Friday, May 23, 2008

Book stack

The pile of I-really-ought-to-read-these books is getting precariously high and about to get higher. Saturday, local celeb Tom Swift will do a book signing at the St. Olaf book store. His biography "Chief Bender's Burden" is getting good reviews, so I'll probably buy one and add it to the stack.

I've bitten off chunks of these books in the last two months. Just can't seem to settle on one.

Dubliners, James Joyce
The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth: Minneota, Minnesota, Bill Holm
Steve Goodman: Facing the Music, Clay Eales
A couple of pottery books and couple of recent issues of "Studio Potter" magazine
The Minnesota Twins 2008 Yearbook, various anonymous writers (or maybe just one, whose anonymity is deserved)
The Minnesota Twins 2008 Media Guide and Record Book
The Minnesota Book of Days (and a Few Nights), Howard Mohr
Holes, Louis Sachar (the stage script version).

I hadn't realized how Minnecentric the list is until I wrote it down. That's OK.

Three of these were purchased at the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary annual book sale a few weeks ago. Some came as premiums with Twins season tickets. The Steve Goodman book was recommended by a commenter (I think it was the author, actually) on the wonderful music blog "Old Blue Bus."

A few words about that book:

Huge (it's the size of a Western Civ textbook)

Sluggish (it reads like a Western Civ textbook)

Interesting (which, according to Mohr's classic How to Talk Minnesotan, is a nice way to say "I didn't really like it, but somebody else might.")

Eales is a journalist by training and it shows. The book tries and fails to evoke the spirit of Goodman -- his impishness, wackiness, fear, courage, kindness. It describes these things, but in a clinical way. It is a dry, long, boring recitation of facts and dates and figures and events. It's not a story so much as an encyclopedia entry. Eales dug up tons of stuff and interviewed lots of people and meticulously documented, footnoted, and indexed everything. It must have been hard work, so maybe he figured his readers should do some work, too.

It has none of the subtlety, lightness, or quirkiness of a Steve Goodman song. Maybe that's too much to expect.

At the same time, the Twins record book is fascinating. It is a simple, straghtforward, thorough compilation of numbers and dates and names. But of course it doesn't aspire to be anything more. It is endless fun to leaf through and dig around and explore. Mabe that's how the Eales book should be approached -- randomly leaf through it, picking up supriseing little nuggets.

The Holes script will soon be mandatory daily reading. I went and got myself cast as the Attorney General of Texas, a sheriff, an 18th century Latvian pig farmer, and some other bit part. The show will be at the Northfield Arts Guild Theatre in July. Get your tickets early.


Bleeet said...

Say, Jim, can you add my books-I-should-be-reading to your stack. I'd appreciate it if I could dumped all that on you, and not feel so guilty about it...


Tom Swift said...

Thanks much for mentioning my book, Jim. Great to see you Saturday. I appreciate that you stopped by.

Given the Minnesota-baseball theme of your list, have you read "Baseball in Minnesota" by Stew Thornley?

If not, it's worth checking out -- that is, after you wade through Brendon's books, mine, and that Joyce guy's.

Rob Hardy said...

Coincidentally, I mention (and quote from) Dubliners in my own blog post for today. Great minds.