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On Books

Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Minnesotan wins $100K literature prize for military writing

Dennis Showalter. Photo by Pritzker Military Museum & Library

Military historian and writer Dennis Showalter, who grew up in Delano and graduated from the University of Minnesota, has won this year's Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. 

Showalter, 76, is professor emeritus of history at Colorado College, where he has taught since 1969. He has written or edited more than two dozen books and 150 articles. His specialty is German military history.

"It's a great honor to accept the 2018 Pritzker Literature Award," he said in a press release. "For the historical profession it is a combination of an Oscar and a Pulitzer, and I think it's a good deal more fun than either."

Now in its 12th year, the Pritzker award is sponsored by the Pritzker Military Foundation and honors the contributions of a living author for a body of work dedicated to enriching the understanding of military history and affairs. Showalter will receive a gold medallion, a citation, and $100,000.

This is some better than his first award---when he was 12 years old, Showalter (then known as Denny) won the Minnesota State Spelling Bee (sponsored by the Minneapolis Tribune) in 1954.

He was a finalist in the national competition, winning $40 but missing victory when he misspelled "pavilion," which he gave two l's. 

"I knew it, too," he said in a Barbara Flanagan-bylined story in the Tribune. "I could kick myself."

But he put the $40 to his college fund and the rest, you might say, was history.

Celebrating Woody Guthrie

Charlie Maguire, Tony Glover and Pop Wagner. Photo by Becky Prentis.

Charlie Maguire, Tony Glover and Pop Wagner. Photo by Becky Prentis.

It's been years and years since I read "Bound for Glory," Woody Guthrie's written-in-vernacular, gritty, funny, dusty Dust Bowl, train-hopping, fruit-picking, guitar-picking life story. Published in 1943, the book is 75 years old this year. (It was not quite that long ago that I read it.)

To honor that anniversary, folk musician and Guthrie aficianado Charlie Maguire will lead a discussion of the book at Hennepin County Library Central Minneapolis on July 7 and the following weekend will perform some of Guthrie's music with fellow musicians Pop Wagner and Tony Glover. He will also present copies of the book  (donated by Woody Guthrie Publications) to both the Minneapolis Central Library and St. Paul's George Latimer Library.

"Turns out St. Paul’s copy of 'Bound For Glory' was stolen in 2007 ... and never replaced," Maguire told me in an email. Minneapolis Central Library has one copy that circulates but is likely to purchase more.

Maguire said Guthrie's book is particularly important to him because reading it helped him form his outlook on life. "Social issues like labor; immigration; even how to deal with the stress of a major audition!" he said. "The book is part autobiography, part social documentary, and a handbook for becoming a artist, whether you pick a guitar, write a story, or draw a picture. Woody Guthrie was adept at all three, and his book chronicles his clear-eyed experiences of dealing with the ups and downs of having those gifts and the strength and hope, and dignity, the results can bring to others.

"The book is in part why we became traveling musicians. As such, we wanted to sing Woody’s songs on his birthday, but I also wanted to try my best to keep 'Bound For Glory' in front of library patrons. Woody educated himself in the public library, so it all fits, I think."

Maguire's book conversation will take place at 10:30 a.m. July 7 in the Catherine Ann Forester Huber Conference Room N-304 at Central Library in downtown Minneapolis. It is free, but RSVPs are appreciated to mellojamin@gmail.com

The 75th anniversary concert with Wagner, Glover and Maguire will take place at 6 p.m July 14 (Guthrie's birthday) at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, 6161 Highway 65 NE, Mpls. A second concert has been added--it will take place at Crooners at 6 p.m. on July 28.  Tickets are $25 and are on sale online here: https://bit.ly/2ymSv0o

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