An occasional look at products the travel industry insists we need.

WHAT: "Oddball Minnesota: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places," by Jerome Pohlen.

AIMED AT: Admirers of oversize, fiberglass fish (Zippy the Pinhead, call your office).

HOW MUCH: $13.95.

BUT DOES IT WORK? Part of a series of "Oddball [your state name here]" books, Pohlen's guide to the Gopher State's odder attractions is thoroughly researched and a hysterical read, but it is most practical for those who are going to be in Minnesota anyway. That is, unless you're the kind of person who would make a special trip to see a two-story outhouse, a Frank Lloyd Wright gas station, the store where Tammy Faye Bakker bought her first mascara or a museum dedicated to Spam. Meanwhile, you can learn what Minnesotan E.G. Marshall's real name was (Edda Gunnar Marshall), where "Grumpy Old Men" was filmed (Faribault) and why Tiny Tim is buried in Minneapolis (he collapsed while singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" at a women's club benefit there and died at a local hospital). Pohlen also rips the lid off the vicious "largest ball of twine" competition, exposing its seamy underside. Add the world's largest mallard, a sandpaper museum and the state's fixation on Paul Bunyan, and electing a former professional wrestler as governor doesn't seem all that weird.

-- Jerry Haines

"Oddball Minnesota" (Chicago Press Review) is available at local bookstores and Amazon.com.