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Zenith City

Stories from Duluth

2014
Author:

Michael Fedo

Zenith City

Tales of Duluth from, if not its favorite son, then perhaps its best storyteller

Here, among Michael Fedo’s graceful, poignant, and often hilarious reflections are the coordinates of Duluth’s larger landscape: the diners and supper clubs, the baseball teams, radio days, and the smelt-fishing rites of spring. Together these essays create a picture of people in a place as rich in history and anecdote as Duluth and of the forces that forever bind them together.

A memoir, with a smattering of local history, Fedo’s collection will engage any reader with his fond and frank reminiscences of family life combined with vivid recollections of his native Duluth as it once was and, in many ways, still is. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Jim Heffernan, author of Cooler Near the Lake: Fifty-two Favorites from Thirty-four Years of Deadlines

Duluth may be the city of “untold delights” as lampooned in a Kentucky congressman’s speech in 1871. Or it may be portrayed by a joke in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. Or then again, it may be the “Zenith City of the unsalted seas” celebrated by Dr. Thomas Preston Foster, founder of the city’s first newspaper. But whatever else it may be, this city of granite hills, foghorns, and gritty history, the last stop on the shipping lanes of the Great Lakes, is undeniably a city with character—and characters. Duluth native Michael Fedo captures these characters through the happy-go-melancholy lens nurtured by the people and landscape of his youth. In Zenith City Fedo brings it back home. Framed by his reflections on Duluth’s colorful—and occasionally very dark—history and its famous visitors, such as Sinclair Lewis, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Dylan, his memories make the city as real as the boy next door but with a better story.

Here, among the graceful, poignant, and often hilarious remembered moments—pranks played on a severe teacher, the family’s unlikely mob connections, a rare childhood affliction—are the coordinates of Duluth’s larger landscape: the diners and supper clubs, the baseball teams, radio days, and the smelt-fishing rites of spring. Woven through these tales of Duluth are Fedo’s curious, instructive, and ultimately deeply moving stories about becoming a writer, from the guidance of an English teacher to the fourteen-year-old reporter’s interview with Louis Armstrong to his absorption in the events that would culminate in his provocative and influential book The Lynchings in Duluth.

These are the sorts of essays—personal, cultural, and historical, at once regional and far-reaching—that together create a picture of people in a place as rich in history and anecdote as Duluth and of the forces that forever bind them together.

Zenith City

Michael Fedo, Minnesota stringer for the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor from 1970 to 1985, is the author of many books, including The Lynchings in Duluth, The Man from Lake Wobegon, the novel Indians in the Arborvitae, One Shining Season, and A Sawdust Heart: My Vaudeville Life in Medicine and Tent Shows, by Henry Wood as told to Michael Fedo (Minnesota, 2011).

Zenith City

A memoir, with a smattering of local history, Fedo’s collection will engage any reader with his fond and frank reminiscences of family life combined with vivid recollections of his native Duluth as it once was and, in many ways, still is. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Jim Heffernan, author of Cooler Near the Lake: Fifty-two Favorites from Thirty-four Years of Deadlines

For Duluthians, this prodigiously chronicled memoir will delight, awaken, and inform you of a place you thought you knew. Rising above the delicious details and references is a story of growing up in Middle America at a time not so long ago that seems of another era.

Wing Young Huie

[Fedo’s] Zenith City won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy. But you will learn some truths about Duluth and about one of its too many good ones who got away.

Star Tribune

In vivid and colorful detail, Michael Fedo recovers a lost Duluth.

MinnPost

His nostalgic, bittersweet, sometimes clinical memories remain sharp in this book of essays.

The Weekly Standard

Zenith City

Contents

Introduction

This Is Duluth!
Miss Weddel and the Rats
The Roomer
School Days
The Voice
Beware the Ides of March
He Believed Writers Are Made, Not Born
Sinclair Lewis’s Duluth
Diners, Dives, No Drive-ins
Thou Shalt Not Shine
Dad’s Legacy
My Father and the Mobster
A Family Informed by Pyloric Stenosis
The Unmaking of a Missionary
The Hill
Discovering Rita
The Grand Piano Smelt
Cousin Jean
Uncle See-See’s Secret?
Radio Days
The Tree
Keep Your Eyes Open
Baseball Days
Joe DiMaggio Turns His Lonely Eyes toward the Girl at 2833 West Third Street
Jogging with James Joyce
At the Flame
For a Moment Dylan Played in Our Shadow
Christmas with the Klines
Remembering Satchmo
Broxie
Brotherhood Week in Duluth
A Life Informed by a Lynching

Acknowledgments
Publication History

Zenith City

UMP blog: As it turns out, you can go home again.

For all the notoriety surrounding Thomas Wolfe's 1940 posthumous novel You Can't Go Home Again, the title had it wrong. We can go home again. And in truth, we never leave, because home permanently inhabits our souls. Home is more than place—it is personal, foundational, and it defines us.

Read the full article.