Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Daniel and Halley reunion! Valentine's Day 2017 card post.

For the first six years or so of Boswell, I bought most of the gift items, but since 2015, Jen's taken this over and is doing a great job. We sold more owl banks this past holiday than I thought was possible, and she's the one who finally had us get into the surprisingly fast-paced world of sock sales. Even I bought a pair, one of the more somber offerings, navy blue with constellations.

But the truth is that I couldn't leave completely, and have continued to purchase our loose cards. The truth is that while nobody compliments us on how well-stocked we are with paper towels (supply purchasing is one of my other duties), we do hear a lot of nice things about our greeting cards.

Recently on one of her visits back to Milwaukee from Madison, ex-Boswellian Halley was reminiscing about our occasional greeting card posts. I told her that we could try doing one for Valentine's Day, and here's how that went down.

Our first card comes from Ghost Academy, which is a small outfit in Long Beach. None of our vendors are large in the Hallmark or American Greetings kind of way, but we do work with a number of vendors who have, well, offices. How many people do you need working in a place for it to be an office? I'm thinking four.

I like this card because it's a different and clever take on candy hearts. From Halley: "I'm glad they were still cranking out cards."

 Their production process does have a "cranking" aspect to it. Here's the mission statement of Megan, Matthew, and Maria: "we like things that are funny or cute or quirky, and especially enjoy things that are all three at once. We try to combine those qualities in our wares and just generally create stuff that makes us smile. our cards are hand printed using a few simple tools and a lot of elbow grease. metaphorically though - literal elbow grease would be gross." They don't like capital letters, by the way. Not unusual.

Halley's next pick was from Madison Park, a larger operation in Seattle that I toured many years ago when the sister of one of my ex-coworkers was working there. They had a a lot of presses and while they do some of their printing in the United States, they have moved offshore for the increasing number of cards they have with foil and glitter.

Halley, on the Madison Park card: "I'm getting this one for my husband this year because he likes narwhals. Narwhals are cute, don't you think?"

Yes, they are and they have definitely been ascendant in iconic stature on gift items. I haven't gotten to the point where I suggested a narwhal table, only because their presence has been fairly limited to cards. Interestingly enough, Jen, who cares about this stuff too, and I noticed that the animal that seems to be trending up lately is the llama.

The Found has a number of artists on their roster, but it's clear that they are having the most success with Laura Szumowski, whose illustrations uncannily capture pop culture greats. Halley's Pick is the Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire" card. She notes:" I love Johnny Cash. I used to do karoke with my best friend Ross and we'd sing 'I Walk the Line.' Too bad there's not a 'Walk the Line' card."

You can dream, Halley, you can dream. The Found is based out of Chicago. You can see a lot of trends in their product line, from branching out to magnets and pins, to doing location cards for a select number of places. New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Brooklyn, and Portland, but not Milwaukee. We'll need a few more decades of global warning before Milwaukee becomes trendy, and that's conditional on us not messing with our water supply.

I asked one of our other card line entrepreneurs for recommdations and she led me to another Chicago-based card line, Laura Berger, which we've now brought in several times. Many lines like this need a champion who buys multiple copies of a design when they visit. We had a customer from Madison that almost singlehandledly kept Fomato going for several years, for example. She really, really, really loved the "Foreign Film" card. It is a great card indeed, but it's a birthday card, and thus has no business in this post.

The Laura Berger card in question is called "How shall I demonstrate my love for you? Sayeth Halley: "This is weird but I like it." Please note that one of the ways to demonstrate your love is to buy your loved one a small llama. Please see earlier comment on the ascendance of the llama.

Another card whose profile has risen dramatically in the last few years is the Good Paper line. While we once were the only place on our side of town where you could buy them, they are pretty well represented now in two close-by retailers, a national chain and a fellow independent. They do a good job with puns, which are quite popular in cards right now.

Of our varied love offerings from Good Paper, Halley picked "The Gratest Love of All." She notes "Cheese is the third best thing in my life. I love cheese." Like all Goodpaper cards, this is blank inside. Like the British, they wear their sentiment on their sleeve, at least cardwise.

Great Arrow is a line out of Buffalo, New York, which I've wanted to carry for years, simply because I like supporting Buffalo. But until recently, we had agreed to let Paperworks have an exclusiving on this line, as well as a few others. We're very sad about Lynn closing the store - we need retailers on Downer, and competition keeps you on your toes! - but with the store closing, it seemed ok to start carrying the line.

