Keepsake, guidebook, and wunderkammer of enthusiasms, Andy Sturdevant’s essays offer a new way of thinking about urban spaces and the contemporary Midwest. Craigslist ads, homemade signs at Target Field, and alleyways all open up with possibilities for measuring cultural time and the resonance, not provincialism, of spaces closely observed. Published to coincide with Sturdevant’s solo show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow reveals the essayist as pied piper and artist, whose canvas is the city.
“Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow feels like a long ambulatory conversation with an exceptionally interesting friend. Sturdevant’s voice — inquisitive, witty and intelligent — invites us in at every turn. The book’s material presence reinforces that invitation; it’s a lovely artifact, beautifully designed and charmingly illustrated. It would make a great gift for anyone interested in visual culture, Minnesota, the Midwest, Minneapolis, art, good writing, offbeat information … oh, heck, why not just say everyone? And get a copy for yourself while you’re at it.” —Star Tribune
“Artist and writer Sturdevant takes the reader on an oddball tour of the arts and culture of the Twin Cities in this endearing collection. . . . Sturdevant captures Minneapolis eccentricity, a place ‘where the drama queens and burnouts and weirdos and misfits of the rural and suburban Upper Midwest wind up’ and proves himself a capable and clever writer on many other topics.” —Publishers Weekly
“Andy Sturdevant offers up lively essays concerning the contemporary Midwest, Buffalo Wild Wings and futuristic birdhouses, among other curious topics.” —Barnes & Noble Review
“Sturdevant knows what he’s doing. He riffs on everything from being at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis during a blizzard to a secretive art gallery called Farm. . . . [He] comes across as a guy you’d like to get to know.” —Pioneer Press
“A guidebook to the Twin Cities spaces, art, and culture, Potluck Supper is a smart and quirky read, giving love to many local gems.” —City Pages, “Year in Review 2013: Literature”
“Whether you’re new to the Twin Cities or you’ve lived here your whole life, Sturdevant always finds a way to pique residents’ curiosity and extract infinite details from a region that deserves a second—and third, and fourth—look.” —Vita.Mn
“I’d probably anticipated (though would never admit so publicly) that this would be a ‘regional’ read when I first opened it. I love the Twin Cities, so that wouldn’t have been an issue, but Sturdevant’s narrative voice challenged my assumptions from the first line of his acknowledgments page: ‘This book is named Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow for an agenda item in a Maoist newsletter published on the West Bank of Minneapolis in the seventies…’” —Shelf Awareness, “Robert Gray: Potluck Supper with Author Event to Follow”
“Andy Sturdevant has established himself as the preeminent wit, flaneur and psycho-historian of the Twin Cities.” —Modern Midwest
“Andy Sturdevant captures [Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Midwest] with clear-eyes and a compelling, conversational pen. . . . I dare you to find someone who can’t connect to something in this book.” —Hazel & Wren
“Andy’s book both in content and design is my favorite non-fiction book of the past five years.” —Hans Weyandt, Micawber’s Books
“It’s a book that feels like the first book about my Minnesota—not the Duluth I knew as a child or the St. Paul I knew as a teen and visiting collegiate, but the Minnesota I’ve lived in since 2007, a Minnesota in which one can make a happy life because it contains multitudes.” —Twin Cities Daily Planet
“In reading, in criticism, the critic should breathe new life into his subject, put on display his subjectivity, a perspective that is one of a kind. In Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow, Andy Sturdevant offers just such a unique outlook . . . His subject is Minnesota, and more often than not, the Twin Cities, and over the course of this collection of essays, he deconstructs and recreates them, praising and lampooning them though always with hope for what the place could be.” —Bookslut
“Laird Hunt’s Kind One provides readers with a view of a 19th-century dysfunctional family — and it makes anything you see on reality TV look tame.” —Buzzfeed
“[Sturdevant's] writings about place are thoughtful, observant, and appreciative, as he explores a landscape defined by interesting old neighborhoods, many-storied buildings, characters that make this place memorable and the artistic legacy Minnesotans have left in many medium.” —MinnPost
“Sturdevant’s dryly witty writing and spare, charming illustrations combine to make an irresistible riptide of droll entertainment that any lover of humor and/or cultural history will enjoy struggling helplessly against.” —Heavy Table, “2013 Heavy Table Local Gift Guide”
“[A] superb collection of essays by Minneapolis writer Andy Sturdevant.” —Metrotimes
“Hotdish Heaven: The wild, wild Midwest” —Minnesota Monthly
