Woodworking column: Write about what you know
You always hear that author Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote all of his Tarzan the Apeman novels without ever visiting Africa. After reading several of these novels and enduring even more of the movies based on them, I sincerely wonder if Burroughs staying at home was such a good idea.
Recently, I re-watched "Tarzan's New York Adventure," starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, which takes the apeman and his bride to the Big Apple in search of the kidnapped Boy, played by Johnny Sheffield. I rest my case.
And after watching Weissmuller dive off the Brooklyn Bridge, I'd suggest that Edgar Rice Burroughs never visited New York either.
No, I'm an advocate of writers writing books on subjects with which they are well acquainted.
I'm happy to report that there still exist authors who know about what they write.
Recently, I was invited to a performance of a first-time Wisconsin author who's out with a murder mystery titled "Stoney Lonesome Road." Author Rick Prendergast grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, went off to the air force, returned to attend college, become a police officer in Eau Claire, then an attorney and finally, an author.
You never know what you're going to run into with a first-time author.
In the case of the Prendergast appearance it worked out great. After explaining his background to a sizeable audience, he went on to outline the bones of his story. It's set in rural Wisconsin, and you can almost smell the cow manure which Prendergast pitched as a kid. There's an unsolved murder, of course, and his retired police officer Jack Delaney wants to solve it. Prendergast has a great ear for rural dialogue and his characters don't sound like Zane Grey's cowboys, who usually speak in British cadences, or Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape men (Weissmuller examining the bald skull of Waldorf-Astoria bellhop played by Stepin Fetchit: "You of Ubangi tribe. Me,Tarzan.")
So I predict a successful new literary career for a writer who knows what he's talking about.
I recently received another book from another upper Midwestern writer, who knows the ropes and has for years. He's Bart Sutter, retired UW-Superior prof and formerly Poet Laureate of Duluth. Sutter has won many awards and he's now out with a new book of poetry.
Hold on, hold on! I should say ACCESSIBLE poetry, poetry that strikes at the heart of reality with no folderol attached. The new book is called "Nordic Accordion" (Nodin Press) and it deals with subjects dear to Sutter's heart: The Scandinavian experience, "neither sentimental nor gloomy,'' according to fellow poet Joyce Sutphen, "but always good-humored and honest."
Here's a sample, called "Funeral Rites":
He met her at a funeral
It might have been a dance
Had they been younger. They were not.
Despite the circumstance.
He couldn't help but notice her
And thought he'd take a chance
At the post-internment basement lunch,
He gave her his best glance.
Her face was wrinkled, sure enough
But also soft and smooth.
She had a low and gentle voice
Like mothers use to soothe.
He told a story on their friend.
She laughed and he rejoiced.
This woman might be past her prime
But definitely choice.
Tuned out she was Norwegian. Just
like his, her eyes were blue.
And what a wild coincidence--
She liked coffee, too!
He felt his Else wouldn't mind;
Her passing had been long
Ago. Now this pretty woman
Was affecting him like song
She had nice manners, liked to laugh
But kept it dignified
And decent, as a person should,
Their good friend having died.
They walked out to the parking lot.
He asked if he might call
Some day to take her out for pie.
She wasn't shy at all.
So that was the beginning there.
He found his second wife.
He met her at a funeral
That brought him back to life.