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Twenty free-flowing, idiosyncratic essays, apparently about life in Minneota, Minnesota, actually about the nature and desirability of failure; with an introduction by Garrison Keillor, and photographs by Tom Guttormsson. Originally published as the more appropriately titled Music of Failure in 1985 by Plains Press, Holm's meditations weave like a country lane around the topography of Minnesota, taking in memories, characters, and local architecture along the way. Born on a Minnesota farm that his Icelandic grandfather had homesteaded in the late 19th-century, the author plotted youthful escape via an eastern gravitation through college, graduate school, and a teaching position on the Atlantic Coast. However, he eventually tired of the routine postures of success around him, rediscovered a sense of place, and finally returned to southwestern Minnesota. From this vantage point, and with Pauline contempt for worldly gain, Holm argues that in small towns, obscure lives, and abandoned rural churches there's something to be learned about the nature of the number one un-American undertaking--failure. Holm's message is that humans develop through failure, through consciousness of ""the death of things""; and these essays are therefore organized around observations about loss, poverty, eccentricity, small but determined talents like the neighborhood Chevy dealer, an arthritic organist, and the Minnesota choir. The author of three chapbooks of poetry, Holm's prose is as lean and uncluttered as a Lutheran service, but the collection as a whole, though easygoing, doesn't captivate, and doesn't push or penetrate its theme far enough.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1987
Publisher: Saybrook--dist. by Norton