“Once you finish reading [Potluck Supper], you can’t help but feel homesick for the Midwest whether you’re from there or not. Sturdevant taps into the magic from in and around Minneapolis, and spins it into gold.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“[F]unny, authentic, and completely original. . . . If you are Minnesotan, this book should be required reading, and if you’re not Minnesotan, well, you should read it anyways because you just might get an idea of why we all choose to live here despite below-zero temperatures half the year!” —Em’s Bookshelves
“Andy captures the humor in everyday life and questions the spaces and interactions around us.” —Light Grey Art Lab Podcast
“Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow” is a marvel, deftly examining the connections between art and everyday life. Andy Sturdevant’s lively, unique inquiries into trust fund kids, co-opted flags, gubernatorial portraits, art in second-tier cities, and Upper Midwestern esoterica, brim with both wit and humor.” —Joe Meno
Past Praise For Andy Sturdevant:
“If you’re looking for someone who’s always on the cutting edge of the Twin Cities art scene, Andy Sturdevant is your man.” —Minnesota Public Radio
“One of the region’s most prolific artists and writers.” —Thirty Two Magazine
“Assaying fringe sub-culture through the mirtful lenses of Andy’s soda bottle spectacles is a joy on par with getting to third base in a racing bobsled.” —Raynor Ganon
“Andy Sturdevant is a bearded flaneur with the keenest magnifying glass of a per- spective. From Brooklyn to Greensboro, he accumulates the most fascinating cultural specimens—free glossies, state seals, doppelgangers and high school radio stations—and assembles them into the kind of narrative collages you could easily lose yourself in for hours.” —Tess Lynch
From “Don’t you think it’s extremely arrogant to presume that
because I enjoy the music of Wayne County & the Electric
Chairs I am somehow obligated to share your worldview?”:
There is a photo my friend Andrew took a few years ago, during one of my trips back to my hometown, Louisville. It’s me and my brother Nate, standing inside a Buffalo Wild Wings on Bardstown Road.
The Buffalo Wild Wings is located inside the shell of an old theater that once housed the Bardstown Road Youth Community Center, or the BRYCC House. The BRYCC House was an all-ages venue in which I and Nate and our noisy post-adolescent rock band played about two dozen shows between 2000 and 2002, alongside many other noisy postadolescent rock bands with names like Lowercase O, Ayin, the Blue Goat War, Grand Prix, the Pointy Kitties (the early 2000s were a golden age for bands named for obscure Simpsons references) Monorail (see?), and Totally Ointment.
The BRYCC House closed sometime in 2004. After that, it became a carpet warehouse. Then it became a Buffalo Wild Wings.
Nate and I are pictured in the photo gazing wistfully at the shattered remains of our youth. The shattered remains of our youth have been slathered with Spicy Garlic, Asian Zing, Caribbean Jerk, and Mango Habanero–flavored barbecue sauce, served in a fast casual dining atmosphere. Nate and Andrew and I had been walking down Bardstown Road one weekday afternoon, passed the Buffalo Wild Wings, and realized we’d never been inside post-BRYCC. We stepped inside to see how it looked.
The interior of the building looked very much the same as it used to, except with flat-screen televisions and neon signs for popular American and Dutch beers on the walls. There was a jukebox, so we thought we ought to punch in a few appropriate numbers as a sad elegy while we creepily hung around and refused to be seated. It was a slow afternoon, so the waitstaff didn’t seem to care if we hung around not ordering beer or wings. For some reason, there were no selections on the jukebox by Sleater-Kinney, the Raincoats, Gene Defcon, or Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Instead we played a few songs from the first Strokes record, which seemed to be most appropriate in terms of the spirit of the era.
Did Nate and I look out of place in the photo? We looked out of place. We both had exaggerated grimaces on our faces.
I believe it was Glenn Danzig that was once described by Henry Rollins as being “one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty one that everything afterward savours of anticlimax.” I rarely feel that way myself, but when I do, I am reminded of the fact that anything important to you at the age of twenty-one will eventually be turned into a Buffalo Wild Wings. We waited for the song to end, and then we walked back outside, into the sunlight, and headed toward a neighborhood bar that had not existed the last time I’d lived in the neighborhood.
These are all thoughts I typed up and then put on the Internet, with the photo of me and Nate. People clicked “like,” my trip to Louisville ended, and I returned to Minneapolis. I forgot all about it until a few days later, when I received the following e-mail. Coincidentally, it came from Minneapolis, not Louisville.
