Well, it has been struggle choosing only one writer for Minnesota… My difficulties started with deciding on my selection criteria — should I choose the “best” writer who was born in the state, even if he spent most of his life living in and writing about another place? (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Anne Tyler) Or choose the writer who identifies the most with the state? (Garrison Keillor, Jon Hassler) Or pick a writer who intuitively “gets” the nuances and atmosphere of the place? (Leif Enger) Or choose one of my favorite writers? (Tim O’Brien, Louise Erdrich) Very difficult decision, as you can see!
Photo by Gunna
So, after a lot of deliberation… I decided on Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. I heard O’Brien speak at Hamline University many years ago, and then spent many years teaching his Pulitzer-finalist The Things They Carried.
In the Lake of the Woods, while still colored by the Vietnam War, is much more traditional in its narrative structure than Things. What particularly impressed me about Lake was the haunting atmosphere he created in the north woods of Minnesota. Years after I had finished the novel, I accidently watered my plants with hot water and the pungent smell slammed me back In (to) the Lake of the Woods. The novel is a truly visceral experience — if you like haunting, psychological thrillers, give this a try! You may never visit the Boundary Waters again, but you’ll never forget this particular literary visit, either…
Photo by Dobak
The Atlantic adds a bit of plot summary to my impressionistic meanderings:
On its simplest level Mr. O’Brien’s novel is about the disintegration of a marriage based on concealment. On its several other levels it is about isolation, childhood influences, the power of memory, and the actions of men at war. The hero is a politician whose promising career has been destroyed by the revelation of his misconduct in Vietnam. His wife, well aware that Vietnam torments his dreams, had known nothing of the murder and massacre underlying the nightmares. The husband is equally ignorant of her opinions on several important matters. When the two retreat to a cabin in the wilds of Minnesota to recover from the shock of a disastrous election, their partnership explodes.
Photo by Kables
I must admit, I’ve really enjoyed picking my own state representatives the past 2 weeks. I think I might try to do a quick run-through of the rest of the states before Melanie Jones returns just to see how our choices compare. If I manage to do this, I might post my list this weekend, and then spend subsequent Thursdays defending my picks and commenting on Melanie’s.
For those of you new to my Thursday series, here’s a run down of the previous picks:
First, from Melanie Jones:
And I went out on my own for…
Almost forgot… the state capitol of Minnesota is Saint Paul!