Wednesday, July 14, 2010

startling words with MN author Maureen Gibbon

Northern Minnesota author Maureen Gibbon is my guest this week. She's written a compelling new novel called "Thief". It's startling even - mainly because it's a book that doesn't shy away from sexuality.

In "Thief" Suzanne is a teacher in her early thirties who has come up north to get away from her life and problems during her summer vacation. She places a personal ad and one of the people who responds is an inmate from Stillwater State Prison. Most people might turn away, but Suzanne is curious. It turns out the inmate is a convicted rapist - and Suzanne, as a survivor of a rape in her teenage years, wants to find out some things. They begin a friendship that leads to more. Gibbon's writing is raw but not gratuitous. Kirkus Reviews wrote, "In an odd way this book is a female, and highly sexual, version of Thoreau's Walden; there are some lovely bits about solitude, nature and solitude-in-nature, but Suzanne is a woman who craves and needs contact, and much of her contemplation is devoted to exploring the tangled roots of that need. Grim but inspiring, this is a flint-tough, plainspoken novel about a flint-tough, plainspoken woman who asks no pity and gives no quarter."

Gibbon also writes with a very strong sense of place. You feel the northwoods of Minnesota in her writing - especially the lakes. Suzanne, her main character, gets comfort from her daily swims in the lake where she can witness the natural world around and be buoyed by the water. When I talked to Maureen Gibbon, she mentioned a poem by Robert Francis called "The Swimmer".

Observe how he negotiates his way

With trust and the least violence, making

The stranger friend, the enemy ally.

The depth that could destroy gently supports him.

With water he defends himself from water.

Danger he leans on, rests in. The drowning sea

Is all he has between himself and drowning.


What lover ever lay more mutually

With his beloved, his always-reaching arms

Stroking in smooth and powerful caresses?

Some drown in love as in dark water, and some

By love are strongly held as the green sea

Now holds the swimmer. Indolently he turns

To float.--The swimmer floats, the lover sleeps.

We'll also talk about a con man this week on Realgoodwords, named John Drewe. Laney Salisbury has written a book that looks at this extraordinary true life character who created one of the most far-reaching and elaborate cons in the history of art forgery. Salisbury talks about how subjective the world of art is - her book is called "Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art". Oprah magazine wrote "Specatular... a real-life thriller of the fine art of the con."


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