As a Minnesotan and someone who has been known to retreat to a cabin in the summers for a little R&R, this book holds a lot of appeal to me.
Bill Holm’s text offers up some interesting perspectives and reminiscences, from the poetry of W. B. Yeats, to the poetry of Po Chü-i (Chinese T’ang Dynasty) and his own reflections. It’s the sort of text one might expect from a coffee-table book with pictures of cabins.
Ah…the pictures of cabins…. Photographer Doug Ohman really captures the rustic feel of Minnesota’s cabins. The outdoor shots are beautiful and will make you long to spend some time at each place, but it’s actually the interior pictures that hold special appeal to me. A shelf of mismatched plates all dating from the 1950’s and another shelf full of board games for those raining nights, typifies what I think of when I think about time I’ve spent in cabins.
And as nice as all this is, it somehow doesn’t quite succeed. Oh, sure, it’s the sort of book that you might pick up at a bookstore or a library and thumb through it and maybe even give it as a gift, but as a book you might want to spend a little time with? Not quite.
Holm writes nicely, but there is no focus. (I know, that sounds strange when describing a book about something so particular – Minnesota Cabins.) The first chapter isn’t so much about Minnesota or cabins, but about Holm and his work teaching freshman English and the works of Thoreau and the discussion of cabin life. The last chapter is again about Holm and his life – in Iceland and the Icelandic cabins. The other four chapters tend to be a little more specific, but still – one-third of the text is about Holm.
Ohman’s pictures are nice, but they’re not all cabins.
This is the land of 10,000 lakes. There must be at least that many cabins, and yet a book about The Cabins of Minnesota features photographs of deer stands, trailers, ice fishing huts, and even out-houses. There are probably enough unique huts, stands, and trailers in Minnesota to get their own book. We don’t really need to take up space in a cabins book, do we?
Looking for a good book? The Cabins of Minnesota by Bill Holm and Doug Ohman is nice, but doesn’t really spend enough time actually on the cabins of Minnesota.
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The Cabins of Minnesota
author: Bill Holm
photographer: Doug Ohman
publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
hardcover, 128 pages