Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring
“The foreman was a short, iron-jawed man. He had once made a trip as far as Duluth. Duluth was far across the blue waters of the lake in the hills of Minnesota. A wonderful thing had happened to him there.”
Dalton Trumbo’s letter to Guy Endore
“I’ve seen their faces in a miners’ union hall in Duluth on a night when the wind off the lake blew the snow so killingly and so deep that cars couldn’t be used and everybody walked to the meeting.”
Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark
“I must go now. I had to give my lesson hour this morning to a Duluth woman who has come on to coach, and I must go and play ‘On Mighty Pens’ for her. Please tell Mr. Harsanyi that I think oratorio is a great chance for bluffers.”
Stephen King’s The Stand
“In Duluth a man in khaki shorts and sandals walked up and down Piedmont Avenue with a large smear of ash on his forehead and a hand-lettered sandwich board hanging over his scrawny shoulders.”
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
“I don’t have to picture it. It’s what’s going on. The C.P.C.P.1 makes incursions against Montana like clockwork. There was that horrific jamming of InterLace pulses and substitution of porn-films for children’s programming around Duluth in June traced to that psycho quintet in southwest Ontario. The Interstates north of Saratoga are still supposed to be undrivable after sunset.”
Megan McDonald’s Julie Tells Her Story
“‘Okay,’ said Dad, settling into his favorite chair. ‘When I was in the fourth grade, growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, money was tight and none of us could afford a bike. So, my buddies and I fished a real junker out of the trash and fixed it.'”
“‘I traded it in in Duluth,’ said Wednesday. ‘You can’t be too careful. Don’t worry — you’ll get your share when all this is done.'”
Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street
“Calibree adumbrated, ‘They’re a good bunch. Good strong lodge. See that fellow there that’s playing the snare drum? He’s the smartest wholesale grocer in Duluth they say. Guess it would be worth joining.'”
(Main Street contains four other references to Duluth.)
David Carr’s Night of the Gun
“Aaron — the first person I advised in a program of recovery. A gorgeous kid with a fondness for heroin, he jumped off the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge connecting Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin.”
Cheryl Strayed’s Wild
“People like my mother did not get cancer. The tests at the Mayo Clinic would prove that, refuting what the doctors in Duluth had said. I was certain of this. Who were those doctors in Duluth anyway? What was Duluth? Duluth! Duluth was a freezing hick town where doctors who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about told forty-five-year-old vegetarian-ish, garlic- eating, natural-remedy-using nonsmokers that they had late-stage lung cancer, that’s what.
(Freedom contains two other references to Duluth.)
Dan Harris’ 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story
“I’d collect data points (Weir gets to cover the election of the new pope? Muir is filling in for Cuomo?), and immediately extrapolate to far-reaching conclusions (This means that x or y executive or anchor dislikes me → My career is doomed → I’m going to end up in a flophouse in Duluth). Sometimes, before I’d even thought it through, I’d find myself on the phone with an executive producer of one of our broadcasts, saying impolitic things.”
(Hawkins refers back to the “flophouse in Duluth” three more times in the book, the final time asking, “Do they even have flophouses in Duluth?”)
Laurence Gonzales’ Lucy
“Amanda drove and let Jenny doze in the front seat while Lucy slept in back. They woke just south of Duluth. They spent the night in a little town called Superior. In the morning they stopped at the grocery store in Duluth to stock up for the week.”
(Lucy contains one other reference to Duluth.)
Josh Bazell’s Wild Thing
“Right after we passed Duluth, which turns out to be a bunch of freeway exchanges between new-looking paper factories, every one of them pumping smog as big and opaque as clouds out of its stacks, we stopped at a Dairy Queen for lunch.”
Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
“We were still talking about American soil, infested yes, but, hopefully one day to be liberated. ‘The last thing we needed,’ he said ‘was to come up against one of these ex-cons as The New Grand Warlord of Duluth.’ I thought he was joking, but later, as I saw the exact thing happen in other countries, as some exiled criminals rose to command their own isolated, and in some cases, powerful fiefdoms, I realized we’d dodged one hell of a speeding bullet.”
Brian Freeman’s Immoral
“Stride lived in an area known as Park Point, a crooked finger of land jutting out between the southern tip of the lake and the calm inner harbors of Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.”
(Freeman’s books are set in Duluth and therefore contain numerous references to the city.)
John Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel
“‘Well, I’m headed for Duluth myself. That’s where my folks are …’ ‘So you’re from Duluth, are you?’ ‘Well what’s the big joke about Duluth?’ ‘It’s no joke, it’s a misfortune.'”
