Impressions From The Twin Cities Book Festival

Written by The Austin Review Staff

If Rain Taxi's Twin Cities Book Festival is your best-ever family reunion then: everyone is strangely accepting of your choice to pursue writing--as a career--and you actually get excited when there's talk of procuring a hotdish. Plus, Rain Taxi is hosting and Nicholson Baker is there.

Nicholson Baker hanging with Ernest Hemingway

Nicholson Baker hanging with Ernest Hemingway

If you have to pick favorites among your family (and you do) the list starts with Nicholson Baker, whose crazy, sexy, funny, obsessive books you have fondled at home and in stores. The thing about seeing him in person is that you realize he is a human being, not just a brain floating somewhere in literary outer space. So just in front of you Nicholson Baker reads some of his new book, Traveling Sprinkler, interwoven with clever notes about how it is he came to write that very passage. It's the director's cut with commentary of readings.

Of course, he's everybody's favorite uncle, and the time he is able to devote to you is limited. It turns out that's fine because it gives you a chance to hang out with the ladies at the Paper Darts table, a couple of local Minneapolains who make one of the most mind-alteringly beautifully illustrated journals currently available on this humble planet. You have set paintings from their journal as the desktop image on your computer. When you meet them you should keep this to yourself, but don't. 

Walking by Graywolf Press’ table of award-winning books you have those thoughts again. You know, the snobby ones about how printed books are wonderful and should continue to exist. And just like people, some books speak to you more than others--like the ones on the Sunnyoutside table which, by those measures, have a lot to say. Whether it's a hand-sewn, letter pressed, four-by-four inch chapbook of Haiku or a matte perfect-bound story collection about the anxiety of opening a door, the books are lovely both inside and out.

What's more, Sunnyoutside is just a few feet away from Revolver, another Minneapolis-based journal filled with expertly organized words wrapped in an attractive, pocket-sized package. It's easy to cross the aisle and examine their large, close-up painting of Hemingway sitting at a bar, raising a glass to your genius, because there is a perfectly located hole for your own head, forcing Hemingway to lean in close. To say, "You are my favorite." (But he's always drunk at these things and says that to everyone.)