DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Crazy About Books

I said I wasn’t going to do it again.

But once again, I purchased another stash of used books, this time at an estate sale in our neighborhood in Bloomington, Minn.

I wish I had known the folks who owned this house. It was full of books on every conceivable subject, from great works of literature to volumes about home repair and cooking. I coughed up 10 bucks for a dozen of them. Most I’ll save for winter reading, when I have an aversion to being outdoors in the cold.

But two of the finds are on my night stand already.

  • “My Irish Cook Book” by Monica Sheridan. (I fell in love with that cuisine during our visit to that country last year.)
  • “Giants In the Earth” by O.E. Rolvaag, a novel first published in Norwegian and then in 1927 in English. It’s set in 1873 in what would become the state of South Dakota. Rolvaag attended Augustana College in that state and later St. Olaf College in Minnesota, where he eventually became a professor.My interest in Norwegian heritage has intensified as I’ve aged. My sister, Susan Vorland Hanson, is currently visiting Norway, and I’m eager to see her pictures and hear her stories. Perhaps I’ll get there myself one of these days.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Chuck Klosterman

I met many bright students during my long career at the University of North Dakota. One of them was a kid named Chuck Klosterman, who had grown up near Wyndmere, N.D., and showed up as a freshman in 1990.

I recall him as a slightly outrageous and very humorous writer for the Dakota Student newspaper.

Klosterman’s first book was “Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota,” issued in 2001 by Scribner, Ernest Hemingway and Scot Fitzgerald’s publisher.

His 10th book, “But What If We’re Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past,” was published in 2016. It visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear in the future to those who will perceive it as the distant past.

One critic wrote “I have often wondered how the times I live in will be remembered once they turn into History. It never occurred to me to figure out how to write a book about it, though, which is one of the reasons why Chuck Klosterman is smarter than I am.”

Dorette and I were in Park Rapids, Minn., a few weeks ago. I noticed the book at Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery, one of the two excellent bookstores in that small town. It now waits on my night stand to be read.

Klosterman spoke at the 2009 UND Writer’s Conference, but I see nothing on Google documenting that the University of North Dakota or its Alumni Association have given him any formal recognition for his achievements.

If not, it’s long overdue.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — My Life On Skis

Like my father, I’ve been subject to enthusiasms. Playing tournament chess, which he didn’t do. Photography, which he did, along with other pastimes.

I was introduced to downhill skiing while I was a University of North Dakota student. A classmate (call her “Violet”) invited me to ski with her at the Huff Hills near Mandan, N.D. I overnighted at her parents’ house — they were a tad dubious about me — and we managed to snowplow down the runs a few times.

Turned out I liked skiing.

Soon thereafter, a high school and college friend, George Palms, and I drove to Terry Peak in South Dakota, where we snowplowed those higher elevations.

Eventually, I bought skis and, as the years went by, used them on hills near Bottineau and Walhalla, N.D., and Bemidji, Minn.

I was already in my 40s when I first heard of Big Sky, Mont. I began to rent a condo for a week or so and for several years went there in the spring to breathe mountain air, write my office annual report and visit nearby Yellowstone Park. Sometimes my daughter, Kristi, joined me.

After I hooked up with Dorette Kerian, skiing became an annual part of my life, at Big Ski and other resorts in the U.S. and Canada. After a few lessons, my breakthrough to parallel skiing occurred at Alta in Utah.

Last March, I joined Dorette and her family for a few days at Breckenridge, Colo. In January, we’ll gather at, you guessed it, Big Sky.

I used to say I could handle any groomed blue run in North America, but I suspect I’ll be limiting myself to the greens. Or perhaps to sipping cognac on the deck.

I took the above picture of Lone Peak and its ski runs in June 2015. Winter sports had given way to mountain biking and hiking, but there still was some snow on the mountain.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — The Sun Still Rises

I’ve just reread Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” written when he was in his 20s and living in Paris.

The book is presented in the first person by the character Jake Barnes, a newspaper reporter who like Hemingway had been injured in the World War I.

I’ve always liked the novel’s first sentence, “Robert Cohen was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton,” and the last, Jake’s reply to Lady Brett Ashley’s regretful “Oh Jake, we could have had such a damned good time together.”

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

The action is set mostly in Pamplona, Spain, during the annual bullfighting festival, which still takes place. Several people were injured this year during the running of the bulls. I’ve been to Spain a couple of times, but have not visited that town let alone had that experience.

You may wish to consider reading Lesley Blume’s book “Everybody Behaves Badly,” which recounts the actual people and events upon which “The Sun Also Rises” is based.

