoven—first by circumstance, then by understanding. Finding Hollis transcends ethnic and racial barriers through the eyes of a young white woman who witnesses a tragic car accident only to discover as much about herself as the new world.
Pauline Knaeble Williams was born and raised along with her eleven siblings in North Minneapolis. She attended Macalester College in St. Paul, MN where she studied sociology and history. She currently resides in New Jersey and teaches preschool children. She lives with her husband and two children in a house with lots of sunshine.
09/28/2014 5:00 pm
“Every sentence in Things That Are is as pure and fanciful as frost patterns on a window Pane.”–The Rumpus
A series of essays that progress from the tiniest Earth dwellers to far-flung celestial bodies—considering everything from the similarity of gods to donkeys, to the connection of exploding stars and exploding sea cucumbers—to rekindle our communion with the wild world. Concerned at once with realms animal and human, phenomenal and cosmic, the contents expand and confound the reader’s senses in delightful ways.
You bring the opinions, we’ll supply the wine and cheese. RSVP to Jevin[at]commongoodbooks.com. Buy the book at Common Good Books and get 20% off.
09/18/2014 7:00 pm
Ease into the Turf Club’s Old Familiar Chime with a discussion of a guitar legend.
John Fahey is to the solo acoustic guitar what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric: the man whom all subsequent musicians had to listen to. Fahey made more than 40 albums between 1959 and his death in 2001, most of them featuring only his solo steel-string guitar. He fused elements of folk, blues, and experimental composition, taking familiar American sounds and recontextualizing them as something entirely new.
Journalist Steve Lowenthal has spent years researching Fahey's life and music, talking with his producers, his friends, his peers, his wives, his business partners, and many others. He describes Fahey's battles with stage fright, alcohol, and prescription pills; how he ended up homeless and mentally unbalanced; and how, despite his troubles, he managed to found a record label that won Grammys and remains critically revered.
This event is part of Old Familiar Chime, a celebration of guitar music happening September 19, 2014, at the Turf Club in Saint Paul. While several micro-styles will be heard, most performers have strong ties to “American Primitive” playing, a strain of folk guitar attributed to John Fahey & his ilk. Higher profile players (Glenn Jones, Michael Chapman) will appear alongside up-and-comers (Steve Gunn, Alexander Turnquist) and the old guard (Spider John) for a wonderful night of music, sponsored by KFAI. Details are at www.turfclub.net.
Steve Lowenthal started and ran the music magazine Swingset; his writing has also been published in Fader, Spin, Vice, and the Village Voice. He ran the record label Plastic for five years and currently runs the VDSQ label, which specializes in solo instrumental acoustic guitar music. He lives in New York City.
09/23/2014 7:00 pm
Minnesota funny girl takes Hollywood by storm in inimitable Lorna Landvik style.
No one steps up to life’s banquet, holds out her tray, and orders, “Grief, please!” But as a child, Candy Pekkala was served a heaping helping of it. Every buffet line has a dessert section, however, and when a cousin calls with a Hollywood apartment to sublet, it seems as though Candy is finally offered something sweet. It’s good-bye to Minnesota and hello to California, where a girl who has always lived by her wits has a real chance of making a living with them. With that, the irrepressible Lorna Landvik launches her latest irresistible character onto the world stage--or at least onto the dimly lit small stage where stand-up comedy gets its start.
A comic performer, Landvik taps her own adventurous past and Minnesota roots to conjure Candy’s life in this strange new Technicolor home. Her fellow tenants at Peyton Hall include a female bodybuilder, a ruined nightclub impresario, and a well-connected Romanian fortune-teller. There are game show appearances and temp jobs at a record company and an establishment suspiciously like the Playboy Mansion, and of course the alluring but not always welcoming stage of stand-up comedy. As she hones her act, Candy is tested by humiliation, hecklers, and the inherent sexism that insists “chicks aren’t funny.”
Lorna Landvik is the best-selling author of many novels, including Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons, Oh My Stars, and Mayor of the Universe (Minnesota, 2014). She has performed stand-up and improvisational comedy around the country and is also a public speaker, playwright, and actor, most recently seen in an all-improvised, one-woman show Party in the Rec Room.
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There's no shortage of sequels in the summertime. In fact, a few of our staff's favorite novels are soon to pick up right where they left off...
