Reimringer returns to Iowa City with novel


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For John Reimringer, living in Iowa City marked a pivotal point in his life.

From 1989 to 1994,he spent time working as a library clerk, reading lots of Hemingway, dabbling in a few undergraduate English classes, and playing in weekly poker games with friends from the Mill and University of Iowa theater department.

But perhaps more importantly, it was in Iowa City where Reimringer decided to become a writer.

“I’m not sure it was anything particular about the place. I think I’d realized there that I didn’t want to get a degree in library science, and I was kind of in a loss for a while,” he said. “So I think it was simply the place that I realized that I didn’t want to be anything but a writer.”

After several years, he returns to Iowa City, this time with a novel titled Vestments. The author will read from his first book at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque, at 7 p.m. today. Admission is free.

Reimringer describes his book as a story about a young Catholic priest who is in trouble for kissing the wrong woman — which, for a Catholic priest, would be any woman. This sends him back home to St. Paul, Minn., where he faces old conflicts with his “bar-fighting” father and a renewed contact with a past love.

“As a writer [Reimringer] is about as good as it gets — every word counts with him, and his ability to render his characters is amazing,” said Ethan Rutherford, Reimringer’s publisher at Milkweed Editions.

Reimringer said he believes that his time in Iowa City was a pivotal point in his life. Although he had spent time writing and reading, as a newspaper editor and a library clerk, it wasn’t until his years in Iowa City that he realized he wanted to be an author.

“I think after that I was kind of circling the idea of being a writer,” he said. “I didn’t really know how to go about becoming a writer. It seemed like a really esoteric thing to do, I suppose.”

And the experiences he had in the city stayed with him.

“A big part of my life in Iowa City was this kind of regular weekly poker games with the theater and restaurant people, and that kind of played into my novel,” he said. “For a long section of it, the priest is in rural Minnesota and has a group of other rural priests that he plays poker with. That idea, I think, kind of grew out of the poker games I played.”

Reimringer said he will read from that part of the novel today at Prairie Lights. He is excited about reliving old memories and returning to the place where he found direction.

“I’m looking forward to being back in Iowa City,” he said. “I haven’t been back for several years, so I’m looking forward to seeing the town again.”

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