6 questions we always ask — Bill Tuomala, Exiled on Main Street

Bill Tuomala is the writer of the most-excellent zine “Exiled on Main Street” and the accompanying blog, Rocks Off. If there were any justice in the world he would be the most revered writer to come out of North Dakota. His writing is straight-forward, honest, and hilarious. The way he writes about music makes me want to gnaw my arm off in envy. It’s tough to put into words how much I’ve enjoyed reading “Exiled” over the years, and really now that I reflect on it what an inspiration Tuomala was to me. I remember being 23, living at home, and working at a gas station. I’d come home after the 3-11 shift, dial-up AOL, and read old issues over and over again (especially this one that talked about the death of REV 105 and seems way better lo these many years later because of the stuff her writes about The Loft). It was Tuomala who taught me that it doesn’t take your name on the front of a book to make you a writer.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Judgment of Deke Hunter by George V. Higgins. The late, great Higgins was amazing. He told his crime novel stories by using ninety-five percent dialogue. Sometimes it goes to dialogue-within-dialogue and I think he’s even done dialogue-within-dialogue-within dialogue. You gotta love a talented stylist.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Who?
None in books though Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby is the type I have fallen for in any one of my failed crushes. On a kinda related note, there is a guy named Jordan Baker who plays on the Michigan Tech hockey team. I like to imagine English majors at opposing schools showing up at games just to taunt him.

If your favorite author came to Minnesota, who would it be and what bar would you take him/her to?
I would take Joan Didion to Jax Cafe. It’s classy and unpretentious. I imagine we would drink Manhattans made with straight rye whiskey.

What was your first favorite book?
There were a couple of books I read repeatedly while elementary-school age that have always stuck with me. One is Snow Treasure, which is about these Norwegian kids who sneak gold out of Norway under the noses of the Nazis during World War II. They used this ingenious scheme that involved snowmen and sleds. The other book is Silver For General Washington. It just dawned on me it has the same theme as Snow Treasure: The kids in this one sneak into Philadelphia during the winter to get their family’s valuable silver and under the noses of the British get it into Valley Forge and to George Washington.

Let’s say Fahrenheit 451 comes to life, which book would you become in order to save it from annihilation?
I’ve never read that book. I thought about trying to fake this answer by reading its plot summary at Wikipedia but I’m still confused, so I’ll just go with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 because it’s damn funny and hope that’s an answer that works.
editor’s note: In Fahrenheit 451 books have been outlawed and the fire department’s job is to burn books. Montag, a fireman, is the main character and goes on this emotional journey dealing with the outlawing of reading and blah, blah, anyway in the end he joins a hobo camp where each of the hobos has memorized a book and recites it from memory so it is not lost for all time.

What is one book you haven’t read but want to read before you die?
This might be a cop-out as I’m not naming just one book, but I would like to read all the books written by the late Graham Greene and the late David Halberstam. Greene was a novelist and Halberstam was a nonfiction writer, but they were both masters that continue to impress me with every book I read by them.

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  1. Pingback: Feeling a little guilty for picking on an old widow | Minnesota Reads

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