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Book Report: Area authors make good in the world of literature

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columns Cottage Grove, 55016
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Long, long ago, Sinclair Lewis wrote an essay entitled "The Long Arm of the Small Town," in which he admitted that he had left his natal place, Sauk Centre, Minn., but that it was always with him as he went on to become the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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I'm tempted to write an essay called "The Long Arm of the Small University," so here goes.

Last year, as I read New York Times media critic David Carr's autobiography, I was sitting almost across the street from UW-River Falls' Kleinpell Fine Arts Building.

Carr told of his brief stay at UW-RF and how he decided he had to return to Minneapolis. But before he left, he went to visit his favorite teacher, English Professor Robert Beck. Bob Beck told Carr, "You're a bright young fellow, but you've got a problem. You don't know anything. Here's a list of 100 books that you should read if you're ever going to amount to anything."

Carr took him up on the challenge and he now credits Beck for the success he's achieved in the media (he's on TV all the time).

Isn't that a good story? I only wish Bob Beck were alive to read it.

Here's another:

Forty years ago James Lenfestey was an activist professor at UW-RF. One of his students was a kid from Cornell named Thomas Smith.

One day Lenfestey encouraged Smith and other students to accompany him to a peace rally, where poet Robert Bly was to speak.

Later, Lenfestey went on to become a Minneapolis poet, editorial writer for the Star Tribune. Smith spent time in River Falls making a reputation for himself as a prominent poet.

Now the prof and his former student have collaborated on a book, titled "Robert Bly in this World," (University of Minnesota Libraries, $34.95).

The Elmer L. Anderson Library at the University of Minnesota acquired the papers of Minnesotan Robert Bly, who won the National Book Award in 1968. To celebrate the acquisition, a colloquium was staged at the Anderson Library in 2009. Scholars, friends and students from across the country gathered in Minneapolis to read essays and appreciations of the Madison, Minn., farm boy who went off to Harvard and fame.

Present in this festschrift are poet Lewis Hyde, James Wright's widow Anne, William Booth, and William Duffy.

There's an eloquent preface, "The Prophet Speaks Fire from the Provinces" by conference coordinator Lenfestey and a comprehensive introduction to the work of Bly by poet Thomas R. Smith, who wrote an earlier book about Bly in 1992.

The current essay is titled "Robert Bly in this World (and the Other)."

All in all, it's a handsomely bound book and includes DVD featuring Bly reading his poetry.

Two mysteries from North Star Press of St. Cloud, Minn., both by Stearns County residents: The first is "Where Echoes Die," by P.R. Leonard ($14.95 paper). Leonard was a finalist for a 2010 Minnesota Book Award for "Imperfect Witness." The new book picks up where the earlier book left off and finds Dr. Zoe Lawrence working hard at the hospital (Leonard is a former doctor) and has a new love in her life.

But her past haunts her and she knows she must deal with it before it deals with her. From the opening pages, which feature a grisly double murder, "Where Echoes Die" is truly a page turner.

Want to spend one more week up at the lake? Then try "Lost and Found" (14.95) by Danelle Helget of Sauk Rapids, Minn. Sara, her husband Jake and good friends Lily and Mark retreat to a northern Minnesota cabin for some well-earned R & R. But when they finally leave the cabin friend Lily has disappeared.

What's up?

Sara calls the cops and complicates matters by falling for the detective in charge of the Lily case.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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