“Have you ever heard of a Bonanza Farm?” the North Dakota Tourism website asks me, and I have to answer, “Sure, I watched re-runs of Bonanza when I was a kid,” which is enough to betray me. I am so very much not from North Dakota, and the tv western I watched as a kid seems to have nothing to do with a North Dakotan notion of bonanza. Neither does my next leap to mining lingo. No, a Bonanza Farm is what resulted in the 19th century when the Northern Pacific Railroad offered its stock holders the opportunity to buy large tracts of land at government prices in order to raise capital to complete the railroad across what would shortly become the state of North Dakota. Next time you’re in North Dakota, you might want to visit one such farm, the tourism site continues, and they offer up Bagg Bonanza Farm near Mooreton. North Dakota not in your immediate travel plans? Then how about Brenda K. Marshall’s story “In Which a Coffin Is a Bed but an Ox Is Not a Coffin.” Marshall’s story kicks off the summer reading issue and is our featured story on the website, but don’t expect mosquitoes and bar-b-q. A chilly, chilly, chilling blizzard is in your future. Plus, two illustrations, the first of which sent me on my Bonanza Farm quest.
My hairdresser, Michelle, reads more books for fun these days than just about anyone else I know. When I make my twice-annual pilgrimage to her chair, she fills me in. This summer she re-read some Chuck Palahniuk, “always great.” She loved Peter Ho Davies’ The Welsh Girl. She discovered John Waters, the writer, “Fun to read. I love his movies, which reminds me, have you seen Cockettes?” A documentary about a psychedelic drag troupe in San Francisco’s North Beach in the 1960’s, it’s now on my list. But, don’t expect Waters. The film is related to Waters merely by associative leap. Back in Waters territory, we agree that a trip to his actual stomping grounds, a trip to Baltimore aka “Charm City” aka “The City that Reads,” is in order.
The Summer Reading issue … Heads out to India, the American West, the wilds of Minnesota, and the wilderness of a librarian’s heart in its fiction pages … While Megan Dreisbach reports on an autopsy, Christine Murphy on jury duty in New Orleans, Herbert Gold on his youthful misadventures, Frank Meola on Thoreau in New York … and Aisha Sloan on her hardworking father creating his dream house out of a unheated shell of rotting timber and leaking pipes … And poetry is provided by Evan Glasson, Eric Lee, Donald Platt, Chad Davidson, and Lilah Hegnauer.
The winter of 1881 found Frances Bingham reluctantly arranging for her move from the spacious comfort of her father-in-law’s bonanza farm on the Dakota prairie to her almost completed new home six miles away in Fargo. The arrangement that had suited both Percy and Frances since she had joined him in Dakota three years earlier—in which Percy insisted that he would soon leave his job as a newspaperman for the Fargo Argus to make a new start back east, and Frances, in turn, reasoned that it made no sense for her and their son, Houghton, to move to Percy’s two rooms above the Argus in the meantime—had come to an end with Percy’s newfound respectability as Fargo’s delegate to the upcoming Fifteenth General Assembly of Dakota Territory. A man with a promising political career, Percy now insisted, must have his own home in Fargo, and his wife must live in that home with him, and not with his sister and father-in-law nearby.
Ranen Omer-Sherman on Israeli writers and Levantine identity … Paul Anderson on Stanley Cavell and James Agee … Frank Meola on Thoreau in New York … Prose poetry from Philippe Jaccottet … reports on figure modeling from Robert Long Foreman and on a gathering of Esperanto devotees in Turkey from Esther Schor. Fiction by Laura Kasischke, Sharona Muir, Cameron Mackenzie. Plus many poems and a couple reviews …