Literary Tourist on the road in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York State
If you take the northern route between ground-zero (in this case Montreal) and Minneapolis through Algonquin Park, crossing over at Sault Ste. Marie and then along past Green Bay, there’s pretty well nothing of literary interest to see. Nothing unless you count this
in, yes, rural Wisconsin. One consolation: we came upon a coffee drive-thru that had a pretty good name.
As usual, once my wife, Caroline, had thoroughly planned out our dates and destinations, I tapped the Rolodex to solicit suggestions of bookish people on-site who might give-up engaging interviews. This time round I asked John Randle, proprietor of The Whittington Press for his thoughts. I’d interviewed John years ago at his sheep-surrounded studio near the cathedral city of Hereford (with its famed chained-library), not too far from Hay-on-Wye, the Welsh booktown.
John publishes beautiful fine press books, and Matrix: A Review for Printers & Bibliophiles, a gorgeously printed annual. #31 had just dropped. I dug deep and bought a copy, first to commemorate my visit and our conversation (Listen here):
Second, because it contained an article by David Godine and one on Rocky Stinehour, both of whom I’d interviewed for the Biblio File podcast. The Whittington Press archive also happens to be at the University of Minnesota’s rare book library, along with an important collection of African-American literature and one of the world’s great Sherlock Holmes collections. Curator Tim Johnson is definitely on my interview hit-list.
John recommended I interview Phil Gallo, a well regarded printer, and visual/concrete poet. Phil and I teed up a meeting at his apartment in St. Paul. We met for a chat early one afternoon several days before Christmas. The first thing I noticed – after Phil poured me a stiff shot of bourbon – was several shelves full of books on typography. A lot of them are type specimen books.
Phil is the proprietor of the Hermetic Press, which kicked off in the mid-1960s. He purposefully doesn’t do much promotion.
After our conversation I headed over to this little shop
It had only recently opened. I didn’t find anything – most of the stock was geared, naturally, toward readers. I did have a good gab with the young owner however, and wished him well.
Then it was back to home-base, in Eagan, a bedroom community near Minneapolis. Our dear friends Jeff and Laura Spartz live here. We’ve visited them often over the years, mostly at Christmas time. Jeff runs a food-bank for the local crow population (you can see how successful this is)
Laura knows everything that is humanly possible to know about Jane Austen and the Regency period. The two are the nicest, most welcoming, well-travelled, smartest, politically-engaged people you can imagine – exactly the kind who give Americans (most of them, anyway) a good name. We’re lucky to be able to call them, and their families, friends.
Last time we visited, I had the opportunity to Continue reading “Motoring to Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago and Syracuse”