John Berryman Leapt Here

Mapping the literary landmarks of the Twin Cities

THE NICOLLET ISLAND INN on the river in Minneapolis was the site of a bit of accidental history in 1995 when author CAROL SHIELDS, lunching with a group of Twin Cities literati and a Canadian consulate official, received the telephone call informing her that she had won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Stone Diaries.

The Twin Cities' diverse and perpetually endangered independent bookstores have long been justly celebrated...and, sadly, just as often fondly remembered by the same folks whose patronage might have kept them alive. Foremost among the dozens of excellent stores that have been--and still are--is the godfather of indie survivors, David Unowsky's St. Paul monument, the HUNGRY MIND (now Ruminator Books), at 1648 GRAND AVE.. For decades the institution has been the focal point of the local book community, hosting visiting writers, supporting local presses and authors, and generally agitating for all things independent. The place has a rich anecdotal history all its own and over the years has spawned an influential book review and burgeoning small press. The offices of the now RUMINATOR REVIEW, behind the store, at 1653 LINCOLN AVE., have also been the site of historic and just plain odd convergences, such as the time that dandy QUENTIN CRISP showed up unannounced at the office one morning at ten o'clock and requested a glass of Guinness.

Among the other notable survival stories is that of AMAZON BOOKS (CURRENTLY AT 4432 CHICAGO AVE. S., MINNEAPOLIS), the worker-owned cooperative that has endured litigation (with the Internet behemoth that stole their name) and relocation to become the oldest independent feminist bookstore in the country.

John Vogt

SAVRAN'S BOOKS, at 301 CEDAR AVE. in Minneapolis, was a classic alternative, independent bookstore from 1965 to 1986, attracting students, professors, and West Bank regulars on a daily basis. Memorable events included an early reading by LOUISE ERDRICH and a late-Sixties appearance by poet and rocker PATTI SMITH.

Dinkytown, on the university campus, also had its share of legendary bookstores, from MELVIN MCCOSH's cluttered treasure trove of used tomes (at 1404 FOURTH ST. SE) to RUSOFF AND CO. BOOKS at 1302 FOURTH ST. SE. It was above Rusoff's that proprietor MARLY RUSOFF, along with Patricia Hampl and poet JIM MOORE, launched the original incarnation of the LOFT LITERARY CENTER. THE BOOK HOUSE (429 14TH AVE. SE) is another survivor, and a prototypical warren of wonders, an archaeological dig masquerading as an incomparable used bookstore.

GRINGOLET BOOKS, in St. Anthony Main, was a classy place with a first-rate knowledgeable staff and a world-class selection. And ONCE UPON A CRIME (mysteries) (604 W. 26TH ST., MINNEAPOLIS), UNCLE HUGO'S (science-fiction and fantasy) and UNCLE EDGAR'S (mysteries) (BOTH AT 2864 CHICAGO AVE. S. IN MINNEAPOLIS) are all survivors of long standing. Over the years Once Upon a Crime has played host to a who's who of the mystery field, from P.D. James and Elmore Leonard to Mary Higgins Clark and Sara Paretsky.

In the early 1980s, Argentine writer JORGE LUIS BORGES visited the Twin Cities as part of the Walker Art Center's reading series. That season the Walker's lineup included Nobel laureates TONI MORRISON and JOSEPH BRODSKY, as well as W.S. MERWIN and GREGORY CORSO. Accompanied by Minneapolis photographer STUART KLIPPER, Borges, who was blind, toured the Twin Cities lakes and ventured to MINNEHAHA PARK, where he was keen to visit the falls and the then-rundown home (since restored, at 46TH AND MINNEHAHA) that the eccentric Robert Fish Jones had built as a replica of Longfellow's Cambridge mansion. In its day the Fish Jones house included a full-scale zoological park, botanical gardens, and miniature railroad.

Klipper, who shot memorable photos of Borges during his stay in the Twin Cities, recalls the writer singing an Argentine Milonga in his ear, and--perhaps under the spell of Hiawatha's "dancing waters"--dancing a tango alone in Minnehaha Park.

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