Saturday, June 4, 2022

Kent Peterson Shares Two Books That Made an Impact on Him Long Ago

As much as people love the music and the events at Duluth Dylan Fest each year, there's another dimension that is equally rewarding. Getting to know the people who gather here for this weeklong celebration of Duluth's native son. It seems like every year there are new faces and a surprising number are writers.

I met Kent Peterson and his wife Christine at the Trivia Contest about two weeks ago. Kent is a writer who produces one page of typewritten copy each day. There's a whole community of these one-pager writers who share their work in cyberspace at a site called One Typed Page. (

I immediately shared with him how I used to do what I called Limbo Exercises each day, filling a blank page with typing... ideas, observations, poetic expressions, subconscious mining. The objective (for me) was to learn how to write on command, as opposed to sitting around waiting for the Muse to arrive.

Kent has since been sharing some of his pages with me. If you were to be a regular reader, you'll notice that he does not always use the same typewriter. I'm curious how many manual typewriters he has. I know that I loved my first Smith-Corona, and also the very slim Olivetti I took to Mexico in late 1980. 

Kent's one-pagers are thoughtful, well-crafted and always have a takeaway. I asked permission to publish this one on my blog today. 

Sunday, February 20th 2022 --- 1956 Smith-Corona Skyriter

There are a couple of books that I read years ago but that I still think about now and then and recommend often. While both of these books are just plain old good stories, they are also books that I wish were read by more folks because they contain valuable insights into how narratives can take on lives of their own, with far reaching, often disastrous consequences.

The first of these books is Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. First published in Italian in 1988, I read the English translation in 1989 and it immediately claimed the "best book I read in the 80s" spot on my mental list. It tells the story of some bored folks at a publishing house who get tired of reading all the "true" crackpot conspiracy theory manuscripts that keep getting submitted, so they merge every crazy notion they've ever read, heard about, or just plain invented into one huge mega-conspiracy. And then the killings start...

I recall several things as being great about the book. First off, you can tell that Eco has to be one of the most well-read guys on the planet. He knows classical stuff and pop culture stuff and history and languages and science and psychology and obscure trivia and by golly you wouldn't want to be up against him in a game of Jeopardy! Second, damn near every scenario he lays out has at least two fairly plausible solutions. You never quite know where things are going. Finally, and it's been decades since I read the book, I kind of recall that it seems like it's wrapping up out there is still like 100 pages to go (it's a huge book) and those last 100 pages turn it from being a great book to being a GREAT and important book. If more folks read Eco then maybe a shitty book like Dan Brown's DaVinci Code wouldn't have been a best-seller and maybe we wouldn't have to be dealing with all this Q-Anon bullshit.

The other antidote-to-madness book that has stuck in my head is Todd Gitlin's 1992 novel The Murder of Albert Einstein. Gitlin was, among other things, a professor of Media Studies and the novel tells the story of a telegenic but aging TV reporter working for a national TV newsmagazine who gets a lead on "the story of a lifetime". If you are my age you might picture the reporter as someone like Jessica Savitch and the show as being something like "60 Minutes". What made the book fascinating to me was that the importance of a "scoop" precisely timed to meet the broadcast schedule and the ratings were more important and often in conflict with fact-checking the story. Like Pendulum, this is a thriller that makes you think about what you know and who tells you what you know.

Kent Peterson, Superior WI USA

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EdNote: Kent's "typed page" was converted to text using Google Lens, another trick Kent taught me.

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