In the prologue to his collection of newspaper columns written for Minnesota publications, Jim Walsh ponders James Joyce’s oft quoted brag, that were Dublin destroyed, “the city could be rebuilt entirely from his written work.” Like Joyce, Walsh’s ambition in Fear and Loving in South Minneapolis is to capture the essence of the city in his words. As a once resident of Minneapolis, I find myself at odds with the premise that one man can capture an entire city, but the portrait of Walsh’s Minneapolis as embodied in his words is charming and nuanced and hopeful. It is a Minneapolis that we see evolve and grow through Walsh’s eyes. The stories in this collection predate the pandemic and the George Floyd murder. Walsh acknowledges these events in his prologue with optimism and faith that the people of Minneapolis will rise to these challenges.
The pieces in this collection are organized by theme into seven sections: “Stay Warm”, “Nature City”, “Family Ties”, “I’m Only One”, “Hootenanny”, “Famous Lasting Words” and “Falling in Love with Everything I have”. Through the selected columns, the reader comes to know and understand the city (how apt that the first section is dedicated to our dreaded winters!) and the earnest, compassionate, funny and knowledgeable persona of Walsh the writer. There are personal stories about the adoptions of his two children. Nostalgic reminiscences of the clubs of his youth where he watched bands like Husker Du and The Replacements play at The Turf Club. An imagined conversation with Harriet Lovejoy. And a column chronicling his time working as a Santa at Dayton’s department store. In the section “Famous Lasting Words” Walsh includes heartfelt commemorations of everyone from David Bowie to his family dog.
The columns are for the most part short, digestible pieces, nice reads for the middle of an afternoon or when you are settling into bed. Reading them all, what I was most struck with was Walsh’s curiosity and appreciation for life, and the city that he clearly loves.