Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. She is the author of "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.

Posts about Minnesota authors

With Bly, it's all about the sound

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: May 10, 2011 - 11:51 AM


Robert Bly with musicians Marcus Wise and David Whetstone, in Minneapolis on Monday night. Photo by Laurie Hertzel

Robert Bly with musicians Marcus Wise and David Whetstone, in Minneapolis on Monday night. Photo by Laurie Hertzel

 When poet Jim Lenfestey introduced poet Louis Jenkins (who was there to introduce poet Robert Bly) Lenfestey got his name wrong. For years, Lenfestey said, he thought that Jenkins called himself "Louie," rather than "Louis." And after he was done praising Jenkins' work, he did it again. "Here's Louie," he told the crowd, and Jenkins got up, approached the mike, and said, with great seriousness, "Thanks, Jimmy."

Bly, Jenkins told the crowd gathered on Monday night at Plymouth Congregational Chuch in Minneapolis, "invented reading poems twice."


Duluth poet Louis Jenkins introduced Bly.

Duluth poet Louis Jenkins introduced Bly.

 "He experimented with masks and music, he accompanied himself on the bouzouki. Fortunately, he later found Marcus and David," Jenkins said. (Marcus Wise and David Whetstone have been accompanying Bly on drum and sitar for 37 years.)

 And then it was Bly's turn, walking slowly and with dignity to the front of the church, where he settled himself in a big wooden chair and then flapped a stackful of books at the audience. "I'm going to read all of them,' he said.

But some in the crowd were so adoring, so happy to be there, that the shouted response came: "Yes!"

Bly began by reading from Indian poet Mirabai and Persian poet Hafez before moving on to his own work. ("I have to read a couple of my heroes first or I can't read my own," he said. "The old ones who lived before us knew what the whole damn thing was about. ... That's awfully wise of you, Robert.")

He's 84 now, but his reading was energetic and strong. He tapped his feet, beat out the rhythm with his left hand, sometimes in mid-air, sometimes on his knee, and read lines twice, three times, and then entire poems, sometimes, twice. It is clear that he so loves the sound of the words, the simple and sometimes sparklingly humorous meaning of them, that he can't let go. And so he reads them again, with delight.

("Hmmm," he said, after reading one line from a poem in "My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy," "That's a good line." And he read it again.)

The occasion, of course, was the launch of his latest collection, "Talking into the Ear of a Donkey," which comes out this month from Norton. ("If you're going to buy one of my books, buy this one," he said.)


Bly reads from his new book

Bly reads from his new book


He read "The Teapot," a poem of love, and he looked right at his wife, Ruth, while he read it, and she looked back, smiling, and nodded gently.

He read about reading Longinus while snow fell outside, "and the world is calm."

He launched suddenly and spontaneously into Yeats, reciting "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," drawing out the words loud and long--not an Irish accent, surely, but an exaggerated sound. ("And liiiive alooooone in the beeeeeee looouuuddd glaaaaaade.")

And toward the end, he read from another new poem, "Ravens Hiding in a Shoe": "Robert, you've wasted so much of your life sitting indoors to write poems. Would you do that again? I would, a thousand times."

He smiled. And he liked it so much that he read it again.

You can watch a video of Bly reading "Longing for the Acrobat," last night in Minneapolis. (And I am sorry but I wasn't quick enough and didn't capture the first line, which is "There is so much sweetness in children's voices"):




Showtime turns local writer's first book into series

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: May 9, 2011 - 3:06 PM


Martin Kihn, surrounded by dogs and readers, at the Bookcase in Wayzata. Photo by Linda White

Martin Kihn, surrounded by dogs and readers, at the Bookcase in Wayzata. Photo by Linda White


"House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time" might not sound exactly like something that would make a great TV show.

But it's not self-help, or even a business book--it's a memoir, and one that is, according to Publishers Weekly, highly intelligent and deeply funny. The author is Martin Kihn, who recently moved out here from New York and is currently making the rounds of local bookstores promoting his latest memoir, "Bad Dog (A Love Story)." (Read the Star Tribune review here.)

But "House of Lies," his first memoir, is currently in production in Hollywood as a pilot series for Showtime, to be aired beginning in January of next year. The memoir is about Kihn's career as a management consultant--a profession that Kihn maintains is "a shell game, imparting an air of authority and expertise rather than actual authority and expertise," one in which "legions of Harvard MBAs in Oxford shirts" dispense "reams of incomprehensible blather presented as winning corporate wisdom," PW says.

I've not seen the book, which pubbed in 2006, but it will be conveniently re-issued in November so that you can bone up before the show begins.

Peter Bognanni wins L.A. Times award for first novel

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 30, 2011 - 9:56 PM



Macalester instructor and novelist Peter Bognanni won the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction Friday night for his novel, "House of Tomorrow." Other winners of the L.A. Times book prizes included Jennifer Egan for "A Visit from the Goon Squad," and Michael Lewis for "The Big Short.

A full list of winners can be found here.

Bognanni said on Facebook today, "At times, I'm not sure I really won. But it's in the paper!"  You gotta love a guy who believes what he reads in the paper.

Bognanni's novel, about a boy who lives in a geodesic dome with his grandmother and discovers rock and roll, had previously won an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award.

To read a review of the book, go here.


And the winner is.....

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 29, 2011 - 7:33 AM


Dori Hillestad Butler and her dog, Mouse

Dori Hillestad Butler and her dog, Mouse


OK, I am not working today--I am not even in Minnesota--but I had to do a quick post here to let you all know that  Dori Hillestad Butler won the Edgar Award last night for her juvenile mystery, "The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy."

Butler lives in Coralville, Iowa, now, but has long Minnesota roots, growing up in Fairmont and living in Minneapolis, Bemidji and Rochester.

You can read my earlier post about Butler and her work here.

Between Butler and the folks from Once Upon a Crime, who won the Raven Award, I think Minnesota was well-represented.

Another Minnesotan at the Edgar Awards

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 26, 2011 - 1:20 PM



Dori Hillestad Butler and her dog, Mouse

Dori Hillestad Butler and her dog, Mouse


OK, we made such a big deal about the owners of Once Upon a Crime jetting off to New York this week to receive the Raven Award during the annual Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards that we completely neglected to tell you about another Minnesotan who will be there.

Dori Hillestad Butler, who writes a wonderful wonderful blog about the writing life (which you can read here), and who grew up in Fairmont, Minn., (where her mother still lives) and also lived in Bemidji, Minneapolis and Rochester (though, presumably, not all at the same time), is a finalist for an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.



Butler has been a children's author for many years, and in 1998 Gov. Arne Carlson declared Nov. 19 "Read 'M is for Minnesota' Day" in honor of one of her early books, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press.

She was recently at the heart of a fascinating controversy when a child in Texas checked one of her books out of the library--"My Mom's Having a Baby" apparently shocked the child's babysitter, who marched immediately to Fox News and complained.

(The book covers the facts of life in a rather candid fashion and is perhaps not for every kid, but it was honored by Booklist, which gave it a starred review and named it an editors' choice for 2005.)  Butler, who now lives in Coralville, Iowa, ended up doing an interview on the Fox affiliate in Ames (and blogged charmingly about the harrowing limo ride that got her there barely in time).

And now her latest book, "The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy," is a finalist for an Edgar. It's the story of a mystery-solving dog named Buddy, which sounds like a great premise for a book if you ask me, especially since neither of my dogs show any ambition at all and are completley unemployable. Buddy could be their inspiration.

Winners will be named Thursday. Like with any good mystery, the suspense must be killing her.


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