One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.


There is something in the Midwest mindset that prevents people from becoming too brash or bold.  Our cultural upbringing tells us not to strut or fluff our feathers or even to wear feathers like this guy to the right.  There’s a little voice in our head that asks before we step out: “Are you really going to wear a red velvet suit?  What are you even doing with a red velvet suit?”

Do your work.  Don’t brag.  Only shrug when someone gives a compliment.

For example, look at Minnesota author, Leif Enger’s latest novel, So Brave Young and Handsome.  It’s a great read for words move from page to page like water through a quiet brook.  It’s a story about a writer who decides to follow the smashing success of his first novel with writer’s block on the second.  To escape the day-to-day duties of staring at a blank sheet of paper, he takes a brief leave from his wife and son to accompany an elderly neighbor who is making a trip from Minnesota to Mexico.  Naturally, the neighbor turns out to be a former train-robbing felon still being hunted by the law. And that’s when things turn interesting.  The way Enger frames the moments on the road is as beautiful prose as I have recently read.  Without sentimentality or hoorah, he turns villains into reluctant heroes and heroes into less than saints.

What I like about the book are the reviews.  There is Robert Weibezchl’s “Rip-roaring” and Howard Frank Mosher’s “A world of fun.”  But you will not see such praise on the book jacket.  Instead you will see Connie Ogle’s “Deserves to become a classic” and the St. Louis Dispatch’s “An almost perfect novel.”

Deserves?  Almost?  What’s with the measured praise?  If I had to guess, I believe Enger had a hand in what blurbs went on the jacket.  He probably read the reviews and said to his publisher “Let’s not get crazy.”  I bet he found a great deal of comfort in Peter Moore’s “Wow, what a good book.”  You can almost hear the “gosh” and the “darn.”   “Good” in Midwestern dialect means awesome.  We don’t know what to do when someone says “Epic  and magnificent.”

Such grandiose language can only be found  if you hop in the car and drive down I-35 for the Mexican border…

Up North, Down South: Part One

Up North, Down South: Part Two

Up North, Down South: Part Three

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