Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Looks at books

There aren't many people who can make it as a full-time writer, but Dubuque has one in Robert Byrne. A member of the Billiards Congress of America's Hall of Fame for his writing on the sport, Byrne is a novelist, biographer and compiler of humorous and curious quotations. Plus, he writes a monthly essay for the Telegraph Herald.

The Dubuque native made the conversion from editor of a civil engineering magazine to full-time writer during his 40 years living in the San Francisco area. He returned to his native city 11 years ago.

Byrne was the presenter at a Carnegie-Stout Public Library brown-bag program on Wednesday, to an audience of about 30 people. He read from his first essay to receive national publication and his current novel in progress, and took questions.

Byrne's first novel, "Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood," was a narrative of a youth's experiences and observations about being raised Catholic in a small Midwestern city in the 1930s. Let's just say that some of the opinions and events would not receive endorsement from the Church.

Byrne based many of his characters on real people in Dubuque, some of those depictions were not particularly flattering, and many folks had little trouble figuring out who they were. It was all pretty provocative 37 years ago. In the clip below, Byrne talks about some of the local reaction he received after the book came out.

Next Wednesday noon (July 18), the speaker at Carnegie-Stout will be Katherine Fischer, Clarke College professor (and TH columnist), whose book of river essays, "Dreaming the Mississippi," is receiving nice notices around the country.

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