Midwestern Essays of the Americas: Andy Sturdevant’s ‘Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow’


Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow
Andy Sturdevant
Coffee House Press; 239 p.

I have my own set of personal Minnesota stories and memories, and I have put together a history of the Twin Cites based on hearsay and books read. F. Scott Fitzgerald turned his back on the place, not interested in “the lost Swede towns” of his home state, making Saint Paul all the more intriguing in the writer’s stories (both fiction and autobiographical), because what Fitzgerald didn’t want to talk about, but did anyway, made his work that much more interesting. Also relevant are the Dillinger Four and Lifter Puller albums I’ve listened to over and over; Prince supposedly showing up at the doorsteps of various friends to tell them about why they should join him as Jehovah’s Witnesses; trying but failing to take a side in the Replacements vs. Hüsker Dü battle that I know isn’t still raging, but seems important to recognize anyway because it still blows my mind that two perfect bands could come from the same area around the same time. I’ll go to my grave cursing the Dallas Stars because I think Norm Green moving the team from Minnesota remains one of the great crimes of the last century. It’s was the site of John Berryman’s undoing; I’ve seen every film by the Coen brothers, and an ex-girlfriend once said she was reminded of me after watching their film A Serious Man. My friend went there and was turned on to lefse; I got drunk with some friends on what they considered a warm January night in Minneapolis (around 25 degrees), and rode a green dirt bike through the woods wearing a friend’s spare Carhartt jacket that felt like it was lined with bricks.

Even though I’m not from there, the Twin Cities represent what I consider to be the best of the Midwest. Andy Sturdevant, who isn’t originally from there either, agrees with his collection of essays, Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow. The series of essays by the writer and artist is a celebration of the nooks and crannies of Sturdevant’s adopted hometown, one that looks at the lost punk venues, the locals some would carelessly dub ‘eccentrics,’ and with a heaping dose of local history, philosophy, and memories. Once you finish reading it, you can’t help but feel homesick for the Midwest whether you’re from there or not.  Sturdevant taps into the magic from in and around Minneapolis, and spins it into gold. What you get is the sort of thing that draws listeners back to radio shows like This American Life, or what made Studs Terkel’s work so timeless: Sturdevant has this uncanny ability to take everyday people and events, as well as his own personal recollections, and mold them into great stories that are filled with history with varying degrees of  sentimentality.  The essays in Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow all retain a pinch of detachment that give Sturdevant’s words a tone necessary to never make the personal too personal, and the Minneapolis history lessons never seems too weighty.

The essays are about the place he lives in, but reading Sturdevant’s essays on the displaced artist who has been living in the town’s stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, as the artist-in-residence until the stadium’s roof caved in during a 2010 snow storm, or his tale of e-mailing back and forth with a Buffalo Wild Wings bigwig, you actually learn almost as much about the writer as you do his subjects.  Sturdevant comes across as a curious mind, an obvious aesthete who dwells on things and people and events that most people would just walk past or ignore, and presents them in a way that makes everything more interesting than anything or anybody from anywhere else.

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