Archive for October 2006

Climbing Bestseller Lists Like a ‘Thunderbolt’

October 31, 2006

thunderbolt.jpgI heard Bill Bryson on NPR the other day. Is there a funnier writer scribbling today? I’m not sure. Most of us know Bryson for his rambles through strange places. Earlier this month, his memoir was published and, not shockingly, it’s selling well. It’s being called “a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s

.” Anyway, after listening to Bryson talk about this book, I’ve added The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid to my reading list.

Here’s one short summary of the book that’s being used by the publisher, Broadway Books, for promotional purposes:



Two Words: Free Candy

October 30, 2006

at_hlday077thm.jpgHey, kids, when you’re out trick-or-treating on Division Street tomorrow night make sure you poke your scary head inside the old neighborhood bookstore. I have been told that the good folks at River City Books will have some tasty treats on hand. All you have to do is provide the tricks.

We’ve Got A ‘Life’

October 29, 2006

brief.jpgMemo to those participating in the hip new River City Books fiction book club: I have just been informed by Katie Goetz, moderator of the club, that copies of the selection for November, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, have arrived. Participating members can purchase the books for 20 percent off.

The group will discuss the book at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the lower level of the store. Those who would like to join the club can e-mail Katie ( or call River City (507-646-7754) and let them know that you’d like to be added to the book club’s e-mail list.

“We’ll have some snacks,” Katie says, “a fantastic discussion and fun, so if you have a friend or two who’d like to join us they’re more than welcome.”


A Great Night — If You’re Into Laughter

October 28, 2006

harmon-1.JPGI was lucky enough to find a seat at The Contented Cow on Friday evening as Harmon Leon entertained a large crowd as only he can. The world’s most famous infiltrator made us giggle throughout an hourlong presentation during which he told frighteningly hilarious tales from his latest book, The Infiltrator: My Undercover Exploits in Right-Wing America.

Leon also recalled stories from his previous books, including some of the funniest and goofiest gags from the wildly popular Harmon Chronicles. I know I had a great time and judging by the snorts and snickers through the pub I was far from the only one.

River City Books manager Jon Lee asked me to thank Norman Butler, proprietor of The Cow, for co-sponsoring this event. It was one of those things where you wonder why someone didn’t think of it sooner. Books and beverages. What a great idea. Hopefully, these two parties will get together for additional events in the future.

Harmon Leon On Tap Tonight

October 27, 2006

cowlogoqtr.jpgIt’s Friday and maybe you don’t have plans for tonight. Or maybe you have plans, but they’re plans that don’t light you up. Those who know me will not be shocked to hear that I have an opinion on this very subject. Yep, I have an idea about how things could be different for you this Friday night.

Come on down to one of my favorite watering holes — yes, birds gotta sip — and check out an author who doesn’t just read from his books, he performs.

Harmon Leon, perhaps the most daring infiltration journalist of this or any other time, will visit The Contented Cow at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27. Yes, that’s tonight! The appearance coincides with the release of Leon’s latest book — The Infiltrator: My Undercover Exploits in Right-Wing America. The event is co-sponsored by River City Books. I recently posted an exclusive interview with Leon.

“The Infiltrator” is Leon’s follow-up to Republican Like Me and the wildly popular Harmon Chronicles. Leon worked on Might magazine with Dave Eggers and has written features in Cosmopolitan,, Details, Maxim, and NPR’s This American Life. Of “The Infiltrator,” Carol Kolb, former editor-in-chief of The Onion says, “You cannot but be amazed by the sheer guts of Harmon Leon. This book is great!”

Hope to see you tonight at The Cow. But only come if you like to laugh.

Not Too Late to Meet (and Hear From) Mike Perry

October 25, 2006

perry2.JPGI had met Michael Perry before he visited River City Books this afternoon. Twice before, actually. Once at a book convention, the other time after Perry appeared for Northfield Reads! two years ago. Doubtless he didn’t distinguish me from the thousands of other readers who have pumped his fist after literary events.

Yet I feel like I know Perry. It’s the way he writes. Makes you feel like you’re being given a behind-the-scenes tour of an interesting mind at work. His books, first Population: 485 and now Truck: A Love Story, are found in River City Book’s biography/memoir section. But I consider them like collections of personal essays woven into a larger narrative. And Perry’s prose is so appealing it scarcely matters the topic at hand; I know I want to read whatever he pens next.

Perry’s persona on the page is of a self-effacing, comfortable-in-his-skin, and likable kind of guy. In the small amount of time I have spent with him, I have seen nothing to think it’s not who he really is. Besides, he writes so true he could hardly fake it. I think that’s why people stopped by the store on Wednesday afternoon to talk to Perry and have him sign their books. One customer remarked to me, “I can’t wait to get home and start reading.” I know the feeling. It’s like hearing from an old friend.

Read Perry’s prose and you’ll feel like you know him, too. To tempt you, here are some of the memorable lines I jotted down during my reading of this affecting book:

truck.JPG“The story begins on a pile of sheep manure the size of a yurt.”

“Somewhere along the line trendsetters and marketers got involved, and now we buy pickups — big, horse-powered, overbuilt, wide-assed, comfortable pickups — so that we may stick our key in the ignition of an icon, fire up an image, and drive off in a cloud of connotations. I have no room to talk. I long to get my International running in part so I can drive down roads that no longer exist.”

“Putting me in charge of seeds is like dropping your kids off with a weird uncle who feeds them Funyons for breakfast, then sends them out back for an unsupervised game of Jarts.”

“For forty years she has raised a constantly fluctuating passel of tots, drawing on her wits, fifty-pound bags of oatmeal, and a fistful of coupons the size of a bad UNO hand.”

“We plunge into love with a naiveté that ignores all prior humiliations. Thank goodness, I guess.”

Perry’s also the rare author who knows how to present his material. Below is an excerpt from “Truck,” read by the author. Thanks to Mike for his time — and for granting this humble little bird permission to use the audio file.

Don’t Forget: Perry Visiting Tomorrow!

October 24, 2006

perry.jpgI am behind the ball on a lot of things, but I would never forget to remind you that one of my very favorite authors will soon be in town.

Michael Perry, author of Population: 485, will appear at River City Books from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, in conjunction with the release of his new book, Truck: A Love Story.

Publishers Weekly calls Perry “a wry observer” and in his latest book he delivers a truckload of humor, heart and … gardening tips? Think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, complete with stock cars, sexy vegetables, and a laugh track.