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Old 03-15-2019, 11:12 AM
 
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Let's talk about Minnesota in novels: ie, fictional books set significantly in the state of Minnesota.

Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis
I confess that I haven't read this classic* but I'm familiar with the fact that it's set in Gopher Prairie, a thinly-disguised version of the author's hometown of Sauk Centre. The protagonist is from Mankato by way of St. Paul, and she is not impressed with the town. Many residents of Sauk Centre, in turn, were less than impressed by the portrayals in the book. Nonetheless, Main Street along with Babbit essentially won Sinclair Lewis the Nobel Prize for literature.

*When all of those 'Best of the 20th Century' lists started trickling out a couple decades ago, the ones dedicated to English-language novels invariably included two Minnesotans: Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Given the size of the Anglo-sphere, Minnesota was punching above its weight literarily.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is a minor entry, which I only include this high because of the footnote above. The Great Gatsby regularly ranks among the top ten English-language novels of the 20th century, though Tender is the Night made a lot of the aforementioned lists as well. While it's set mostly in New York city and on Long Island, the narrator Nick Carroway is from St. Paul, and that city and is periodically mentioned. Also, before he made his millions and became Great, the backstory of the character of the novel's title tells us that he was James Gatz from North Dakota, who briefly attended St. Olaf College in Northfield and then worked on fishing boats out of Duluth.

In general, I don't read fiction more than a few decades old. Gatsby is an exception. I've read it - and listened to it - several times. It is one of my favorite works.

In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O'Brien
Tim O'Brien is one of my top five favorite authors. He has written several books set all or in part in Minnesota, and which blend fiction with memoir. This book is pure fiction, but like most of his works it focuses on the effects of the Vietnam War on those American soldiers who served in it.

John Wade is the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, who is also the favorite in the DFL primary for an open United States Senate seat. Several weeks before the election, it becomes publicly known that two decades earlier, Wade was present while serving in the Army at the My Lai Massacre. Wade's campaign collapses, he loses the primary, and along with his wife retreats to a cabin on Lake of the Woods as they try and decide how to repair their life - which had primarily revolved around his political career. Then she goes missing, and John is the prime suspect in her disappearance. The book makes it clear that John Wade may have killed his wife and disposed of her in the lake. It also makes clear that he may have had nothing to do with whatever happened to her. Her fate is never resolved. I found the book emotionally taxing to read, yet brilliant. It is part third-person narrative, with the rest being quotes from others as to their opinions on the disappearance of Kathy Wade, lists of physical evidence, interviews by authorities, and so forth.

It's an impressive book for its impact, for its unconventional form, and for the fact that it provides no ultimate answers.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The television show set in Minnesota was called Little House on the Prairie, but that title comes from a Wilder book set in Kansas. Plum Creek is near Walnut Grove, a tributary of the Cottonwood River. I include this book here because even though the Wilder books are based on her life, they are also highly fictionalized. I think I probably read this as a teen, but cannot remember for certain.

The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, by Siri Hustvedt
I tried reading this one but for whatever reason I never finished it. The book is set in a town called Webster, which is clearly Northfield. Maybe I'll give it another go sometime.

Lake Woebegon Days, by Garrison Keillor
I loved the radio show, but I've never read anything Keillor has written (though I do have a collection of poems, not written by him but chosen by him).

Duluth, by Gore Vidal
The city is supposed to be Duluth, Minnesota, and it is in the novel, though it apparently isn't anything like the actual Duluth.

Duma Key, by Stephen King
This one is set partly in Minnesota. I like a lot of King's earlier work, but I've read almost nothing he's written after the mid-90s, this book included. Still, I imagine it was a bestseller.

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskins
A Christmas gift from my wife's mother, this one still sits on my to-read list. I think I'll start it soon. I don't know much about it, except that Mankato and the U of M are prominent in the novel.

I know of many others set primarily here in the state, though at the moment I cannot think of any I've read. Anyone want to chime it with other books set here?
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:53 PM
 
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John Sandford: Prey series (take place in Mn and Wisconsin)
P.J. Tracy: Monkey Wrench series (mostly Twin Cities)
William Kent Krueger: Cork O'Connor series (a lot of Northern Mn)
Brian Freeman: Jonathan Stride series (mostly in Duluth)
Many Tami Hoag books
Dean Hovey: Pine County mystery series

I'm not providing a discussion, I would have to say the Sandford books are my favorites in the list above. He has two separate series, although the main characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, appear in both series.
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Old 03-24-2019, 01:19 PM
 
