A Literary Itinerary

Last week Minnesotans collectively grieved when it was learned that local thriller author Vince Flynn passed away at the young age of 47. He was a true success story, one any fledgling or want-to-be author clings to with hope. He self-published his first novel in 1997 and from there became a best-selling author with fans in very high places (ahem, the White House). Flynn also seemed to be the epitome of Minnesota Nice; the eulogies that came out last week spoke only of how kind and down to earth he was.

We’re proud of our literary names here in Minnesota. If you’re a bibliophile, there are plenty of literary landmarks statewide to visit.

Peanuts statues, St. Paul: Whimsical and golden, the Peanuts statues in Rice Park are great photo ops and a way to honor Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, a St. Paul native himself. My favorite is Lucy admiringly leaning on Schroeder’s piano.

peanuts statues

Photo by Todd Buchanan

Walnut Grove, southern Minnesota: You can visit the city where Laura Ingalls spent a few childhood years as her family moved around the Midwest. There’s a museum as well as the location of her dugout home. The Wilder Pageant is presented each year during three weekends in July.

Sinclair Lewis’ boyhood home, Sauk Centre: The first American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, Sinclair Lewis grew up in this western Minnesota town. Visit his boyhood home, restored and furnished to the time. You can also visit the Palmer House hotel where he worked as a night clerk (warning: it may very well be haunted).

F. Scott Fitzgerald, St. Paul: His name has been spoken quite a bit again this year with his famous novel, The Great Gatsby, becoming a film. Walk in his footsteps throughout the capital city.

Common Good Books & Birchbark Books: Two popular authors have their very own bookshops right here in the Twin Cities. Garrison Keillor opened Common Good Books in St. Paul, while Louise Erdich owns Birchbark in Minneapolis. While you may not rub elbows with the writers themselves, just knowing they have their hand in the inventory is pretty cool in itself. You can also catch Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion throughout the year at the Fitzgerald Theater.

And while you’re at the bookstore, pick up works by the many other Minnesota authors, including poet Robert Bly, Leif Enger, Lorna Landvik, John Sandford, and Tim O’Brien.