Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Common Good Poetry Contest, and thank you again to all who entered.
NIGHT ON THE TOWN
White stars have fallen into the trees
of Rice Park where we can see
the cold statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald
wearing his stocking cap of snow.
Nearby, a silver platter of frozen ice
is etched by many blades.
Skaters look like figurines cast against
the granite walls of Landmark Center.
Thousands of years ago people used
animal bones lashed to their feet.
How long since we last let go, pushed off?
$8.00 rents two old pairs of leather skates.
The unsteady boats of our bodies set out
on a wobbly go-round-the-rink.
Muscle memory instructs: relax knees
so legs can shove and stroke to glide.
Soon we will orbit like planets, following
others in bright coats who follow us.
Everything whirls: snowflakes, lights, stars.
We blow blue clouds of breath into the night.
ICE FISHING ON LAKE PHALEN
He sits hunched over on a camp stool
under the arching dome of gray plastic
that nearly disappears in a wilderness
of gray ice. He is creating a quiet place,
a chance to collect himself or think
of nothing at all. There is only the muffled
sound of a winter wind and the slight slap
of water at the hole. He could easily buy
a fish at the market, but it would be only
a fleeting moment, whereas fishing lasts
until he wishes to leave, and the fish
is really not the most important thing.
On greeting an acquaintance at the Ordway, after several years
“I’m a fast-fossilizing fella,” said
the most interesting man at the opera.
Eighty, at least, maybe older, bearded,
ancient and classical and seemingly
permanent, a human Stonehenge,
aged ladies’ man, tall, loose-limbed.
Still half in his heavy charcoal coat,
he rises to embrace me, conducts
stage business with his cane,
gripping its fancy finial.
Back in dark November we started a puzzle: a bright panorama of St. Paul
from the University Club bluff. Tulips meant the thousand days of winter
would someday pass. And it’s true. Piece by piece red petals materialized
in the foreground, while far below ice left the Mississippi loose and
shining. You found the back half of a black lab, and sure enough, it
wagged. And we persisted.
Now in March, how eager we are to be done! But as usual, the sky is the
problem. Luckily we have your puzzle-piece-clipper handy, and with
judicious trimming, careful as carpenters, we’ll reshape fragments of a
troubled sky. Soon one morning, my love, you will press the first day of
spring firmly into place.
For only the second time in its history, the international F. Scott Fitzgerald Society will gather in the author’s hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, for a week-long conference. The conference will include a host of papers and presentations, public programs and festivities, as well as a celebration of the Minnesota roots in his writing. The conference is open not only to members of the Fitzgerald Society, but Fitzgerald fans and scholars everywhere.
We read a lot of books here, and each year a few stand out to us. This list is personal, even idiosyncratic. These aren't necessarily the best books of the year, but they're the books that have stayed with us, and they're the books we don't want to stop talking about.
I know, I know. It's only a bit after Labor Day, but the big fall books are already arriving. First up is The Nix by Nathan Hill. The book has already prompted one of the season's best headlines: "Nathan Hill is compared to John Irving. Irving compares him to Dickens." from the New York Times.
First-time author Nathan Hill spoke to MPR. You can hear that interview here. And you can meet him for yourself when he visits Common Good Books on September 10.
Check out detail on this and all our upcoming events on our calendar. We've got a lot of great things coming up this fall.
When people in the book world can't stop talking about a book, we call it buzz. For Emma Cline's fantastic new novel The Girls, that buzz is more like roar.
- "Emma Cline’s first novel, The Girls, is a seductive and arresting coming-of-age story hinged on Charles Manson, told in sentences at times so finely wrought they could almost be worn as jewelry."--The New York Times
- "[A] startlingly assured debut... Cline wonderfully evokes the flushes of feeling that come with early adolescence."-- The AV Club
- "The strength of The Girls lies in Cline’s ability to evoke both the textures and atmosphere of those painful in-between times; the desperate rush to fill an emotional vacuum."--The Guardian
And let me tell you, that praise is justified. The Girls is a tense literary thriller, a story at once gorgeous and repellent like the California cult at the book's center. Cline's narrator is inexorably drawn into darkness, and you'll be horrified even as you sympathize with her choices.
Booksellers love to recommend books to our customers. It's a thrill to see a book we enjoy going home with an enthusiastic reader and to know that it's found just the right reader.
If you come in and talk to me in the next few weeks, I'm going to chew your ear about Kitchens of the Great Midwest. I fell in love with this novel last year, and I am pretty sure you will, too. It's a smart and inventive novel that also manages to be a fun pageturner. You might read it on the beach, but you won't feel like you're just filling your mind with junk food.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the story of Eva, a Midwestern girl who grows up to be a world-class chef. Along the way, you'll meet a range of foodie types, from the rural to the rarified. J Ryan Stradal roasts them, but only to bring out the best in his cast of characters. This is a gentle satire, and you will enjoy seeing the culinary world through Stradal's kind eyes. I can't recommend it enough.
(And if I've already talked you into reading Kitchens of the Great Midwest, then ask me about The Jesus Cow. That's another great tale from the middle of the country and another perfect summer read.)
Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Common Good Books Poetry Contest.
First place poems:
- "Flight" by Charles Atkinson
- "Still Life with Gratitude" by Dean Rader
- "Gratitude List" by Laura Foley
Second place poems:
- "Ode to the Pull-Out Couch" by Sonja Johanson
- "One Summer Day on the Number One Train" by Anne Whitehouse
- "Still I Give Thanks" by Marie Reynolds
- "Bounding Flight" by Chera Hammons
Congratulations to everyone who entered. Click here to read the winning poems.
A lot of big books are getting attention this week, but there's also a little novel that you might not hear about that's still worth a look. If you enjoy a bit of armchair travel, this book could be just the ticket. The feckless narrator of Guillermo Erades’ novel Back to Moscow arrives in the Russian capital with a fellowship to study the country’s literature and a yen to study its young women. His plan to combine the two tasks, if a bit suspect academically, nonetheless makes for an entertaining read, as Erades combines the formless grad school noodling of Leaving the Atocha Station with the clubbing and casual relationships of Bright Lights, Big City. Erades’ portrait of expat life in a newly capitalist Moscow is crisp and memorable.--David
Kate DiCamillo's new novel Raymie Nightingale comes out in April. Here's a preview:
And you can meet Kate at Common Good Books on April 30. Details are here.