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 Books

Big book of last summer big again (or still) this summer

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: May 11, 2011 - 4:08 PM


Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin


Last summer's big book was Justin Cronin's "The Passage," an apocolyptic vampire thriller written by a literary guy who had graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop and had won a PEN Hemingway award and the Stephen Crane Prize.

Critics loved the lyrical writing and the luxurious length and the intelligence of the storyline.  (Our own review, which you can read here, called it "an epic narrative that addresses philosophical questions.") Readers just loved the vampire thrillerness of it all.

The book is about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a little girl who has the key to survival.

Cronin famously wrote the book after being challenged by his daughter to produce something that wasn't boring. She suggested he write about a girl who saves the world. Voila! He did.

Even though "The Passage" weighs in at nearly 800 pages, it's not the whole story ... the sequel, "The Twelve," comes out next year.

"The Passage" is now out in summer-readability-paperback, and Cronin is criss-crossing the country on tour. He'll be in Minneapolis at 7 p.m. May 25 at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Av. in Minneapolis.


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.

Once more with Mr. Gaiman

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: May 4, 2011 - 5:44 PM

In his latest blog entry, entitled "Opinions of a Pencil-Necked Weasel Thief," Neil Gaiman sets the record straight. The amount of money he was paid for his Stillwater speaking engagement last year was $33,600, not $45,000

He also has a few observations on Matt Dean's neck, and suggests that readers who disagree with Dean's comments might want to give him a call.

You can read it here.

Gaiman tweeting long and loud about being on so-called "GOP hate list"

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: May 4, 2011 - 5:30 PM

Wow. did Matt Dean really say that? Did he really call Twin Cities writer Neil Gaiman a "pencil-necked little weasel" who "stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota"? Did he really say, on the House floor, that he hated him? 

Neil Gaiman, "pencil-necked little weasel"? (Star Tribune photo by Joel Koyama)

Wow.  I'm speechless.  But Gaiman isn't. He's been Tweeting all morning about the story in today's Star Tribune, which reported that Republican legislative leaders are trying to roll back Legacy funds earmarked for specific cultural organizations. Under the Legacy Amendment, approved by Minnesota voters, an increase in the state sales tax will generate more than $200 million this year for the outdoors, clean water and the arts. 

Public libraries have used Legacy Fund money to help pay for programs such as Club Book, which brings nationally renowned writers to libraries in far-flung suburbs.  And this is where Gaiman comes in. Gaiman was a Club Book guest in Stillwater last year, for which he was paid $45,000.  Whether this is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a Hugo Award-winning, Newbery Award-winning, internationally known screenwriter is debatable. Gaiman, the Star Tribune reported last year, donated the fee to charity.

But on Tuesday House Majority Leader Matt Dean, a Republican from the nearby suburb of Dellwood, spoke out about Legacy money going to Minnesota Public Radio and to Gaiman, the author of "Coraline," "Odd and the Frost Giant," and other books for children.

On Twitter, Gaiman fired back. "Sad &  funny. Minnesota Republicans have a 'hate' list. Like Nixon did. I'm on it," he posted this morning, followed by, "It's strange watching a grownup high school bully in power. But the bully vocabulary remains the same."

A few minutes later, "Any nice, sane Minnesota Republicans reading this, please vote for someone who isn't a bully with a hate list next time."

And, a few minutes after that, "Bizarrely, the twit who called me a pencilnecked weasel has posted my blog on his and claims copyright on it." Gaiman then posted a link to Dean's blog, which very quickly crashed. Gaiman tweeted one more time to apologize.


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