Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Bookstore, got things rolling Tuesday night when he introduced Ethan Rutherford, author of the new short-story collection, "The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories" (Ecco Press).
" 'Peripatetic' is a word that is not used by anyone anywhere in the United States today," Weyandt said. He said he enjoyed calling up distributors and ordering the book, because it required them not only to pronounce the word but also to spell it.
Weyandt's little bookstore in St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood was packed to the stacks with friends and fans of Rutherford, there for the first stop of his rather extensive book tour, which will take him to the West Coast next week, and then to the East Coast. Rutherford, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and toddler son, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota's MFA program in creative writing. Rutherford also reviews books for the Star Tribune.
A friend he met in the program, Matt Burgess--author of "Dogfight: A Love Story"--was up next. (And in the crowd, their writing teachers--Charles Baxter and Julie Schumacher.) (Also in the crowd, novelist Peter Bognanni, winner of the American Academy's Rome Prize, removing his hip white-framed sunglasses as he dashed through the door a little late.)
After a few more jokes about the word "peripatetic" (which Burgess said he had to look up the meaning of), Burgess read a brief, very funny scene from his work-in-progress, "Uncle Janis," a novel about undercover narcotics cops in Brooklyn.
The bookstore was crowded on this warm spring night, and Rutherford swung the door a few times, trying to kick up a breeze. (There was also free beer, which might have served to both cool and warm the guests.)
"This is a sort of wonderful day," Rutherford said. "It's like a wedding, except I don't have to dance."
He chose Micawber's for his book launch, he said, both because it's his favorite bookstore, and because he loves independent bookstores in general. "I've tricked you all here, I've given you free beers, so please buy a book," he urged the crowd. (Any book, he said, though he would especially like it if they bought his book.) (And they did, selling out Weyandt's supply of "Coffin.")
Rutherford's collection contains three sea stories, including the title story (the well-traveled coffin is a submarine), and Rutherford told the audience that it had long been his wish "to write 'Moby Dick II.' It turns out that's not a story that anybody was waiting for."
And then he read from the last story in his collection, "Dirwhals!," a futuristic tale about whale-hunters--though these whales live not in the sea, but in the sand.
And after that, booksigning and beer and the reading turned into a happy party. Like a wedding, but with no dancing.
How cruel can Mother Nature get? The winter storm that we are supposed to get tonight (but I am positive we won't; we can't; we cannot endure another half-foot of snow) has prompted the cancellation of tonight's Earth Day poetry reading at Open Book.
Poet and photographer John Caddy sent around an e-mail this afternoon, saying, "Our insane winter predicts nasty snow tonight with 6"-8", so the Earth Day reading is postponed for one week. We will read Monday, April 29, 7 pm at Open Book. Pray for Minnesota winter to fold its leaky tent and slink away."
Hear, hear. I mean, hear that, Winter?
The Earth Day reading will include Caddy, Joe and Nancy Paddock, George Roberts, Scott King of Red Dragonfly Press, Daniel McGuire and Joe Alfano, with music by the Tjornblom Quartet.
It is sponsored by Morning Earth and Milkweed Editions. Open Book is at 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.
Poet and translator Jane Hirshfield, author of seven books of poetry, including "Come, Thief," and "After," will speak in Minneapolis at 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, April 15) at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Av., Mpls.
Hirshfield graduated from Princeton University in the first class that included women. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets. She has published four books of poetry in translation, including "Mirabai," which she worked on with Robert Bly.
Her reading this evening is free and open to the public.
You can't miss the finalists in the Common Good Books first annual amateur love poem contest--they're printed on huge sheets (three by four feet) of posterboard and are suspended from the ceiling of the bookstore. You can read them even without your bifocals. And then, after you've found them and read them, you can go up to the counter and vote for your favorite.
The finalists were chosen by G. Keillor, Prop., himself from more than 150 entries, and he will announce the winner at 1 p.m. on April 21 at a celebration of poetry at Weyerhaeuser Chapel at Macalester College.
The finalists are: Emily Walz, Thomas Kendrick, Barbara Miller, Carol Van Hale, Bernard Jacob, Delores Mixer, Norman Holen, Anne Parsons, Roy Close, Rob Dougherty, Ginger Bolling and Thomas Hamburg.
The bookstore is at 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul. Stop by, read, cast your vote. And watch your head.
It was only at the very end of the evening, when Robert Bly read a poem by his longtime friend Tomas Tranströmer, that he grew animated, his voice dipping and swaying, gaining in power. He crisply enunciated the words, added that famous little Bly twist, and looked straight out at the crowd.
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