Some of the novel is set in Paris, with references to places that still exist.

For example, in 2005 I took the above photo of the Boulevard Montparnasse with the bistros La Rotonde and Le Dome on opposite sides of the street. Not far away is La Closerie Des Lilas, a cafe/bar where Hemingway wrote much of the book.

I’m penciled in to attend an International Hemingway Conference in Paris next year. Here’s hoping circumstances permit me to do so.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Yet More Hemingway

I’ve been reading biographies of Ernest Hemingway, dead for more than half a century but who remains an author who can sell books, his own as well as those of scholars trying to interpret his life to the readers of 2017.

I’ve read six new ones so far this year, including most recently Nicholas Reynolds’ book, “Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961: Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy.” It’s 357 pages long, including 88 pages of sources, acknowledgements, permissions, endnotes and index.

Despite the documentation, I’m not completely sold on the Reynolds book. It’s more than OK but contains too many qualifiers such as “could have been” and “perhaps.” Reynolds (not to be confused with Michael Reynolds, among the best of the earlier biographers) pretty much concedes Hemingway was never an actual spy, although he knew many of them beginning with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

I have another unread biography on my night stand: Lesley M.M. Bloom’s EVERYBODY BEHAVES BADLY,” centered on the real life events that resulted in Hemingway’s first novel, “The Sun Also Rises.”

After that, my goal is to reread “The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway,” all 650 pages of them, first published by Scribner’s in 1938 and re-issued in 1987 by Hemingway’s sons, John, Patrick and Gregory, with additional until then unpublished stories.

That should get me through the year.

As always, I wish my Hemingway mentor, the late University of North Dakota English Professor Robert Lewis, a founder of the Hemingway Society, was here to guide me through this reading project.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — The Art Of Drinking Beer

Dorette took this picture of me in St. Paul recently as we dined outdoors at Herbie’s on the Park. I decided to quaff a Hamm’s beer as I did long ago, including when I wasn’t old enough to do so legally.

It’s been decades since I tasted the Hamm’s brand, established in 1865 in St. Paul and now owned by MillerCoors and brewed God knows where. It tasted, what’s the word?

Insipid? Yes, that’s it.

Admittedly, I’ve become somewhat of a beer snob, thanks in part to Dorette’s daughter, Kara, and her husband, Paul, who as a gift subscribed me for years in a craft “beer of the month” club.

I now prefer the strong, hoppy flavor of India Pale Ale, although Guinness is excellent, too.

Dorette’s not much of a beer drinker, but on a recent trip to Paris, we found a milder-tasting French brew — Kronenbourg 1664 — we both like.

Not to worry, friends, that we may be slipping into an alcoholic haze during our golden years. Both of us watch our diets and try not to overeat.

Beer by definition is a food group. It’s made from grain, after all.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Harvey Hornets Forever

I took this picture (below) a week ago today during a brief visit to my hometown of Harvey, N.D.

Since I graduated 56 years ago (gasp!), this former high school has been converted into a junior high and a new structure built elsewhere in town for the “upper grades.”

I’ve long realized the education I received as a Harvey Hornet was superior, thanks to an excellent administration — anyone remember Superintendent B.M. Hanson? — and faculty. My favorite teacher was Clyde Boyko, but there were many other good ones (Art Lies, for example, the only teacher from that era I’ve found on Facebook, who taught music and German (awarding me a D when I assumed I would be receiving an F in that difficult course).

Those who know me in 2017 might not guess I participated in sports: track, wrestling, and, believe it or not, football. The photo above is of the HHS team in front of what is now the junior high school.

No. 89 — that’s me.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Going Home Again

It’s said you can’t go home again. That was even the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, and others — Proust and Hemingway among them — came to the same conclusion.

I accept the premise logically, but not emotionally.

So this past Sunday, I again found myself driving 442 miles from my current residence in Bloomington, Minn., to Harvey, N.D., and from there to nearby Wellsburg. I spent my formative years in this area before, like most of my friends, moving on to the larger world.

News reports in the Twin Cities had suggested North Dakota was suffering a drought, but I saw no evidence of that in this area. The weather was perfect — mild temperatures, bright green fields, and glorious blue skies.

The above photo was one of the first I shot, a view from the viaduct over the Soo Line tracks in Harvey, N.D. The yard is far from being as busy as it was when I was a kid. But it’s still a nice and prosperous town.

Having said that, I also saw and photographed some things there and in Wellsburg that gave me pause. Stay tuned for more on that topic in later FB posts.