(The 42nd Parallel contains three other references to Duluth)
James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover
“The fuck-suck noise died out. Pay me, pay me noise replaced it. Crutch skimmed a library book. It was all about Cuba. Rebel raids, burning cane fields, the Bay of Pigs rout. He kept reading books. He kept calling the Frogman long-distance. Mesplede was still looking for exile turncoats Fuentes and Arredondo. They betrayed le sacre la Causa. They were heist men. They might be clouting department stores in Des Moines or Duluth. The Frogman was his no-shit mentor.”
William Kent Krueger’s Heaven’s Keep
“He headed past Grandma’s Saloon, across the Lift Bridge, and onto Park Point … It was a nice piece of property, a two-story of modern design with an unobstructed view of the vast, frigid blue that was Lake Superior. He … stepped out into a stiff, cold wind that swept off the lake. He reached back inside for his jacket.”
Tony Hillerman’s Listening Woman
“Witover finished a pack of filtered cigarettes from his pocket, offered one to Leaphorn and lit up. He inhaled, blew out a cloud of blue smoke. ‘Then we started hearing about the Buffalo Society. There was a bombing in Phoenix, with pamphlets left scattered around, all about the Indians killed by soldiers somewhere or other. And some more bombings here and there. …’ Wiltover paused, tapping his fingertips on the desktop, thinking. ‘At Sacramento, and Minneapolis, and Duluth, and one in the South — Richmond I think it was.”
Richard Cecil’s “Internal Exile,” a poem from the book Twenty First Century Blues
“Although most people I know were condemned
years ago by Judge Necessity
to life in condos near a freeway exit
convenient to their twice-a-day commutes
through traffic jams to jobs that they dislike,
they didn’t bury their heads in their hands
and cry “Oh, no!” when sentence was pronounced:
Forty years accounting in Duluth!
or Tenure at Southwest Missouri State!
Instead, they mumbled, not bad. It could be worse …”
Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver
“It sounds stupid, but one of the things that I loved about Grace was how she didn’t have to talk. Sometimes, I just wanted my silences to stay silent, full of thoughts, empty of words. Where another girl might have tried to lure me into conversation, Grace just reached for my hand, resting our knotted hands on my leg, and leaned her head against my shoulder until we were well out of Duluth. She didn’t ask how I knew my way around the city, or why my eyes lingered on the road that my parents used to turn down to get to our neighborhood, or how it was that a kid from Duluth ended up living in a wolf pack near the Canadian border.”
(Shiver contains two other references to Duluth)
Alexander McCall Smith’s The World According to Bertie
“Matthew looked doubtful. ‘It seems a bit unlikely,’ he said. ‘Why should Johannesburg have a duke? And what’s all this about these clubs? Where’s the Gitchigumi Club for heaven’s sakes?’
“‘Duluth,’ said Pat. ‘That’s what it says there. Duluth.’
“‘And where exactly is that?’ asked Matthew.
“‘Yes. Where’s Duluth?’
“Pat thought for a moment. ‘Guess,’ she said. She had no idea, and could only guess herself. Minnesota?”
Janet Vittorio Corica and Bill Meyer’s Fog Man: A Superhero for All Ages
Lars surveyed his lab in the Canal Park area of Duluth, Minnesota. Locked cabinets stuffed with years of research gave no clue to the important studies he was conducting. Not even his wife knew his true work.
“I work on the effect of various creatures on the water quality of Lake Superior,” he told her.
Paul Kilgor’s The Broken Key
Since coming back to town I had become aware of a sort of under-population, a parallel community. These were people spread between college and their early thirties, single or beginning married life or having a first child. They had nothing to do with the Duluth of my memory … The men were bearded and shaggy-haired, the women rosy-cheeked and attractive in their high health. … Big dogs were their companions. They favored guitars and fiddles and mandolins. I picked all of this up through observation, overheard conversations, fliers in the record store, and what passed for an underground newspaper.
(The Broken Key is largely set in Duluth and features numerous references to the city.
Obligatory note about local authors:
Obviously numerous Duluth-area writers reference Duluth in their works — Connie Wanek, Barton Sutter, Louis Jenkins, Linda LeGarde Grover, Jim Johnson and so on. We focus here on the non-local authors.
Obligatory note about Mark Twain:
Mark Twain is rumored to have said the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in Duluth. This quote did not appear in print and has never been verified. Some people say he said it about San Francisco. Some people believe the attribution of the quote to Twain (whether referring to Duluth or anywhere else) is not accurate.
Less famously, Twain is also credited with saying that people who climb Duluth’s hills become like mountain goats, with one leg shorter than the other.
It should be noted that Twain did visit Duluth, speaking at First Methodist Church on July 22, 1895.
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