Yes, of course, I borrowed this headline from The Sound of Music. I watched some of last night’s live broadcast of the musical on NBC (I was reading, too), and it was very good — quite a high-wire act to perform such a familiar and popular musical live in front of millions, knowing there’d be severe comparisons — live ones via Twitter, and later via critics — to the great Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (from the movie version) and Mary Martin (from the original Broadway production). But Carrie Underwood and the rest of the cast did well, I thought.
But on to other favorite things: new books, new writing, and books that would make nice Christmas gifts. And don’t worry, this is not just a list of my books — but plenty by others, as well!
1) My new poem “Guernica is Dresden is London is…” is now available in the anthology In Gilded Frame, which was released today by Kind of a Hurricane Press. The poems in the anthology are about works of visual art, and what a poet sees in them — how the poet is affected by, or interprets the artwork. My poem is based on Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica,” from the Spanish Civil War. The e-book version of the anthology can be downloaded for free. The print version is available for $8.50, through Amazon.
2) A major national tennis magazine, Inside Tennis, will be doing a review of my non-fiction/history book about the 1979-1992 Southwest State University (Minn.) women’s tennis team in an upcoming issue. I’ve spoken a couple times recently with the editor, Bill Simons, and he’s impressed by the book and has assigned a review of it to one of the magazine’s correspondents. I’ll post more information when I know what issue of the magazine the review will appear in. You can order the book through my publisher Ellis Press, or through Amazon here.
3) My faith-based book, Good Shepherds, remains available through eLectio Publishing at this link — in both print and Kindle versions. It’s an accessible read, meant for everyday readers with, hopefully, stories about everyday application of faith. My share of the proceeds goes to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Forest City.
4) eLectio is a busy publishing house, and has a growing stable of really great writers. From poetry, to fiction, to inspirational and true — and sometimes very hard — stories in non-fiction, its authors provide many ways to help strengthen your faith, help you share your faith, or simply help you enjoy seeing faith at work on the page. Here’s the link to eLectio’s full book store. It’s worth browsing: click
5) For southwest Minnesota residents, especially those in the Cottonwood area, if you have not gotten a copy of the 125th Anniversary History book of Cottonwood, published late this spring, some are still available. Check at city hall. It’s a 300-page book, full of intense local history — databases and historical records — and some pretty cool writing about local businesses and public institutions, community leaders and major changes in Cottonwood over the last 25 years.
6) Several authors who are my friends or acquaintances have come out with new books in the past year. Joe Wilkins, the former creative writing program director at Waldorf College, actually had three really accomplished books published in a calendar year. The most recent, published this year, is an award-winning poetry collection, Notes from the Journey Westward. I give it a big-time recommendation. Joe is really gifted, with a remarkable voice. Jim Zarzana, a longtime English professor at Southwest Minnesota State, released the first in his series of science-fiction novels called The Marsco Dissident in e-book form this summer. Neil Smith, the current chairman of the English department at SMSU, has been really prolific. A new novel, a novella, and working with an independent Twin Cities film crew on converting one of his previous novels into a movie. His latest novel, The Baddest Ass, continues his series on rogue (or is that too tame?) cop Billy Lafitte. Neil guest-authored a zombie novella for The Dead Man Series called Colder Than Hell, which combines your worst caught-in-a-blizzard fears and worst-rest-area fears into a not-for-the-squeamish read. Steve Linstrom’s really strong coming-of-age and saying-goodbye-to-the-Old-West novel The Last Ram was published this summer. It is set in the South Dakota Badlands, and is quite a read. And Joe Amato, the retired professor but relentlessly prolific historian and author, had his book Surfaces published this year by the University of California Press. Retired professor and equally prolific poet Phil Dacey had his latest collection, Gimme Five, published by 1st World Publishing.
7) The Minneapolis Star Tribune offers an e-book version of a powerful four-part series on sex-trafficking in Minnesota, written by the terrific reporter Pam Louwagie. The series, published this fall, has generated a lot of response, and should be read by anyone who cares about the lives our children can fall into, be led into, and be trapped in. The entire series “Saving Bobbi” can be purchased in e-book format at startribune.com/ebooks. Proceeds will go to MN Girls Are Not For Sale, a campaign of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to end child sex trafficking.
8) Speaking of the Star Tribune, a week ago it published a list of favorite books submitted by its readers. It’s a list of great variety, and may prod you toward gift ideas or books you want to read yourself. Here it is: click. The Strib also published other lists of top books, chosen by authors, by critics and one list of 10 books that reflect Minnesota and the region. Click here and you’ll see links to all those lists on the right.
9) A few other of my own favorite books or stories I read this year: The massive biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow; the poetry collection Ruining the New Road by the late William Matthews; Kyle Minor’s short story ”Seven Stories about Kenel of Koulèv-Ville;” John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, which stupidly I had never read until this year (although I’ve seen the movie many times), and which is blow-you-away-great and especially timely in this era of vast income disparity in America; John Cheever’s short story “The Country Husband;” and John LeCarre’s latest novel A Delicate Truth.
10) Yesterday, the great South African leader Nelson Mandela died at age 95. I was listening to KFAN, a sports-talk radio station in Twin Cities, when Dan Barreiro, the host of the late-afternoon drive-time show, more or less cut off sports talk and focused quite a bit on Mandela. Barreiro is a former newspaper sports columnist and very smart, maybe too knowledgeable and thoughtful to be host of a sports-talk radio show. He gets the perspective of things, and he posed big questions: Is Mandela the last of his kind? Are there any other statesmen of his stature, with his mind, with his courage, left anywhere on the world stage? Someone willing to genuinely set aside old grievances and real injury to pursue a greater goal, a greater good for his country and for the world. Then Barriero proceeded to read long excerpts from Mandela’s famous April 1964 speech, given from his trial dock in a courtroom. It’s quite a work, and, yesterday on Facebook, I posted a link to it, calling it as important and wide-reaching in its thoughts on liberty and how government should work to protect those liberties as anything written or said by America’s founding fathers. Here’s a link to the full transcript of Mandela’s speech: click
11) And, lastly, a nod of congratulations to my former Shakespeare college professor, Susan McLean, who this week did a poetry reading in Athens, Greece, and also learned she has won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize for her second book. Story Line Press will publish it in 2014. Congratulations, Susan! Here are links to her reading poems in Athens: click and here