Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Let us all praise the public library in Brainerd, Minnesota! They and the Friends of the Library have a “brown bag” speaker program, in which an author comes over the noon hour on a Monday, and to which the local citizens are invited. They must work hard at it because there were more than forty interested people attending my talk yesterday. I think that’s the best turnout I have ever had for a daytime weekday talk. They were a fine crowd, too, laughing at the right spots and asking interested questions after. Plus we sold some books.

Public appearances are chancy things. You may do your best to publicize them, try to make your talk as clever as you can, dress up (or down) for it, and still be disappointed. Or you may casually agree to turn up for one, and be surprised at the enthusiastic turnout. I don’t think there’s a formula that guarantees a success – unless it’s getting a reputation as a gangbuster speaker. There’s a group of four mystery authors in my area that calls itself the Minnesota Crime Wave, who have an intelligent and hilarious routine they’ve taken on the road. If they ever turn up in your area, be sure to go see them.

As we headed up Highway 169 on our way to Brainerd I noted that cars were barely breaking the speed limit, which is a change in what used to be the situation on that section of the road. (I remember being shocked to notice that Minnesota drivers took speed limits under advisement – the state is populated by citizens normally so staid that the descriptive term “Minnesota nice” is popular and accurate.) And a section of 169 is where the feet on the accelerators became especially heavy. The Highway Patrol finally cracked down and now one can drive along there without one’s heart in one’s throat. But it made me think about “micro cultures.” That is, neighborhoods where customs set its people apart from other neighborhoods. One neighborhood might have annual, or even more frequent, block parties, where others don’t. The presence of a public swimming pool or softball field may become a gathering place for residents. To give a bad example, gangs often will claim a neighborhood, even naming themselves after a particular street. I wonder if this isn’t because humans naturally organize themselves into villages, which are about the size of a neighborhood. I know there was a feeling of . . . well, not exactly resentment but something like it, when our co-op was built in the Aquila neighborhood. We fit in just fine now, but it took a couple of years. Funny the things one muses about while driving. Do you live in a recognizable neighborhood?


Carol S said...

Glad to hear your library talk was so well received!
Our neighborhood used to be rural but has seen a lot of new housing additions spring-up the last five years. Mostly older residents; no teen-aged drivers with booming car radios. Love it!!

Betty Hechtman said...

The area in Chicago where I still spend a lot of time is definitely a neighborhood. The area is called Hyde Park and it has had a changing personality over the years. The University of Chicago is located there and defines it a lot, particularly now. When I was a kid, it was a haven for writers, artists, and intellectuals.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm always delighted to praise libraries, Monica! Glad you had a good turnout and a fun time.