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A Hollywood upbringing, cows, Vietnam War on tap as this week's selections

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Even before Michael Lindsay-Hogg made his name as a director of films like "Brideshead Revisited" and the Beatles' "Let it Be," he led an exciting life as the son of the talented actress Geraldine Fitzgerald ("Wuthering Heights," et al.) and a father who was a baronet.

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Lindsay-Hogg (Hogg is pronounced "Higg") recalls his life in "Luck and Circumstance" (Knopf, $26). It's full of juicy anecdotes because his mother hung around with the rich and famous. He recalls serving drinks to Humphrey Bogart, playing hide-and-seek with Olivia de Havilland and hanging out at San Simeon with William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies.

But what makes the book go around is Orson Welles. When Lindsay-Hogg is a schoolboy, his mother tells him that Orson Welles lived at her house after he divorced his wife and that gossip spread that Welles was actually Lindsay-Hogg's father.

And so the book goes. The author gets into show business and meets the "Great Man," who treats him kindly. Although his mother told him it was just a rumor, he begins to wonder. Welles was a well-known fat guy and the author wonders if that's why he is also chubby.

Lindsay-Hogg finally gets an answer he can live with from another famous person: Gloria Vanderbilt. But I'm not telling.

*****

Holy cow! I thought Sara Rath's 1998 book, "The Complete Cow," said it all.

I was wrong. Now we have another amazing cow book, "Cows: A Closer Look," by Paul W. Thoreson (University of Wisconsin Press/Borderland Books, $40).

Thoreson, a retired University of Wisconsin prof has been taking pictures of cows since he was a kid. He has the soul of an artist and you'll never look at a cow in the same way after perusing his book, which features cows in pastures, cows nuzzling each other, bulls mounting heifers, cows' udders, even unto a chapter entitled "Spiritual, Sacred, Supernatural Cow."

Thoreson's facts are as amazing as his photographs: "In one day the average cow consumes 100 pounds of food, 417 pounds of water, to produce 54 pounds of milk and eliminate 65 pounds of manure."

Those who have seen the California Cheese Council commercials who show Holsteins with Norwegian accents leaving the upper Midwest for California where, presumably, they'll be much happier in a mucky feedlot than back in a cold pasture and thus produce milk that will make happier cheese, will also be happy to know that Thoreson took no such photographs.

*****

St. Catherine University history prof Kim Heikkila has added an important book to the growing number of volumes about the Vietnam War and a group of women get a place in the sun in "Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam" (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $19.95).

Heikkila interviews 15 women -- 14 Minnesotans and one Wisconsinite -- who served as nurses on or near the front lines during one of our country's most controversial conflicts. Heikkila finds out why they went to war (to heal, not to kill), the problems they encountered while in Vietnam (some sexual harassment) and the difficulties of returning to civilian life after the war was over.

Eventually they were instrumental in creating a Vietnam Women's Memorial, where people keep dropping things off, like a poem by a soldier named Paul:

"For all the American wildflowers that were in Vietnam

They gave us humanity in an inhuman place

With love & respect,

Paul."

Here's another left by a nurse veteran:

"One day I met a stranger

He was a major

Nothing he said or did impressed me

Two weeks later he was dead

A helicopter blade had severed his head."

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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