Halley chose this design because she loves dogs. Don't tell her that cat cards also do well, and frankly, they might have the edge in sales. But I think that's partly because cat lovers tend to favor all kinds of cats, whereas dog lovers are more likely to be breed specific. So cat lovers are like the South, where the states sort of support each other in the arts in an all-for-one way, while dog lovers are like the Midwest, where we sort of snarl at the states on the other side of the artificial boundaries. I think it's connected to sports teams, but this is a theory in development.

The tagline? "Love at first sight."

Our last piece of advice? If you wait until February 13 to buy your card, our selection will stink.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Events this week! Michael O'Hear, Katrina Cravy, Nicholas Petrie (two library events), Ayad Akhtar, and preview for Elizabeth McKenzie

Tuesday, January 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael O'Hear, author of Wisconsin Sentencing in the Tough-on-Crime Era: How Judges Retained Power and Why Mass Incarceration Happened Anyway.

Michael O’Hear, Professor of Criminal Law at Marquette Law School, tracks the effects of sentencing laws and politics in Wisconsin from the eve of the imprisonment boom in 1970 up to the 2010s. Drawing on archival research, original public-opinion polling, and interviews with dozens of key policymakers, he reveals important dimensions that have been missed by others. He draws out the lessons from the incarcerations that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars and caused untold misery to millions of inmates and their families.

You can listen to O'Hear discuss this issue on the Joy Cardin Show, originally broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio on January 12.

This event is sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Milwaukee Lawyer Chapter. Refreshments provided by St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Thursday, January 19, 7 pm at Boswell:
Katrina Cravy, author of On Air: Broadcast Your Business: Insider Secrets to Attract the Media and Get Free Publicity.

Katrina Cravy appeared on Fox6 Milwaukee as their Contact6 reporter, and now she's written On Air, a book for any individual, nonprofit, or business that wants to get their message featured in major media. One of her tips is you must have a professional headshot if you want to be taken seriously by the media.

Folks who RSVP to this event on Cravy's Facebook Page will be entered into a raffle to win a free headshot session with the amazing Brian Slawson, the photographer who took all Cravy's pictures. Cravy notes that On Air contains valuable publicity ideas worth far more than the price tag of the book. Should be a fun evening, right? RSVP here.

Friday, January 20, 6:30 pm, at Greendale Public Library's Hose Tower event, and Saturday, January 21, 1 pm, at Whitefish Bay Public Library:
Nick Petrie, author of Burning Bright.

Following an appearance on Entertainment Weekly's Must List last week, this week's issue as a great review from Tina Jordan: "For me, no crime-fiction character has ever measured up to Jack Reacher—until, that is, I met Peter Ash, a former Marine lieutenant deeply damaged by his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (his PTSD manifests itself as intense claustrophobia)."

While reviewing Petrie's website, I came across this great recommendation from thriller writer John Lescroart: "With The Drifter, Nicholas Petrie has written just about the perfect thriller. I haven't read such a well-crafted and gripping story in a month of Sundays. If this is Petrie's first novel, watch out for the second one. But why wait? This one's here now, and it's a home run.” And now of course, you can read #2 as well!

Want to read more? Here's Rob Thomas in The Cap Times. And if you missed this link in a former post, the Journal Sentinel's Jim Higgins profiled Nick Petrie in advance of Burning Bright's release.

Wherever you live in the metro area, there's a Nick Petrie event for you. He'll also be at Books and Company on Thursday, January 19, and there's a to-be-scheduled event at Craft in Port Washington as well. Greendale Public Library Hose Tower event space is located at 6600 Schoolway, in the lot behind the library. Whitefish Bay Library is located at 5420 N Marlborough Dr.

Saturday, January 21, 11 am, at Boswell:
Ayad Akhtar, author of Disgraced.

The Pulitzer Prize winning play by Brookfield native Ayad Akhtar is coming to the Milwaukee Rep, opening January 17 and running through February 12. The original New York Times review by Charles Isherwood explains the setup well, two couples coming together at a dinner party: "The players are a quartet of accomplished New Yorkers of differing races, creeds and, yes, colors, although they have all arrived at the same high plateau of worldly achievement and can agree on the important things, like the tastiness of the fennel and anchovy salad and the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. What they cannot agree on — and what will ultimately tear apart at least one of the relationships in the play — is who they really are and what they stand for, once the veneer of civilized achievement has been scraped away to reveal more atavistic urges."

