Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chapel Hill

One of the special collections at the Brown U. Library where I work is the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, a big archive of books, prints and manuscripts on military history.  One of my library tasks is to help code the digital catalog record for these art works.  So I spend a lot of time poring over old etchings and aquatints in folios of endless ranks of Napoleonic and other foppish or tattered troops, in all their variety-show of uniform plumage.  The ASKB also boasts a splendid exhibit room, its display cases filled with rank on rank of serious toy soldiers.

When I was a boy I adored, I was obsessed with, what we used to call "little men" - the plastic toy soldiers which arrived by the army-ful in convoy-size Christmas boxes.  A good school friend (around 7th grade) happened to be a real connoisseur and collector of military miniatures, and through him I caught the bug for a short time too - sending away for fancy "flats" - intricate little 2-dimensional figures of famous regiments, sent from a company in Germany.

This happened in the mid-1960s, as the US began to intensify its war in Vietnam.  My friend's older brother, a football star in high school, enlisted in the Army and went to Southeast Asia, while Johnny and I were still playing with our toy soldiers.

This is the germ of my novella Chapel Hill, a coming-of-age tale - an almost-memoir - set in those days, in my home town of Minneapolis.

Chapel Hill, then, is a kind of trilogy, which includes the novella, followed by a short-story titled "How I Became a Poet", and ending with a sequence of poems called Midwest Elegies. (Read the book online, here.)

Chapel Hill ebook @ Lulu

Chapel Hill pbk @ Lulu