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Do gays have a special affinity for libraries? Yes, if we are to believe poet Greg Hewett. He spoke March 27 at Quatrefoil Library, which recently moved its LGBT holdings from St. Paul to a new spot in a senior housing project on Lake St. and 13th Av. S. in Minneapolis.
In a writers-in-residence program sponsored by his publisher, Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press, Hewett was "embedded" at Quatrefoil, where he spent about a week reading, talking to patrons, and getting to know the collection.
His talk at the library drew a full house.
Hewett, raised in Ithaca, N.Y., has lived in the Twin Cities for 20 years. He is a associate professor of English at Carleton College in Northfield. His books of poetry include "Darkacre," 'The Eros Conspiracy" and "Red Suburb."
Hewett said he treasured trips to the library as boy, and recalled that he once stole a book about gay authors through history, as he was too nervous to check it out age 15. (He more recently returned it, told the story, and was given a pardon on the overdue fine.)
One thing that impressed him about Quatrefoil were its historic holdings, including publications of the 1950s gay group, the Mattachine Society.
Hewett said a collection in which all the materials were gay-themed was like a symphony, as opposed to the "solos" of LGBT books scattered among the holdings of a bigger, mainstream library.
Hewett had asked some audience members to write brief statements about books they had read from Quatrefoil's collection. One man praised "The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's," Ricardo J. Brown's memoir of being gay in St. Paul in the 1940s. Other books that came up for praise were Alan Hollinghurst's novel "The Line of Beauty" and a collection of short memoirs by gay men who grew up in the rural Midwest, called "Farm Boys."
Hewett said his Quatrefoil residency led him to re-commit to a project that he hopes to complete this summer, rewriting an old, never-published novel.
Chris Fischbach of Coffee House said other writer-libary pairings in the program have included Lightsey Darst at Walker Art Center's library and Ed Bok Lee at a small library at the American Swedish Institute.
Quatrefoil Library, co-founded by Dick Hewetson and the late David Irwin, opened in 1986. It has more than 14,000 books in its collection, plus other materials. Those with memberships may borrow materials, excluding rare books and periodicals. It is located at 1220 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.
Kia Corthron, a playwright of lyrical language and hard subjects who has been associated with the Children's Theatre and Penumbra in the Twin Cities, has won a Windham Campbell Prize, Yale University announced on Friday.
The honor, administered by the university, comes with a $150,000 purse.
Corthron, a writer who uses fierce and lyrical language to tackle tough subjects, is best known for "Breath, Boom," "The Venus de Milo is Armed" and "Splash Hatch on the E Going Down," a play about environmental degradation.
She also has written for the television shows "The Wire" and "The Jury."
Corthron wrote "Snapshot Silhouettes" for the Children's Theatre, a drama about tensions between African-American and Somali students that played in 2004.
Corthron also has been commissioned by the Guthrie Theater.
The playwright, who is American, is one of eight writers named as winners of the Windham Campbell Prize, which awarded a total of $1.2 million Friday.
The others are dramatists Sam Holcroft of Britain and Noëlle Janaczewska of Australia; fiction writers Nadeem Aslam of Pakistan, Jim Crace of the United Kingdom and Aminatta Forna of Sierra Leone; and nonfiction writers Pankaj Mishra of India and John Vaillant, who is Canadian-American.
Minneapolis author R.D. Zimmerman, who writes under the pen name Robert Alexander, is thrilled that one of his novels, "The Kitchen Boy," is becoming a film with prestigious names attached -- Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Quartet") has written the script, and Stefan Ruzowitzky, who won Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2008 for "The Counterfeiters," will direct. Kristin Scott Thomas will star as Tsarina Alexandra Romanov in the fictionalized tale of the tumultous final ruling days of Tsar Nicholas II before he and his family were banished to Siberia.
Zimmerman, who sold a business he co-owned in St. Petersburg two years ago, helped raise Russian money to finance the project so his book could go Hollywood.
"Or as they say in Russia, Gollyvood," he said.
The film will probably shoot for a month this summer in Lithuania, which offers a good film-production rebate, and a few days in Russia.
"Luckily there's a band of imperial Russian buildings in Lithuainia we can use" to stand in for the tsar's royal quarters, he said.
Amiri Baraka, the highly influential Beat poet, playwright, critic and publisher, has died. He had been suffering from a weeks-long illness. He was 79.
Baraka was an important member of the Beat generation, alongside Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, before he split with them to help launch Black Arts Movement. He influenced generations of writers, espeically black writers who became empowered by his call to create art in the service of struggle and liberation.
Baraka's 1964 play, "Dutchman," is considered a classic. A withering psychosexual work about race, class and privilege, it has been produced nationwide, including at Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis where it starred founder Ralph Remington alongside Jennifer Blagen.
"Thanks for all that you contributed to the wonderful world of American theater," Remington, former head of theater and musical theater at the National Endowment for the Arts, posted on Facebook.
The Los Angeles Times has a comprehensive obituary of Baraka.
Photo of Hearne, Texas, street by Alec Soth.
The dreamy on-the-road partnership between photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar just wrapped another chapter. Chronicled in their self-styled newspaper, The LBM Dispatch, the two visit various parts of the country and attempt to capture that mix of geography, humanity and circumstance that creates regional character.
Though the results often seem serendipitous, they have an itinerary heading out, Zellar said. “We hate being in the van so we usually know where we’re going with some idea of why,” he said.
They’ve previously applied their particular documentary style to Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and upstate New York This time out the pair tackled the Texas Triangle, a more than 60,000-square mile swath that’s home to 70 percent of the state’s population. Among their stops were the site of JFK’s assassination on its 50th anniversary, the 16th execution of a Texas death-row prisoner in 2013, and a tatty shrine to the Virgin Mary erected by a farmer who claimed in a hand-lettered sign that she helped him get his tractor unstuck.
Throughout the trip, Zellar and Soth had looked in vain for that archetypal kind of town made immortal by “The Last Picture Show.” Toward the end, on the way back to Huntsville to cover the state’s 16th and last execution of the year, they stumbled onto tiny, desolate Hearne.
“It was at the exact epicenter of the Texas Triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas and Houston,” Zellar said. “The light was perfect. There were no cars. Along six or seven blocks of this super-wide main street, everything was closed down but a drugstore. It was spooky, it was so abandoned. When we got back to the motel we found out it was one of the first towns that WalMart moved into.”
Unusually unprofitable itself, that WalMart was closed in 1990 and turned into a high school.
Like the LBM’s five previous editions, a print version of the collected stories and photos may be previewed and purchased at lbmdispatch.tumblr.com.
The duo have been attracting interest from far-flung corners, including the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog and the Russian version of Esquire magazine, which flew a stylist and three trunks of designer clothes from Moscow to Grand Junction, Colorado, for a fashion shoot photographed by Soth and featuring Zellar as the model. Brad was game for the job, despite momentary hesitation on how to pronounce “Givenchy.”
See below for one of the surreal images from that experience.
Brad Zellar channels Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" for a fashion shoot for Russian Esquire. Photo by Alec Soth.
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