Dear Mr. Sturdevant,
We were glad to see you’d mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings on social media today. We’re very proud of our Highlands / Bardstown Road location in Louisville, and I was a little disappointed to see you dismiss us so quickly (and particularly without trying any of our signature dishes or enjoying a beer). It’s true, B-Dubs is not the same as an all-ages punk rock venue, but it is a fun, edgy, high-energy, and easygoing restaurant—much like the personalities of our guests. Andy, I don’t believe there is so much distance between the venue you once rocked out at, and the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere where people hang out with their friends, play trivia on our Buzztime Trivia System, and watch their favorite games on one of our many big-screen TVs. I think, in a small way, we’re making a difference in people’s lives, and giving them an outlet for fun and camaraderie, as I am sure you were trying to do in the very same space a decade ago
with your music. I’d invite you to come back to our Highlands location next time you’re in Louisville and give us a fair shot. Print out this e-mail and we’ll treat you to six hand-spun wings with the sauce of your choice, totally on the house. I’ll try to see if we can get some Richard Hell on the jukebox, but I can’t make any promises there (and anyway, I am more of a Wayne County & the Electric Chairs sort of guy myself).
Senior Associate Director, Marketing and Brand Communications
Buffalo Wild Wings
I was at first baffled, then slightly horrified at having received a personal e-mail from someone at Buffalo Wild Wings, and then a little bit irritated at his condescending tone. A Buffalo Wild Wings is the spiritual equivalent of an all-ages punk venue? Ridiculous. Insulting! Later that day, I sent him a reply.
I appreciate your e-mail, and I will certainly consider taking you up on your kind offer of the free wings, but I really do think you’re a little off-base here. BWW is probably a great place where many people love to hang out, but I think you’re nuts to suggest it’s the equivalent of the BRYCC House (and come on, if you’re namedropping Wayne County & the Electric Chairs like it’s no big deal, I feel like you should understand that on some level). The BRYCC House was a community led, not-for-profit initiative that featured very young artists and musicians that would have been unlikely to find a comfortable niche for their work anywhere else, and especially in the sort of chain establishments BWW represents. “Fun and camaraderie” certainly do enter into the equation somewhere, but the circumstances under which those qualities are enjoyed differ greatly between the BRYCC and BWW. I’m not saying BWW is a bad place or that I wish it didn’t exist. But I do think, all things considered, that the BRYCC was better for the neighborhood, and with all due respect to your organization, I wish it was still there.
I received this e-mail the following day.
Don’t you think it’s extremely arrogant to presume that because I enjoy the music of Wayne County & the Electric Chairs I am somehow obligated to share your worldview? Moreover, don’t you think it’s similarly arrogant to assume that a community of young musicians and artists is somehow inherently superior to the community of patrons we serve at our restaurants? Do you know anybody that regularly patronizes a BWW? You said yourself you didn’t try a drink or even have a seat while you visited. I can tell you, from our demographic studies, that the folks that hang out at the BWW on Bardstown Road are not suburbanites or conventioneers or tourists—they’re people that, for the most part, live in the same area code. Many of them work in businesses in the Highlands neighborhood. They’re locals.
Why did none of these people, I wonder, come to the shows your band played at the BRYCC House while it was open? Could it be because they felt excluded? Not “cool” enough to join in? I don’t live in Louisville, unfortunately, so I don’t know what the old BRYCC House was like. But coincidentally, you and I do live in the same metropolitan area. Digging around a bit, I see you often host artistic and literary events around Minneapolis. Would a guy like me, or the types of guys that hang out at the BWW in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota, be welcome to attend those? Or would they feel excluded? I think it’s reasonable to say you’d feel more welcome at a BWW than one of our regulars would be at one of your art openings.
Moreover, I found the MySpace page for your old band, and listened to some of the tracks. Cool stuff, and I sincerely enjoyed it—but certainly not world shattering. It sounds like a lot of bands sounded in 2001. Some Kinks, some MC5, some Kill Rock Stars. I don’t understand how this sort of work makes your presence in that space more important than ours, though. This will sound harsh, but I mean it in the most critically constructive way: could it be because your work in that band just wasn’t good enough to exist outside the context of the BRYCC House? Doesn’t it presume a certain amount of privilege to assume your work is more valid than ours, just because fewer people consumed it? I should point out I am not some free-market fanatic that is going to go all “let the market decide” on you—there is certainly a place for nonprofits that feature challenging and adventurous art in the cultural ecosystem of any community. But I don’t think it’s fair to say these venues or organizations, or the people that frequent them, are in some way superior to the individuals that like watching sports on flat-screen TVs and eating Spicy Garlic–flavored buffalo wings at our restaurants. I feel like you should understand that on some level.
Senior Associate Director, Marketing and Brand Communications
Buffalo Wild Wings
I had a sinking feeling that he was right, so I didn’t respond. Later, I found out he was featured on the cover of an industry magazine spotlighting his innovations in direct e-mail marketing techniques.
After that, I heard he quit BWW to devote more time to writing fanzines and playing drums in a noise rock band.