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Who Knows Why the Redbird Sleeps in the Snow:
A Grammatical Affair!?

By Stephen Wilbers


The idea for Who Knows Why the Redbird Sleeps in the Snow: A Grammatical Affair!? came to me when I noticed that a character named Lester kept appearing in my columns on effective writing published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other newspapers.


Part novel, memoir, poetry, and previously published columns, this literary romp will delight booklovers, writers, language nerds, and English majors alike with its many references to literature and writers – some subtle, as when a shipmate is heaved into “the long-shining waters” of Lake Superior; some playful, as when the origins of rhymed poetry are expounded upon by the narrator’s three-year-old son; and others obvious, as when Shakespeare's ill-fated Romeo and Juliet declare their love for one another or when spring arrives instantaneously on Lake Nokomis in much the same way Longfellow and Thoreau would portray its coming.


The plot follows the life of a newspaper columnist who is devoted to ridding the world of misplaced commas, noun stacks, and dangling participles, a man perplexed by the existential question of how language at once illuminates and creates its own reality.


In his quest for adventure, the narrator teams up with Josephine (who goes by Joe), a Kentucky horse trainer whose life is forever changed by a two-paragraph story about poverty, mice, and fathers in Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Together the narrator and Joe dream of the day when their black stallion, Dangling Participle, will bring them fame and fortune. Whether sailing Bart Sutter’s stormy sweetwater sea or presenting a paper in M.F.K. Fisher’s Aix-en-Provence titled “Lake Wobegon: Mythical Place and the American Imagination” (subsequently published in American Studies), the narrator seeks to capture the spirit of place in both natural and unnatural settings, where language presents herself as a beautiful, seductive, green-eyed woman who challenges his assump­tions about grammar, syntax, and meaning.


Partly for fun, but also for easy reference, the appendices include a list of embedded columns with their dates of publication as well as an index to writing topics and literary allusions.

Please let me know if you'd like me to send you a publication notice.




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