Monday, October 8, 2012

News to Me

Laurie Hertzel’s little memoir is a pleasurable read!
by Charlie Leck

Someone, a year or so ago, gave me a copy of a little book by Laurie Hertzel, a books editor with the StarTribune newspaper here in our metro. The book is titled News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist*. It’s a comfortable bit of writing and it’s very smooth and that makes it a quick read you can put away in an evening or two.

My purpose here today is not to review the book (though I’ve probably pretty much done that in the first paragraph). I just want to call your attention to one paragraph that concludes one of the little chapters in the book. Hertzel, at the time of this account, is still writing for the Duluth News Tribune, covering the tundra north of her headquarters. She’s sent way up to Hovland to interview a chap, Helmer Aakvik, a legendary sort of guy who has begun planning his own funeral.

Hertzel quickly discovers that the boundaries of the story had been a bit exaggerated to her and she realizes she may have nothing here to really cover. However, Helmer does invite her and an accompanying photographer to take a look at the coffin he has had built for himself. She writes of the examination this way…

“The coffin in his shed was a beautiful long wooden box, fitted with a flat lid engraved with a curious design. I ran my hand over the lid; it was smooth and strong, sanded to silk. At one end, the carpenter had engraved the name, AAKVIK. And underneath that, a compass rose. Rott and I asked why. Helmer squinted at us in the bright summer sun, and when he spoke, his Norwegian accent made his words pure poetry. ‘It’s so after I’m gone. I can navigate among the moon and the stars.’”

Of course, this makes Mr. Aakvik one of my guys – or, perhaps, I’m one of his. My regular readers will understand.

*Hertzel, Laurie: News to Me, Adventures of an Accidental Journalist
(2010, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis)

While we're on this subject, I read today, on Turning Points Memo, that yesterday the rover Curiosity scooped its first samples of soil from Mars. Man, what an adventure. There are a couple of wonderful videos of this marvelous robot doing its work yesterday.

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