515 posts, read 107,816 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noslrac View Post
John Sandford: Prey series (take place in Mn and Wisconsin)
P.J. Tracy: Monkey Wrench series (mostly Twin Cities)
William Kent Krueger: Cork O'Connor series (a lot of Northern Mn)
Brian Freeman: Jonathan Stride series (mostly in Duluth)
Many Tami Hoag books
Dean Hovey: Pine County mystery series

I'm not providing a discussion, I would have to say the Sandford books are my favorites in the list above. He has two separate series, although the main characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, appear in both series.
I don't think I've ever read a series set in Minnesota. I was aware of the Krueger books, however, and Tami Hoag, of course, who of course is a bestseller of national presence.
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Old 03-24-2019, 01:45 PM
 
7,113 posts, read 2,820,886 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noslrac View Post
John Sandford: Prey series (take place in Mn and Wisconsin)
P.J. Tracy: Monkey Wrench series (mostly Twin Cities)
William Kent Krueger: Cork O'Connor series (a lot of Northern Mn)
Brian Freeman: Jonathan Stride series (mostly in Duluth)
Many Tami Hoag books
Dean Hovey: Pine County mystery series

I'm not providing a discussion, I would have to say the Sandford books are my favorites in the list above. He has two separate series, although the main characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, appear in both series.
Love John Sandford! I’m reading Deep Freeze right now. Even the Virgil Fliwers novel is set in MN. I read the Prey series as they come out, I ordered the older ones online to give as a gift to a fellow book lover. So realistic, I’ve lived all over MN, he really knows the state and people. IMO.

Thanks for the other suggestions
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Old 03-28-2019, 07:27 PM
 
6,157 posts, read 3,490,554 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2x3x29x41 View Post
I don't think I've ever read a series set in Minnesota. I was aware of the Krueger books, however, and Tami Hoag, of course, who of course is a bestseller of national presence.
I've recently become acquainted with the Vince Flynn series. He writes crime thrillers and is a retired policeman from St. Paul.

My first introduction to Minnesota literature was in third grade when a beloved teacher read to us from the Betsy-Tacy books written by Maude Hart Lovelace. They are memories of her childhood growing up in Mankato.

Louis Erdrich, books of Native American heritage.

Mary Hemmingway, fourth wife of Ernest, a prize-winning journalist and war reporter during WWII.

Robert Bly was Minnesota's first Poet Laureate.

And, guess what? We can include Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.
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Old 03-31-2019, 03:14 PM
 
515 posts, read 107,816 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lodestar View Post
I've recently become acquainted with the Vince Flynn series. He writes crime thrillers and is a retired policeman from St. Paul.

My first introduction to Minnesota literature was in third grade when a beloved teacher read to us from the Betsy-Tacy books written by Maude Hart Lovelace. They are memories of her childhood growing up in Mankato.

Louis Erdrich, books of Native American heritage.

Mary Hemmingway, fourth wife of Ernest, a prize-winning journalist and war reporter during WWII.

Robert Bly was Minnesota's first Poet Laureate.

And, guess what? We can include Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.
While interesting, those are generally writers from Minnesota. However, the impetus of this thread was the portrayal of Minnesota in fiction.

However, on the subject of Bob Dylan, we can discuss popular music which concerns Minnesota:

Meet Me in the Morning, Bob Dylan
At the corner of 56th and Wabasha is where Robert Zimmerman wants to meet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE6-uc1zr3s

Skyway, The Replacements
You take the skyway, high above the busy little one-way
In my stupid hat and gloves, at night I lie awake
Wonderin' if I'll sleep
Wonderin' if we'll meet out in the street
But you take the skyway


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb5uasDJThc

Funkytown, Lipps Inc.
Apparently, Minneapolis wasn't funky enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s36eQwgPNSE

Postcard from a Hooker in Minneapolis, Tim Waits
Self-explanatory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxVo5mjK4eg

Uptown, Prince
But one example of local flavor from His Purpleness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiuSRQHLv88

Minnesota Girls, The Shackletons
Good Lord, the video...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0bvgRDb0Dw

Soda Drown, Hole
I'm not sure why Courtney Love wants to bomb the whole state of Minnesota.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Z934NdeCM

On a Bus to St. Cloud, Trisha Yearwood
Hmmm....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prJyb7W605c
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Old 04-04-2019, 08:37 AM
 
Location: Minnesota
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There is a little known Author, Helen Hover who wrote some books about her time on the Gunflint Trail. They are wonderful reads but not Fiction.

A Place in the Woods, The Gift of the Deer, The Long Shadowed Forrest are just some of them.

Sanford has several books outside the Prey and Flowers series that are very much worth reading. I really enjoy his writing style. I think I've read almost all of his books.

