The Great Gatsby and More: Literary Tourism in Minnesota
By James Riemermann
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Some of America's most beloved authors have lived in Minnesota, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marlon James, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Wanda Gag, Sinclair Lewis and more. Visit these literary landmarks, institutions and events to write your own Minnesota story.
Walking Tours of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Former Neighborhood
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s deep understanding of the power and dangers of wealth in America, portrayed so hauntingly in "The Great Gatsby," he first gained by observing neighbors far wealthier than himself around his childhood home on the north side of Summit Avenue in St. Paul. "A house below the average on a street above the average," he once called it, though it would count among the classiest homes on most other streets.
The F. Scott Fitzgerald Home, at 599 Summit, is just one of many fascinating literary sites in Minnesota, in addition to several literary-themed institutions and events. That classy Summit Avenue neighborhood is home to a walking or driving tour of 13 buildings that played a significant role in Fitzgerald’s development as a young man and a writer.
Visit the Little House on the Prairie
Even though she passed away nearly 60 years ago, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fame lives on, with her 2015 memoir debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times best-seller list. The Ingalls family lived on Plum Creek near Walnut Grove in the 1870s, and the museum here attracts fans of the books and TV series from around the world.
The grounds feature eight buildings depicting daily life in those days, including a schoolhouse, chapel and depot. For three weekends in July, the outdoor Wilder Pageant portrays her story to a live audience. The buildings are open seasonally through October; the gift shop is open year-round.
See the Boyhood Home of Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis, best known for satirical novels of the American middle class (such as "Babbitt") and small town life (such as "Main Street"), grew up in Sauk Centre. His boyhood home is open to visitors, filled with period antiques, with tour guides who share stories of his life and career.
More Unique Minnesota Literary Destinations
Minnesota is also home to some of the nation's foremost publishing houses, literary centers, unique bookstores and a burgeoning scene of literary events. A must-visit for bookish visitors in Minneapolis is The Loft Literary Center, "the nation's leading independent literary center." Nearby, The Playwrights' Center is another unique literary destination in Minneapolis.
Minnesota was also home to beloved children's book authors Maud Hart Lovelace of the Betsy-Tacy books, and Wanda Gag, who wrote and illustrated the 1929 Newbury Honor Award-winning "Millions of Cats," the oldest American picture book still in print. Plan a trip to Mankato to visit the Betsy-Tacy Society, or tour the Wanda Gag House in New Ulm.
James Riemermann is a retired writer and editor. Raised in St. Paul, he's a city boy who feels more at home in the woods. Sitting by a campfire on the shore of a quiet north woods lake is his idea of paradise.
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