One other thing for sure I noticed.

I ain’t as young as I once was. The total mileage on the two-day trip totaled nearly 1,000 miles, and it sort of tuckered me out.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Hemingway Lives

The latest issue of the New Yorker, dated July 3, includes one of the best essays about Ernest Hemingway I have ever read: “A New Man: Ernest Hemingway — revised and revisited,” written by Adam Gopnik.

It is in part of a review of the new biography, Mary V. Dearborn’s 735-page “Ernest Hemingway.”

That one is on my book shelf waiting perhaps for this winter, when I will be more interested in reading than, say, walking around Lake Calhoun just minutes away from our place in Bloomington, Minn.

Here are some excerpts from the long piece. Anyone with more than a passing interest in the individual who is perhaps America’s greatest writer owes it to himself or herself to read it in its entirety.

Some of Gopnik’s commentary deals with Hemingway’s gender reversal fetishes, found most spectacularly in the novel “The Garden of Eden,” not published during his lifetime. The subject was considered immoral a half-century ago, but hardly raises an eyebrow now.

But, Gopnik says, “The new attempts to make Papa matter by making him a lot less Papa and a little more Mama are, finally, not all that persuasive. Hemingway remains Hemingway — the macho attitudes continue to penetrate the prose even when the gender roles get switched around. And those macho attitudes include many admirable things: a genuine love of courage, a surprising readiness to celebrate failure if it is bought with bravery, an unsparing sense of the fatality of human existence, a love of the small pleasures that ennoble it.”

He quotes a paragraph from “The Garden of Eden”:

“On this morning there was brioche and red raspberry preserve and the eggs were boiled and there was a pat of butter that melted as they stirred them and salted them lightly and ground pepper over them in the cups … He remembered that easily and he was happy with his which he diced up with the spoon and ate with only the flow of the butter to moisten them and the fresh early morning texture and the bite of the coarsely ground pepper grains and the hot coffee and the chickory-fragrant bowl of cafe au lait.”

Comments Gopnik: “The flow of the butter and the bite of the pepper” — there is more effective gender-blending in his breakfasts than in his bedrooms. The pleasure he takes in the world’s surface is more plural than the poses he chooses on the world’s stage.

“Always an epicurean before he was a stoic, Hemingway is at his worst when he is boasting and bluffing and ruling the roost, at his best when he is bending and breaking and writing down breakfast. Macho and minimalist alike, the sentences are thrilling still in their exactitude and audacity.

“Coming away even from the sad last pages of his biography, the reader feels that Hemingway earned the epitaph he would most have wanted. He WAS a brave man, and he did know how to write.”

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Bois du Boulogne

I shot this photo in Monday of a professional dog walker in the Bois du Boulogne, the large park on the edge of Paris, which figures in Marcel Proust’s novel, “A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu.”

Over my lifetime, I’ve read this work more than once in English translation (all 3,031 pages in seven volumes), and some of it in the original language, thanks to the basic French I learned via a staff tuition waiver program at the University of North Dakota.

Is Proust, who died in 1922, still relevant?

I think so. His novel continues to sell worldwide, and I purchased two new biographies before we departed from France on Wednesday.

On past visits to the Bois, I’ve made a point of walking around its lakes and on the broad promenades such as the former L’allée des Acacias, now mostly roads crowded with automobiles.

Even so, Dorette, her granddaughter, Avery, and I enjoyed our time there, although the experience troubled me somewhat. The place seemed “different.”

Then I recalled that Proust’s fictional narrator, now an elderly man like me, remembering his youth, had felt a similar disenchantment.

The novel is set in the Belle Epoch when the Bois was the place where on Sundays strolled the most beautiful women of Paris, including one of Proust’s most famous characters, Odette Swann.

The narrator, after reminiscing about long-ago days, describes what he now sees:

“Nature was resuming its reign over the Bois, from which had vanished all trace of the idea that it was the Elysian Garden of Women; above the gimcrack windmill the real sky was grey; the wind wrinkled the surface of the Grand Lac in little wavelets, like a real lake; large birds flew swiftly over the Bois, as over a real wood, and with shrill cries perched one after another on the great oaks which, beneath their Druidical crown, and with Dodonian majesty, seemed to proclaim the inhuman emptiness of this deconsecrated forest, and helped me to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one’s memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself.”

A good lesson for someone my age. In fact, I intend to go to the Bois to have it repeated next year when I’m in Paris again, hopefully, for the Hemingway Society’s biennial conference.