Jim Higgins profiled Akhtar in a recent Journal Sentinel piece, where Akhtar noted: ""Increasingly, it’s become impossible to exist in any non-politicized way in this country if you’re Muslim...The way that people are speaking to each other now in public — when I wrote the play you could never have imagined that people would actually say those things in public that they were saying on stage."

Our event is a short talk at Boswell on Saturday, January 21, 11 am. For those of you who have tickets and are attending one of the talk-backs, you're covered. But if you were intrigued with this prize-winning play and the exciting Milwaukee Rep production, this is a great chance to learn more. And don't forget about Mr. Akhtar's novel, American Dervish.

Monday, January 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen.

From Jennifer Senior in The New York Times: "One of the great pleasures of reading Elizabeth McKenzie is that she hears the musical potential in language that others do not — in the manufactured jargon of economics, in the Latin taxonomy of the animal kingdom, even in the names of our own humble body parts (who knew about the eye’s 'zonule of Zinn'?). Her dialogue has real fizz and snappity-pop. It leaves a bubbled contrail.

And here's Maureen Corrigan on Fresh Air: "A sweet, sharply written, romantic comedy about the pitfalls of approaching marriage McKenzie imbues her characters with such psychological acuity that they, as well as the off-kilter world they inhabit, feel fully formed and authentic. With its inspired eccentricities and screwball plot choreography, McKenzie's novel perceptively delves into that difficult life stage when young adults finally separate or not from their parents. In the end, The Portable Veblen is a novel as wise as it is squirrely."

Read more about The Portable Veblen and why it makes a great selection for your reading group on a previous Boswell and Books blog post.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Here is the new Boswell annotated bestseller list for the week ending January 14, 2017

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (event Mon Feb 6, 7 pm, at Boswell)
2. Burning Bright, by Nick Petrie (events Fri, Jan 20, 6:30 pm at Greendale Library's Hose Tower and Sat, Jan 21, 1 pm, at Whitefish Bay Library)
3. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund
4. The Drifter (cloth), by Nick Petrie
5. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
6. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
7. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
8. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
9. The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian
10. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

Chris Bohjalian's new novel, The Sleepwalker, has had some buzz in the store, both from customers asking for more info about what it's about and how close Mr. Bohjalian was coming to Milwaukee. I'd say you'd have to go to St. Louis. To answer the new question, The Washington Post review from Carol Memmott writes: "Sex, secrets and the mysteries of sleep: These are the provocative ingredients in Chris Bohjalian’s spooky thriller The Sleepwalker. It’s a dark, Hitchcockian novel featuring two beautiful icy blondes reminiscent of those found in many of the renowned director’s films."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. I Hate Everyone, Except You, by Clinton Kelly
2. The Great Equalizer, by David Smick
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
5. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
6. Freakin' Fabulous, by Clinton Kelly
7. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
8. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
9. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
10. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carol Rovelli

We had a good time with Clinton Kelly. He mentioned a number of books he's liked, including All the Light We Cannot See and more recently, Zadie Smith's Swing Time. We have signed copies of I Hate Everyone, Except You.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
2. The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
3. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar (at Boswell Sat Jan 21, 11 am)
4. The Miracle Worker, by William Gibson
5. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
6. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
7. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
8. More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon
9. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
10. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Frederick Backman

As you can see from this week's bestseller list, there's a lot of classroom buying going on. We've also got Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, which is the not selection for our Science Fiction Book Club. It has its own Wikipedia entry.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. On the Clock, by Tim Enochs
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Lost Tudor Princess, by Alison Weir
4. How to Speak Midwestern, by Edward McClelland
5. The Power of Kindness, by Piero Ferrucci
6. Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Jacques Philippe
7. Nonstop Metropolis, by Rebecca Solnit
8. Mary Nohl Inside and Out, by Barbara Manger and Janine Smith
9. Milwaukee Frozen Custard, by Kathleen McCann and Robert Tanzilo
10. What Color is Your Parachute 2017, by Richard N. Bolles

Nostalgia! I haven't seen an Alison Weir nonfiction book on our bestseller list in a while so seeing The Lost Tudor Princess brought me back to the days of Schwartz, when we had some very strong sales on her books. The Washington Post had Philippa Gregory review the book, who said "This is a substantial, detailed biography of a fascinating woman who lived her extraordinary life to the full, taking desperate chances for love and for ambition. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the powerful women of the Tudor period."

