First, you find the hollow feeling that accompanies the jump itself. It was then, as it still is today, the surest sign of a good jump. You are lighter. You are void of inhibitions. And it forces you to move forward, your hips following emptiness and grace. A jerk of one shoulder, then the other, as you accelerate, the world becomes simpler. Just you and the air and the landing hill below. There is no concentration now. Divination only. Only weightlessness and desire, and as fast as it always happened, timelessness. The stall your Pops called it. That moment when you reached the perfect position, control and calm met and the speed disappeared and you were no longer in flight but just suspended there.
In the opening scene of Peter Geye’s highly anticipated new novel “The Ski Jumpers”, Jon Bargaard wakes up from a dream of ski jumping when he was young.
“I have this dream to this day, once a month or so, exactly what Jon dreams of,” says Geye, who first jumped at age 7 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.
Geye (pronounced dude), received accolades from critics and readers for his first novel, “Safe From the Sea” (2010), followed by his trilogy about the Norwegian-American Eide family – “The Lighthouse Road”, “Wintering (Minnesota Book Prize) and “Northernmost”.
In all of Geye’s books, the atmosphere is ice, snow, and cold, whether the characters face an ice bear in arctic waters, live in the woods of northern Minnesota, or stand atop a mountain. a ski jumper waiting to soar through the air.
“When I looked at the finished copies of this book, the word that came to mind was ‘personal,'” Geye said. “I thought about it a lot. How much I identify with my characters even if they have no connection with me. Jon does. He is a writer, a teacher, a father. All of these things are characteristics of me that have found their way into him.
Jon also shares Geye’s love for ski jumping.
“When I was a child, sport devoured me everything,” says Geye, who is 52. “From 10 to almost 20, that was all I did; trained, traveled for it, aspired to be as good as the great jumpers. But I never really got there. I’ve skied competitively all over the country, and those memories are etched in my memory like nothing else in life really is.
Geye contributed to photographer and former ski jumper Cooper Dodds’ 2020 book “Jumper: Flying in the Heartland”, consisting of Dodd’s photos of jumpers in flight and text from former jumpers. In it, Geye writes that ski jumping is “something devout and as close to a religion” as possible.
It’s no wonder he enjoyed writing “The Ski Jumpers.”
“It was so much fun writing those jump scenes of Jon, lifting the lid on my own memories and bringing them to the page,” he says.
“How many of us are lucky enough to have a part of our childhood that lives on inside of us? It’s still a huge part of my life because I have the indirect experience of watching kids do it, reminding me of the hard, practical time I spent jumping, preparing, learning the sport. But when (the writing) got nostalgic, I ended it because I didn’t want the nostalgia to be part of the story. The book had its story but I had mine.
Although Geye writes lyrically about the feeling of weightlessness and the need to be fearless and take physical risks as a ski jumper, his novel is not just about sport.
Protagonist Jon Bargaard has been trying to write a book called “The Ski Jumpers” for years, about himself and his younger brother Anton and their father, Pops, a once-champion ski jumper who took his sons to the heights. But now Jon, who is nearing retirement age, has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease and he fears he will never write the story of why he and his brother separated for so many years. ‘years.
Jon finally begins to reveal to his kind wife, Ingrid, the secrets of his past. He remembers the wonderful early days when Pops would take his sons on little ski jumps in Minneapolis on cold winter mornings. It tells how their mother was hospitalized after Pops went to jail for killing a ruthless mobster in North Minneapolis, a crime he didn’t commit. With both parents away, Jon and his little brother were on their own, living for a while in a cabin in the northern woods where they practiced jumping every day. But the brothers eventually went their separate ways, not reuniting until later in life.
Unlike the brothers in the novel, Geye and his five-year-old younger brother, Tony, are very close.
“Tony never left the sport of ski jumping,” says Geye. “His dedication to the sport is incredible. He gave so much to the Minneapolis Ski Club. We run the club’s junior program, coaching our own kids and the other kids in the club.
Erik Anderson, acquisitions editor at the University of Minnesota Press and publisher of Geye’s book, was eager to publish “The Ski Jumpers.”
“I’ve been a fan of Peter’s work ever since I first read ‘Safe from the Sea’ (a novel I read, quite rightly, snow-covered and overlooking an April blizzard crossing a Lake Superior unleashed), he wrote in an email. “‘The Ski Jumpers’ is a beautiful atmospheric story of ski jumping, wind, snow, winter. Of what it means in our lives of find the courage to take the plunge and strive to hold the landing.
Lorna Landvik, author, actress and comedian who will be chatting with Geye at Tuesday’s launch (and promises to be joking around), recalls meeting her friend for the first time when he spoke at Wine & Words, an event that it has hosted since its creation.
“Peter’s speech was entertaining, informative and heartfelt – always a winning combination,” Landvik recalls. “I attended several events with him as well as a Happy Hour or two. I admire Peter as a writer and as a person and look forward to the launch – an apt name for a book called ‘The Ski Jumpers’. ”
Geye admits it took him over a decade to write this book because he couldn’t find Jon’s voice. Then the COVID lockdown came and he had time to contemplate the way the world was.
“Jon didn’t fall from the pandemic sky, but something about the environment at the time gave me access to this character,” he says.
Geye, who grew up in a modest family in north Minneapolis, had an urge to write when he was a high school student in Minneapolis South, where he read Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.”
He attended Minneapolis Community College and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, as well as a master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and a doctorate from Western Michigan University.
In addition to writing her own books, Geye teaches the Year-Long Novel Writing Project at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Among his published alumni are Kurt Johnson, who teamed up with his daughter, Ellie, to write the novel “The Barrens,” and Carla J. Hagen, presenting her second book, “Muskeg” this month. In his thanks, Hagen calls Geye an ‘extraordinary coach’.
Geyes is married to Emily Hamilton, associate director of book publishing at University of Minnesota Press. They live in south Minneapolis with their blended family — Peter’s two sons and daughter and Emily’s two sons. The ages of the children range from a high school student to a fourth grader.
After Geye’s publicity tour for “The Ski Jumpers”, he will be busy writing his next two books which will be published by the UMP. He promises his fans that some of the Eide family characters from his previous novels will reappear. And there will probably be snow.
LAUNCH OF THE BOOK “SKI JUMPERS”
- WHAT: Peter Geye celebrates the publication of “The Ski Jumpers” in conversation with Lorna Landvik, presented by Magers & Quinn
- WHEN OR: 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 13, Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis.
- TICKETS: $39 general admission in advance (includes copy of book), $49 at the door; Advance general admission $15 (ticket only), $21 at the door. Information: theparkwaytheater.com/all-events/pete-geye-the-ski-jumpers
- PUBLISHER/PRICE: University of Minnesota Press ($25.95)
- GEYE’S OTHER APPARITIONS IN THE METRO REGION: Literature Lover’s Night, with Gretchen Anthony, Jillian Medoff and Carol Dunbar, presented by Valley Bookseller of Stillwater, 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 28, Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. $15; 6:05 p.m., Next Chapter Booksellers, 38 N. Snelling Ave., St. Paul; 7:07 p.m. Oct., Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior.