Norwegian novelist Per Petterson doesn't map out his complex books, and he doesn't usually know where a story is going, he explained at Macalester College on Tuesday. He just writes — one sentence after another, page after page. His new novel, "I Refuse," published in the United States by Graywolf Press of Minneapolis, is the story of two friends. It moves back and forth in time (from the 1970s to present day), features three different narrators and switches from first to third person at various times. And yet, Petterson said, he wrote it start to finish, never rearranging, never outlining — just plowing ahead. He did move one scene involving the mother, and that "felt like cheating," he said. He's two years into his next novel, not sure where it's headed. "I just trust my subconscious," he said. "It has worked for me all these years."
A Record Store Day for the books
You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to know that Record Store Day 2015 rocked. All the stores we went to Saturday had thick crowds and quickly thinning bins. The Electric Fetus in Minneapolis racked up its biggest sales day ever, and both Eclipse and Treehouse Records reported their second-biggest (each just behind RSD 2013). Good weather certainly helped, especially at Hymie's, where Pennyroyal played its farewell set outdoors to a bulging crowd. Things didn't get any sunnier, though, than at HiFi Hair & Records, which centered its RSD party around the vinyl double-LP reissue of Slim Dunlap's 1990s solo albums — and wound up getting a visit from the man himself, who has been mostly bedridden since a severe stroke in 2012. "If they are having a record release party for me, I need to be there," Dunlap told his wife, Chrissie. He arrived to a standing ovation, wheeled in by his granddaughter Eleanor, and was soon treated to a set by Curtiss A that included many Slim songs.
In the mix
National Endowment for the Arts chair Jane Chu was in the Twin Cities recently, visiting MacPhail Center for Music and the Hmong Cultural Center, among other places. Chu, who formerly ran the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, said the arts can be a nice equalizer — a common language — for non-English-speakers in programs that help people get integrated. Born in Oklahoma to Chinese immigrant parents, Chu studied music in college and also holds an MBA. "I point to myself when people talk about the variety in the arts," she told I.W., "because I have this combination of bok choy and corn dog background."
Ken Burns live
Documentarian extraordinaire Ken Burns will talk about his work and upcoming PBS projects on May 16 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Don Shelby will host. Tickets cost $30 ($20 for TPT members) at www.tpt.org/kenburns. I.W. hopes Shelby will do the interview as Mark Twain.
St. Paul, so chill
It's not immediately apparent that the MSPIFF movie "The Center," screening at 10 p.m. Friday, was shot in the Twin Cities. That's by design, said first-time feature filmmaker Charlie Griak. "We tried to neutralize it and make it a more universal city, avoiding obvious landmarks so we wouldn't take people out of the experience of watching it," he told I.W. Though habitués of S. Lyndale in Minneapolis will recognize the Red Dragon restaurant ("they let us do whatever we wanted as long as we bought food for the whole crew"), most scenes for the film — a quietly absorbing take on how a smart, independent person can be swept under the spell of a cult — were shot on St. Paul's East Side. "St. Paul was so cool about us shooting on the streets as long as we didn't block traffic," Griak said. "Minneapolis was more serious, wanting a permit everywhere."
Surrounded by five guitars and a partner with only two guitars, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos gave a shout-out to Nate Westgor from Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul for lending the instruments for Hidalgo's Cedar Cultural Center duo gig Saturday with Marc Ribot (who presumably brought his lone acoustic and electric axes). "Score one for the home team," Hidalgo declared. "They're not doing too well," responded a male voice from the sellout crowd. I.W. assumes that comment applied to the Minnesota Twins, not Willie's.
The new champ
Three days before it opens, "Carmen" has become the all-time box office queen of the Minnesota Opera. The company reported Wednesday that tickets sold to date had bested the previous revenue record of $951,000 for the entire run of "The Magic Flute" in 2014. Bizet's iconic opera opens Saturday for nine performances at the Ordway. As usual, the opera company said "good seats are still available," although some performances are sold out.