Funny Franzen wows Fitz

As the first Talking Volumes guest of the season, Jonathan Franzen was alternately hilarious and seriously candid Tuesday night with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. In a wide-ranging exchange, Franzen let loose with one bon mot after another ­— covering the complexities of the characters in “Purity” to his recent experience going to traffic school online after receiving a citation in his home territory of Santa Cruz, Calif. In place of road rage, he said, he has developed “road empathy.” Miller matched Franzen laugh for laugh, charmingly challenging him on some issues that have made him a source of controversy in literary circles. He told Miller, “what you call passive aggression, we call politeness.” Though he finds accusations that he’s sexist to be a bunch of hooey, Franzen opened up on a former attitude he now regrets — that he used to feel smarter than his readers, “and my first two novels didn’t sell too well.” Talking Volumes is an author series presented by the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio in collaboration with the Loft Literary Center. Miller’s interview with Franzen will be broadcast on MPR at noon Monday.

Kristin Tillotson


No-show Crows

The beer was stocked, the bands were loaded in, and the weather could not have been nicer as fans lined up outside Cabooze Plaza last Sunday for the Counting Crows and Citizen Cope doubleheader. And then the concert was abruptly canceled a half-hour before gates opened. Crows singer Adam Duritz apologized on Twitter, where he explained, “I just started throwing up at 6 a.m. and haven’t been able to stop yet. Kept hoping I’d get better.” Fans still felt stung by the short notice, though, as did the club and its staff. Stephanie Pendrys, who drove in from Sioux Falls, S.D., said, “How can you cancel two minutes before doors open? At least give us Citizen Cope.” A Live Nation rep explained that the locally well-liked opener could not still play because “the entire tour is booked as Counting Crows with Citizen Cope supporting.” Which, of course, doesn’t explain anything.

Chis Riemenschneider


Rainn-ing on Minnesota

After a quick scan of Rainn Wilson’s upcoming autobiography, “The Bassoon King,” we’re sad to report that the book fails to mention any juicy details about his work on the Guthrie stage, plays that strengthened his chops and helped prepare him for semi-stardom in TV’s “The Office.” Wilson does mention former Guthrie director Joe Dowling, but that’s in a self-deprecating anecdote about a Broadway production of “London Assurance” that they worked on together. Wilson doesn’t completely ignore Minnesota. Early in the book (due in November), he mentions how his grandfather’s brother high-tailed it to Thief River Falls to open an auto-parts store. Most notably, he honors the state sound in a chapter titled, “The Greatest Albums of the Early Eighties.” His Top 10 includes Hüsker Dü’s “Zen Arcade” (“Hardcore punk opera”) and the Replacements’ “Let It Be” (“Drunk-punk poets of the northern plains”).

Neal Justin

Spillin’ on Dylan

Just a week after downtown Minneapolis’ impressive new Bob Dylan mural was finished, the Minnesotan-ness of the Hibbing-bred music icon was up for a timely discussion at the Parkway Theater on a panel to promote Star Tribune critic Jon Bream’s new book, “Dylan: Disc by Disc.” Asked what it was like recording “Blood on the Tracks” with Dylan in 1974, session player Kevin Odegard said, “It was like hanging out with a guy named Bob Zimmerman with a Minnesota accent, very down-to-earth and engaging.” Iron Range musician Paul Metsa likened Dylan’s prolific output and tour schedule to being uniquely Ranger-like — “His guitar is very much like his miner’s lunch pail” — and recounted how a flight attendant friend also from the Range once asked Bob where he was from, just to see if he’d acknowledge it. Dylan’s simple reply to her was, “When did you leave there?”

Chris Riemenschneider

Breck to screen James Franco-backed film

Spencer Reece, a poet, Episcopal priest and graduate of Breck High School, has attracted the attention of James Franco for his inspiring work at the Our Little Roses girls’ orphanage in an impoverished Honduran city. Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini, made the documentary “Las Chavas” about Reece’s efforts to help the girls use poetry to heal their trauma. Reece, the film’s director and the orphanage founder, will be at Breck next week for a free screening and post-film discussion (7 p.m. Sept. 24, Now based in Madrid, Reece first won literary acclaim in 2003 for his New Yorker-published poem “The Clerk’s Tale,” about working at Brooks Brothers at the Mall of America.

Kristin Tillotson

Former T-Wolf scores with John Oliver

Jonny Flynn never did much during his disappointing stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but last weekend he did score some pop-culture points for our favorite team. For the past month, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” has skewered TV evangelists by establishing a fake on-screen church and asking viewers to donate seed money. Contributions have included tens of thousands of dollars (mostly singles), actual planting seeds — and a dozen bobbleheads of Flynn. Oliver presented the tray of collectibles on this past Sunday’s show, noting that the gift was, “to be honest, at least 11 too many.” Rachel Dratch, playing his TV wife, wondered aloud why the Timberwolves had drafted point guard Flynn when they already had Ricky Rubio. “That’s a solid basketball point,” Oliver said. Flynn, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Wolves in 2009, was traded away in 2011 and is no longer in the NBA. Oliver said all cash donations will go toward Doctors Without Borders. We’re guessing the charity will pass on the bobbleheads.

Neal Justin