Iowa


Storms, Osage County, Oklahoma
Photo of Osage County, Okla., by Wade From Oklahoma used under a Creative Commons license.

Richard Rhodes, The Inland Ground (University Press of Kansas, 1991).
A collection of essays generally grounded in Missouri and Kansas. There are pieces here, among others, about: Jesse Howard, the signpainter of Fulton, Mo.; riding a diesel freight train to Gridley, Kan.; Independence, Mo.; the Unity School of Practical Christianity in Lee’s Summit, Mo.; coyote hunting in Portis, Kan.; Kansas City (“Cupcake Land”); a 6,000-acre wheat farm in Beloit, Kan.; Dwight Eisenhower; the I-D Packing Company of Des Moines; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; the annual dances of the Osage Indians in Pawhuska, Grayhorse, and Hominy, Okla., with a detour to the Phillips collection in Woolaroc; and the Iowa Writers Workshop in Iowa City. Rhodes substantially revised this book for the 1991 edition, which is the one that I read, and probably the one that you’ll find.

Here is Wikipedia’s page on Rhodes. Here is Rhodes’ website. And here is more about Jesse Howard.

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Iowa Barn
Photo by Astrotech5000 used under a Creative Commons license.

Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter (Penguin, 1996).
Stegner’s first novel – or novella, really – is the story of a love triangle: Margaret Stuart, the wife of a successful Iowa farmer, Elspeth, her sister, younger by seven years, who comes from Scotland to live with her, and Alec, her husband, who is fond of the bottle. Stegner wrote this in 1936 and submitted to a prize contest held by Little, Brown, which he won; they published it the next year. Stegner was born in Iowa but his family decamped to Sasketchawan when he was still a child, so one can argue whether he can be deemed an Iowa writer.

Here is Stegner’s obituary in The New York Times. Time took notice when the novella was published. Here is blogarific stuff from Themis-Athena, Elaine, and Polaris.

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Rolling Fields near Delhi
Photo by Prairie Robin used under a Creative Commons license.

Tom Drury, The End of Vandalism (Ballantine, 1995).
Drury’s first novel is set in (fictional) Grouse County, Iowa, near the Minnesota border, where “family agriculture seemed to be over and had not been replaced by any other compelling idea.” On the job, Sheriff Dan Norman confronts more rural eccentricity than violent crime. The End of Vandalism is not plot-driven, but the characters, scenery and tone are worth a visit. Drury’s Grouse County sometimes reminds one of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone, but it is rather more deadpan and offbeat. Back in print, from Grove Press, as of 2006.

Dan Wickett reviews it. Arthur Salm liked it. And Sherri and Anne at Vroman’s Bookstore recommend it.

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