Sunday Reads: Making a once in a lifetime comeback—twice

In case you missed it, Madison Magazine is sharing our introduction to the last month's edition of our monthly 'Sunday Reads' newsletter.
Sunday Reads banner with red bars and an illustrated cat sitting atop a stack of books next to a plant and coffee mug.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the September edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, curated by Senior Editor Maggie Ginsberg. The rest of the monthly newsletter includes links to other articles within and outside of the magazine, plus book coverage and other literary news around town. Sign up for future newsletters at the bottom of this post. There is still time to sign up for the next newsletter, which will be emailed on Sunday, Oct. 30.

I was working part-time at the Prairie Bookshop in Mount Horeb in 2008 when proprietor John Stowe pulled a book from the new shipment box and set it prominently on display. “This one is special,” said Stowe, a measured man hardly prone to grand gestures.

The book was “Driftless” by Wisconsin novelist David Rhodes. I gingerly picked it up and read the first page, careful not to crack the spine as Stowe watched. I was immediately taken by the author’s description of the land I’d grown up on, land I’d been taught was called “driftless” but never fully understood, always picturing abundant drifts of frigid snow instead of the absence of something, as Rhodes clarified for me in the best paragraph I’d ever read on the subject.

“Huh,” I said, gently placing it back on its little easel throne.

“It’s his first book in 30 years,” Stowe said.

“Huh,” I said again.

“He wrote three really good books in the 70s and then was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident,” Stowe said. “He disappeared, now he’s back. It’s a remarkable story.”

“Huh!” I said, then immediately used my employee discount to order it for myself.

(To date, that was the most expensive job I ever had.)

Soon after “Driftless” came “Jewelweed,” and I remained a Rhodes fan though I’d moved on from the shop. Then Rhodes disappeared again, or so it seemed. But this month, nearly 10 years after “Jewelweed” was published, Rhodes is back with a beautiful new book, a move to Madison and yet another comeback story. Find my Q&A with him at the bottom of this newsletter.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the September edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, which is curated by Senior Editor Maggie Ginsberg and includes a rundown on the current print issue, links to print stories you might have missed, web exclusive content like the Doug Moe’s Madison blog, book recommendations, author Q&As and other literary coverage around town. To sign up for the monthly newsletter, enter your email address below. The next newsletter will be emailed on Sunday, Oct. 30.

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