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Best Bets: Book season begins

Find something to do this weekend in the Northland.

Book, "The Ski Jumpers" by Peter Geye, held by a hand in front of dark lake waters. Book cover features a ski jumper exiting the cover at top, over stylized text evoking the shape of a ski jump.
Peter Geye's "The Ski Jumpers," photographed at Canal Park.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Astronomical autumn begins on Sept. 22, meteorological autumn began Sept. 1, and basic autumn began Aug. 30 with the seasonal debut of Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte. Performing arts seasons will start to ramp up soon, but the fall literary season isn't waiting around. This week's Best Bets include four book events ... plus a little music, art and of course a couple of harvest fests.

Topple your TBR

Among online bookworms, "TBR" stands for "to be read," as in the pile of books you're planning to read. If your pile can stand to bear another book or two, here are four author appearances you might consider checking out.

Book cover: "The Net Beneath Us" by Carol Dunbar. Cover features starry sky over a wooded landscape on upper half, a root-like system illuminated warmly from behind on lower half.
Contributed / Forge Books

This week's most lavish book release event is taking place at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Marshall Performing Arts Center. Carol Dunbar, a UMD grad who "moved off the grid to the woods of northern Wisconsin" 20 years ago, is celebrating the release of her debut novel. "The Net Beneath Us" is about a year in the life of a woman raising two young children, off the grid in the Wisconsin woods, after her husband has a logging accident. The release event will feature a reading, discussion, dessert, live music and "special guest appearances by local authors." For more information, see caroldunbar.com.

Minneapolis author Peter Geye is bringing "The Ski Jumpers" to Zenith Bookstore on Saturday (7 p.m., in conversation with Linda LeGarde Grover), among other Northland appearances — including the Bookstore at Fitger's on Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. The novel has an obvious appeal in our region, a hub of winter sports: it centers on a veteran ski jumper forced to confront a painful family past even as he grapples with a diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer's. The book is very specifically set in Minnesota, and ruminations on Lake Superior's depths are among the most calming thoughts Geye's protagonist can call upon. For more information, see upress.umn.edu.

Book, "The Hidden Room" by William Durbin and Barbara Durbin, held by a hand in front of weathered timbers.
"The Hidden Room" by William Durbin and Barbara Durbin, photographed at Veterans Memorial Hall in the St. Louis County Depot.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

"The Hidden Room" is a novel by Duluth authors William Durbin and Barbara Durbin, set in Ukraine near the end of World War II. Written for young adults, it's based on the true story of a Jewish family who took to a cave to hide from the Nazis. It's a poignant survival story, anchored in specific details and propelled by the Durbins' direct prose. The authors are donating half their royalties to Ukraine food assistance; the Durbins will be at the Bookstore at Fitger's on Saturday at 3 p.m. to present their new book. For more information, see facebook.com/fitgersbooks.


Hand holding book "Where Secrets Live" by S.C. Richards in front of Duluth Public Library. Book cover features house with shadowy figure in brightly lit window.
"Where Secrets Live" by S.C. Richards, photographed at the Duluth Public Library.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

S.C. Richards is also a Duluth author, and her latest is "Where Secrets Live." How juicy, and how local, is this book? Within the first 100 pages there are mentions of:

  • A mysterious Apostle Islands boating accident.
  • St. Paul's Summit Avenue ("smelled like scorched grass and old money").
  • Grief sex.
  • "Inhumanly cold Minnesota winters."
  • A private investigator who makes an important discovery while staying at a Bayfield motel.
  • Valleyfair.
  • A psychiatrist named Lee Atwater who wears $300 suits and sits behind a mahogany desk in a glass-walled ninth floor downtown Minneapolis office.

Richards will be at the Bookstore at Fitger's on Saturday at noon. For more information, see susancrichards.com.

A blustery visit to Split Rock Lighthouse sparked Juliana Brandt's "Monsters in the Mist," set on an island that early explorers believed to exist.

Wade into the new performing arts season

Wade Stadium, photographed on July 1, 2020.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

"Some of our organizations have been able to continue live performances during most of the pandemic, others are just returning to the stage this season," notes a news release for Thursday's Season Splash event. "Either way, the last few years have taught us that we are stronger together." Several of Duluth's nonprofit performing arts organizations are taking the field at Wade Stadium (home of the Huskies) for a free all-ages evening featuring music, theater, and dance performances. Last year's event featured, among other entertainments, the pleasingly surreal spectacle of ballet on the ballfield. For more information, see loonopera.org.

On this harvest moon

A trail through woods in the daytime, with yellow leaves on trees and orange leaves lining the ground.
The Harvest Moon Festival is a sign of fall in St. Louis County.
Contributed / Ely Chamber of Commerce

Is it harvest time already? Apparently so, because this weekend you have two opportunities to celebrate the season in the Northland. Ely's Harvest Moon Festival runs all weekend long at Whiteside Park, with 100-plus craft vendors as well as vintage vehicles — and food and drink including "plenty of fresh baked blueberry pie in the pavilion," according to a news release. When you're ready to branch out, the Chamber of Commerce has a map of local businesses offering special promotions tied to the festival. For more information, see ely.org.

Meanwhile, in Duluth, the Sustainable Farming Association is putting on a Harvest Festival on Saturday in Bayfront Festival Park. You can learn more at sfa-mn.org, and by reading Melinda Lavine's News Tribune feature about the event.

The art's escaping! No, you are

View from a boat has U.S. flag in foreground and autumnal landscape in the background. A pier and low blue building are also visible.
Bayfield, as seen from a Madeline Island ferry in fall 2021.
Contributed / Jay Gabler

Bayfield is known for its New England seaside village vibe, its annual Apple Festival, and for being the mainland terminus of the Madeline Island Ferry Line. It's also home to a number of artists, and the community is showcasing that fact with a new nine-day event called Art Escape. From Saturday through Sept. 18, dozens of area artists in the Bayfield area — ranging from Oulu to LaPointe, from Red Cliff to Drummond — are offering demonstrations, performances, classes and open studios. It all kicks off with the 59th annual Bayfield Festival of the Arts at Memorial Park, this Saturday and Sunday. You can find a complete Art Escape guide at bayfield.org.

Five years of Earth Rider Fest

A line of men hoisting steins full of beer, standing outdoors on grassy field.
Hoisting steins at Earth Rider Fest, 2019.
Contributed / Earth Rider Brewery

Earth Rider Fest is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and the Superior brewery isn't holding back on the locally-focused lineup for its Saturday event. Artists include heart-stopping singer-songwriter Haley (now of St. Paul, formerly of Duluth); both Daves (Simonett and Carroll) from Trampled By Turtles; righteous rockers Kiss the Tiger; Lanue, supporting a sparkling new EP; and the buzzworthy Emma Jeanne, among others. The event also marks the unofficial kickoff to Oktoberfest season, with kraut-eating and stein-holding competitions as well as a polka party. Superior will even bring the Paine with an official mayoral proclamation. Prost! For tickets and information, see earthrider.beer.


This story was updated at 8:18 a.m. Sept. 6 to correct the date Peter Geye will be appearing at the Bookstore at Fitger's. It was originally posted at 11 a.m. Sept. 5. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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