William Kent Kruger's Cork O'connor are an easy read with a lot of Ojibwa influence. Really enjoyed "Ordinary Grace" which isn't in the series.
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Old 04-06-2019, 05:39 AM
 
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The Good Girl -Mary Kubica
Great read!
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Old 04-12-2019, 08:23 AM
 
515 posts, read 107,816 times
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Moving on, let's discuss cinema - movies set in Minnesota.

Fargo
This one had to top the list. From the much-discussed accents to the provincial aspects of the characters to the stark black-and-white that is so evocative in Minnesota in winter, this film is steeped in Minnesota. Then there's the irony that all of one fairly brief scene takes place in the city from which the film takes its title.

A Simple Plan
Like Fargo, this film revels in the monochrome of a Minnesota's snow and ice. The novel, by the way, was set in Ohio. Much of the film's dialogue is lifted straight from the book, though there are some significant departures in plot. The novel manages to be significantly darker than the film, which is grim enough. Paul Magers (remember him?) had a small role as himself in the movie, and I seem to recall the the sheriff's vehicles indicated that it took place in Stearns County (I may well be wrong about this last bit, though).

Juno
I thought this film was absolutely brilliant. But while it's set in Minnesota, there's nothing really Minnesotan about it. They mention St. Cloud and one of the -dale malls, but it could have been set in any state with sprawling suburbia. Presumably, it was set in Minnesota because it was written by a Minneapolis stripper who branched out into writing - first blogging, then for City Pages, and ultimately for the big screen.

A Serious Man
Another entry from the Coen brothers, this film is set in the southern suburbs of the youths of Joel and Ethan. All sorts of local entities are mentioned of featured, from Red Owl to Ron Meshbesher. A minor entry in their filmography, I thought it is among the best they've done.

The Long Riders
This film is notable for all the real-life groups of siblings that play groups of brothers in the film: Jesse and Frank James, the Younger brothers, the Fords, etc. The Northfield bank is robbed in the film.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Bank Robbery
Another James-Younger robbery film, I've only seen bits of this one here and there. What I saw looked rather silly, though Roger Ebert named the film to his Top 10 of the Year list (1972, maybe?).

Contagion
This film was set partly in Minnesota. This secondary location (the primary was at the CDC in Atlanta, I think) could have been set in any medium-sized metro area. But the familiar setting made the film more impactful, I thought. In the movie, a global pandemic begins when a businesswoman gets infected in China, then passes on the infection while having a fling during a layover in Chicago. Back in Minnesota, she dies. The Minnesota part of the story follows her husband (Matt Damon, IIRC) and his daughter as they negotiate the aftermath. In the end, a couple hundred million people worldwide died. There's a scene of a mass grave being dug in Minneapolis that I found chilling. The fact that the movie had the restraint to make the death toll massive yet restrained enough not to veer into the silly everyone-is-dying! territory made in more plausible, at least to me.

Jingle All the Way
I've never seen this one and I hesitate to include it, as I cannot determine if it was actually set in Minnesota. However, it was filmed partly in Minnesota, including at the Mall of America. Just after we were married, my wife managed the Record Town at the mall, and some mall scenes were shot nearby. At closing time, the film production would be ramping up (they shot after hours, when the mall was closed). Side note: my wife also worked at the Record Town at the Eden Prairie Mall, where Kevin Smith's Mall Rats was filmed after hours, though that film is definitely not set in Minnesota (New Jersey).

Iron Will
I never saw this film, but I lived in Duluth in the early 1990s when part of it was being filmed there. It's set maybe a hundred years ago, so some streets were being temporarily made to look the period. It's about a sled dog race.

Untamed Heart
I saw this ages ago. Something to do with Christian Slater's heart, and I think Mickey's Diner is in the film. That's the extent of the impression it made on me.

Angus
I know I watched this. Angus is a kid. That's all I remember.

Grumpy Old Men (and its sequel)
The Mighty Ducks (and its sequels)
Purple Rain (and other Prince movies)
A Prairie Home Companion
Little Big League
North Country
Field of Dreams (yeah, I know, Iowa, but apparently some of it takes place in Minnesota)
Wild (loved, loved, loved the book, bit of which take place in Minnesota - maybe some of the film does as well, in flashbacks perhaps?)

I haven't seen any of the above.
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Old 04-12-2019, 10:09 AM
 
Location: Wisconsin
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One of my favorite authors is Faith Sullivan. She wrote several interconnected novels set around the Depression era in the fictional southwestern Minnesota town of Harvester. She's a wonderful writer, and having grown up in a small Minnesota town, her novels really resonated with me.
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