Enon (Now in Paperback), Paul Harding's follow-up novel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers, explores the grief of protagonist Charlie Crosby (grandson of Tinkers character George Crosby) over the loss of his daughter. Peter Recommends
10:04 (Available 9/2), a meta-sequel to Ben Lerner's breakout debut (winner of the 2012 Believer Book Award) Leaving the Atocha Station, finds our unnamed author/narrator under contract with a major publisher, but no more certain how to face the future and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be underwater. Colin Recommends
Lila (Available 10/7), the last of three novels by Marilynne Robinson set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, tells the hardscrabble story of Lila, wife of minister John Ames. Robinson's preceding novels Gilead (2004) and Home (2008) received the Pulitzer and Orange Prizes, respectively. Jean Recommends
Stephan Eirik Clark’s novel Sweetness #9 is a sweet blend of dark satire and light humor. Where does he get his inspiration? Click here to read a few of Clark’s own addictively good book recommendations.
LIT UP LATE: Get your copy of "Wolf in White Van" at Moon Palace Books. And stay for the grand prize drawing!
09/15/2014 11:30 pm
09/16/2014 12:30 pm
“Lit Up Late” gives you three good reasons to stay up and read--Murakami, Mitchell, and Darnielle.
Can’t wait to get your hands on three of this fall’s most-anticipated books? Common Good Books, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, and Moon Palace Books are staying up late so that you don’t have to wait another second. Get three great books as soon as they become available--no delivery hassles, no waiting list, nothing but pure reading pleasure.
Lit Up Late is a mini-series of three late-night literary events in August and September. Mingle with your fellow book lovers, enjoy some music and food, and get your books while the rest of the world is asleep at the switch.
Punches and prizes
Each late night event will feature fun and frivolity, but the truly dedicated have a shot at a very grand prize. Get your Lit Up Late punch card at any of the three participating bookstores. When you buy the featured book at midnight, you get a punch. Attend all three events and buy all three books, and you’re eligible to win our grand prize. One lucky winner will receive a free night at the St Paul Hotel, to get away from it all and read in luxury. (Winners must be present at Moon Palace to win.)
About the books
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami--a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan. It tells the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.
David Mitchell is the author of Cloud Atlas and one of the leading literary voices of his generation. His hypnotic new novel, The Bone Clocks, is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer the Washington Post calls “the novelist who's been showing us the future of fiction.”
John Darnielle is a writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats; he is widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation. His audacious and gripping debut novel Wolf in White Van is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy. Daniel Handler calls it “quiet, mysterious, menacing, taking you places you will never, never get out of your head”
About the bookstores
Common Good Books (38 S Snelling Ave, St Paul MN 55105; 651/225-8989) is the largest independent bookstore in St Paul. They offer a full selection of books and magazine as well as a full program of readings and author events. Please visit www.commongoodbooks.com for details.
Magers and Quinn Booksellers (3038 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis MN 55408; 612/822-4611) is an independently owned new and used bookseller located in the heart of Uptown in Minneapolis, near the lakes for which the city is famous. Their collection covers all subjects and features many unusual and hard-to-find editions, as well as thousands of new releases. Find more information at www.magersandquinn.com.
Moon Palace Books (2820 E 33rd St, Minneapolis MN 55406; 612/454-1505) is an independent bookstore located in the Longfellow neighborhood at Minnehaha Ave and East 33rdst right behind Peace Coffee Wonderland Park and the Trylon microcinema. They've got used books. They've got new books. They’ve got your book. www.moonpalacebooks.com
“I have always felt that a lyric poem that claims an 'I'—that this isn’t fiction. It might be exaggeration or imagination, and it might be flat-out LIES."
The National Book Critics Circle Award winning author of Space, in Chains talks to Common Good Books about her latest collection The Infinitesimals.
09/24/2014 7:00 pm
“Lin Enger writes with durable grace about a man’s quest for redemption and the human capacity for forgiveness.”--Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie, with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s headed. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.
Short on money and beleaguered by a treacherous landlord, Gretta has no choice but to seek out her sons and her husband as well, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. While out in the wilderness, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses’s trail, the greater the perils that confront them.
Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast Plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events—the turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion.
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