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Posts about Books

On Maya Angelou's last appearance in the Twin Cities

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: May 28, 2014 - 10:53 AM

“When it looked like the sun won’t shine any more, God put a rainbow in the clouds.

Maya Angelou, who died Tuesday at 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., opened her last appearance in the Twin Cities on Oct. 23, 2012, singing those lines from an 18th-century slave song. She went on to mesmerize the crowd at the State Theatre, many of whom were devoted fans who had heard her hour-long talk before but had come again to be baptized in her sonorous words and to take bits of inspiration from her storied life.

An indefatigable fighter who also became an icon of grace, Angelou had long ago transcended the slights and horrors visited upon her as a black child in the Jim Crow South and as a woman in America. She has been a first-hand witness, confidante and participant in some of the most notable historical events of our nation as it shifted from segregation to fairness and opportunity.

She also transcended means that made her famous: her startling memoirs, her lyrical, image-rich poetry and her resonant public speaking.

She had become, for millions, a beatific figure and guiding light.

After her performance, she greeted a few well-wishers backstage at the State Theatre. The numbers were smaller than usual, at the instruction of handlers who wanted to protect her health. Angelou was a frail 84-year-old.

Still, she had a surprisingly strong handshake. And her voice also was firm, both in the performance and in the post-show encouragement she offered to well-wishers. While she could no longer move like she did as a young dancer, while she could no longer march like she did during the Civil Rights era, she still had her voice. And in her quivering and quaver, you could hear the echoes of history, and the walls that she had made come down.

“Goodbye, young man,” she said sweetly, her face almost twinkling. “I will see you again.”

Yes, indeed.

Twin Cities arts leader to be honored

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: May 14, 2014 - 4:10 PM

Twin Cities arts leader Catherine Jordan is being honored for her longtime championing of arts and culture.

Jordan, who has served such organizations as the Bush Foundation, Intermedia Arts and Circus Juventas over the past several decades, is one of the recipients of the first annual Artspace Artist Awards, which will be presented Monday in a celebration at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.

The award comes from  Artspace, the nation’s leading nonprofit arts developer with a billion dollar portfolio of nearly three dozen residential and office properties across the nation, including the Cowles Center.

Jordan is one of four winners annnounced; the others, all of whom live in Artspace properties and each of whom will receive $5,000, are photographer Tabatha Mudra of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; poet and visual artist Linda Cover of Santa Cruz, N.M.; and Quest Skinner, a painter and teacher in Washington, D.C.

Monday’s celebration, called “Breaking Ground,” features the dance and drum duo Buckets and Tap Shoes; singer Ashley DuBose from NBC’s “The Voice”; and New Orleans jazz trumpet supremo James Andrews.

John Moe, host of American Public Media's comedy show "Wits," will do similar honors Monday.

Tickets, $20, are on sale.

Elizabeth Gilbert is next Talking Volumes guest

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: May 13, 2014 - 3:12 PM

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the smash hit memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," will be a special summer guest for the Talking Volumes book series, appearing July 11 at the Fitzgerald Theater to discuss her novel "The Signature of All Things." 

Published in 2006, "Eat, Pray, Love," based on Gilbert's soul-searching travels abroad following a difficult divorce, sold over 10 million copies and was made into a 2010 movie starring Julia Roberts. With "The Signature of All Things," a saga about a 19th-century botanist who finds love after decades of communing primarily with foliage, Gilbert proves she's no one-hit wonder.

Critical praise for the ambitious novel includes "This whimsically engaging and wonderfully imagined novel can only be called her most ambitious and most notable work yet"  (Star Tribune) and "Looks like Gilbert keeps raising the bar" (Elle).

Talking Volumes is presented by the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, in collaboration with The Loft Literary Center. Tickets ( $25, $23 for members) are on sale here

The poet in the library

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: March 28, 2014 - 12:16 PM

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.

Playwright Kia Corthron wins $150,000 literary prize

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: March 8, 2014 - 4:06 PM

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. 

 

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