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Recently, a thoughtful friend dropped by and shoved a book in my gut and said, "Read this. I think you'll enjoy it." He's not in the habit of ordering people around so I was curious about why he felt so passionate about "We Learn Nothing," by Tim Kreider (Free Press, $20). The dust jacket told me that Kreider is a cartoonist who draws and writes about the human condition in ways that startle. For instance, why do we fall in love with people we don't even like?
My wife and I love to travel to Italy.
Several writers are taking their cues from earlier centuries. In the 18th century, Samuel Richardson found he had a bestseller on his hands when he wasn't even trying. Richardson sold stationery to the hoi polloi. Unfortunately, the women who bought the stationery didn't know how to write, so Richardson gave examples of how to write to your father, your lover, your whatever, bound them and called it "Pamela." Later novelists like Charles Dickens wrote their books serially.
Today we'll examine two new books that have to do with good writing by writers who are indeed very good. One such writer is Verlyn Klinkenborg, who burst onto the literary scene 30 years ago. Nowadays he writes editorial pieces for the New York Times. But 30 years ago he was teaching at Carleton College, and so I reviewed his first book simply because it had Minnesota connections. I was bowled over. The book was called "Making Hay." That year I was elected to the board of the National Book Critics Circle.
White Bear Lake novelist Julie Kramer makes good use of her past experience as a news producer for NBC, CBS and WCCO-TV, which is only one reason she has become a national bestselling and award winning author of thrillers like her latest in her popular Riley Spartz series, "Shunning Sarah" (Atria Books, $23.99). A few weeks back I wrote about how thrillers have been increasingly interested in occupations, so that now we have mysteries with chefs who solve them, carpenters who stumble over them. There's even a subcategory called "Amish Romances," which deals with young Amish people being turn
When you are in your twenties, even if you're confused and uncertain about your aims and purposes, you have a strong sense of what life itself is, and of what you in life are, and might become. Later there is more uncertainty, more overlapping, more backtracking, more false memories. Back then, you can remember your short life in its entirety. Later still, the memory becomes a thing of shreds and patches. It's a bit like the black box airplanes carry to record what happens if a crash.
It's no secret that talent runs in families. Years ago I worked with Anthony Morley on the Minneapolis Tribune. Tony was a brilliant writer, working on the editorial page and known for his charming and whimsical essays about talking to his neighbors at the bus stop where he waited for a ride to work. One day he let drop that his uncle was Christopher Morley...Christopher Morley (1890-1957). That's the big time. Morley was a well-known aphorist who had a talent for coming up with great lines like, "There was so much handwriting on the wall that even the wall fell down.
Novelist Toni Morrison has won the National Book Critics Circle, the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for her fiction. Little wonder. Her newest novel, "Home" (Alfred Knopf, $24.95) shows her at her best as a storyteller and one of the foremost interpreters of the negro experience in America.
Dorothy Parker was born on this day 119 years ago in West End, N.J., just a year after poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, about which Parker said "I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Edna St. Vincent Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers." That sounds a good deal like the acerbic and disenchanted Mrs. Parker, a leader in that circle called the Algonquin Round Table. In 1963, she commented that, at 70, "If I had any decency, I'd be dead.
Thomas De Quincy was born on this day in 1785, and would later write an eerie book that captured the romantic imagination, "Confessions of an Opium Eater." At about the same time, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was ingesting huge quantities of laudanum, liquid opium. One day he was as high as a kite and busy writing his immortal poem, "Kublai Khan." He answered a knock on the door.