Literary Tourism: Minnesota
I'd never been to Minnesota before my summer road trip last month, though Minneapolis was where my partner and I spent the most time. My partner's sister and her family live there, so we stayed three days and, despite it pouring rain nearly the entire time we were there, went adventuring.
First up, Magers & Quinn. Several Twin City-dweller bibliophiles I know online said it's the go-to bookstore. And they weren't wrong!
There were a number of things I appreciated about Magers & Quinn, namely their excellent selection of small press titles. This makes sense to me since both Milkweed Editions and Coffee House Press are based in Minneapolis and they're two of the major players in the indie publishing world. I found (and bought) a couple of small press titles I hadn't heard of before that immediately grabbed my attention.
I also appreciated that Magers & Quinn, unlike a lot of indie bookstores I've seen that don't sell used books exclusively, also had some used options. This drove down the price, which allowed my partner and me to buy more books. Suffice it to say it wasn't a cheap trip for us.
The one thing I didn't like about the store was that the general fiction section was kind of stuffed into a corner, so although the titles were in alphabetical order according to the author, you had to stumble around for a bit and follow a labyrinthine pattern if you wanted to go in order from A to Z. The natural flow of foot traffic through the store puts you somewhere around G when you enter the fiction section. It seems so silly to say, but the winding shelves, rather than straight, intuitive ones like in the other sections, was nerve-wracking to me.
Then again, it seems like the kind of thing you'd just get used to if it was your home bookstore and you frequented it.
Because the focus of the stop in Minneapolis was to visit family, we didn't have time to go to the Milkweed store––yes, a bookstore by the nonprofit, independent publisher, Milkweed––though it's definitely on our list for the next time we visit.
Now there was one thing I was intent on seeing: the F. Scott Fitzgerald house. He grew up in St. Paul and with him being such a prominent writer in the American literary canon, I thought for sure his former home would be a museum. This is where Minneapolis disappointed me.
The Fitzgerald house still stands, though the primary house is a private residence, so there are no tours. Apparently, Fitzgerald moved around a lot during the time he lives in the Twin Cities area, sometimes just a few blocks away from where he was before. They have walking tours where you can see the outside of several buildings where Fitzgerald lived or worked or went to school, but you can't actually tour any of them and there didn't appear to be any artifacts from his life. Since it rained so much while we were there, a walking tour was out of the question. And as badly as I wanted to see Fitzgerald's house, it didn't seem worth it to drive across town just to look at the outside of what is now someone else's home.
I wouldn't encourage anyone to go to the Twin Cities especially for Fitzgerald stuff unless you're just a diehard fan who really wants to see the outside of some buildings. Not to be sour about it, but...
Minnesota is the last installment of this literary tourism series (if you missed Michigan and Iowa, check 'em out!) from my summer 2017 road trip, but I'll definitely be going on more road trips, so stay tuned for more literary tourism posts later.