Books for Kids:
1. Egg, by Kevin Henkes
2. Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
3. Heart to Heart, by Lois Ehlert (event Sat, Feb 11, 2 pm, at Boswell)
4. My Garden (hardcover), by Kevin Henkes
5. Owen (hardcover), by Kevin Henkes
6. Chrysanthemum (hardcover), by Kevin Henkes
7. Old Bear (board book), by Kevin Henkes
8. Julius, Baby of the World (paperback), by Kevin Henkes
9. Lily's Purple Plastic Purse (hardcover), by Kevin Henkes
10. A Weekend with Wendell (hardcover), by Kevin Henkes

As you can see from our event books, for picture books, as opposed to middle grade and young adult titles, the hardcovers, if available, often do better than the paperbacks at public events (as opposed to schools). I think the reason Julius Baby of the World did better in paperback is that I didn't bring in as many hardcovers. Egg appears to be part of the "Waiting Trilogy", along with When Spring Comes and Waiting. Mr. Henkes knew how many times the word "waiting" was used in each book. Signed copies of Egg are available.

Over at the Journal Sentinel book page, there are three features this week.

Mike Fischer reviewed Human Acts, the new novel from South Korean writer Han Kung, whose 2007 novel The Vegetarian has become a surprise bestseller. This story is of the 1980 Gwangju massacre, when hundreds of protestors were killed for protesting a military coup. He notes: "Despite Deborah Smith’s poetically rendered translation, reading about human acts like these can be excruciating. But true to the urgency conveyed through its frequent use of second-person narration, Han’s book is also filled with human acts involving profiles in courage that inspire hope."

Erin Kogler takes on Robin Roe's A List of Cages, a debut novel for young adults, which she calls "engaging, personal, heartwarming and tragic." The setup: "Cages tells the story of two high school boys: Adam, a popular senior, and Julian, a quiet freshman and outcast. When Adam becomes an aide to the school psychologist, he finds out that one of the students who sees her (or rather had been avoiding his appointments with her) is Julian, his former foster brother."

And finally, Book Editor Jim Higgins offers a roundup of some upcoming author events. If you're wondering a little more about events with Michael Tisserand, Brit Bennett, Elinor Lipman, Kelly Jensen, Christina Baker Kline, Will Schwlabe, Nickolas Butler, Margaret George, Dan Egan, and Jami Attenberg, you can find out more in this roundup.

Friday, January 13, 2017

We discuss "The Portable Veblen" at our In-store Lit Group, in advance of Elizabeth McKenzie's visit on January 23, 7 pm

I know what you're thinking. We chose The Portable Veblen as our In-Store Lit Group discussion book for January because there was a charming squirrel on the cover. You're thinking that with my obsession with woodland creatures from my gift buying, I couldn't say no. But the truth is that the squirrel was passed over for the fox, and never even got as much traction as the raccoon, and if you want to ask us which animal icon is ascendant in the gift world, we'd have to say it's the llama.

Or maybe it was the aqua cover. I've mentioned before that aqua has become a bit of a signifier for smart comic novels, what with the success of Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and Emma Straub's The Vactioners.

Or maybe because the original Veblen, who our heroine is named after, has Wisconsin roots. The economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen was born in Cato, and his parents lived in Milwaukee before moving to the Manitowoc area, after which they settled on a farm in Minnesota. Veblen is well-known for popularizing the idea of conspicuous consumption.

Or maybe because it's set in Palo Alto, which you'd think would be rather commonsplace, with the number of great writers graduating from Stanford every year, and the town being a bit a synechdoche for Silicon Valley, an important part of any modern person's consciousness. Am I using synechdoche correctly? My favorite Palo Alto novel contines to be Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, with that stanza dedicated to the late Printers Inc. bookstore.

Or maybe it's the award nominations. The Portable Veblen was longlisted for the National Book Award and shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize. That certainly led to me buying a copy of the hardcover at Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.

When Penguin asked us to be on the paperback tour (our event is Monday, January 23, 7 pm), all these things came into play. And because of the awards, the book was moved up to November, giving us enough time to discuss The Portable Veblen in January.

So now more about the book (McKenzie at left). Veblen Amundsen-Hovda lives in a very small but still affordable cottage on Tasso Street in Palo Alto. She's working at a science lab where she meets Paul Vreeland, a researcher. They hit it off, but Paul is soon lured away to a for-profit for his device that he's testing, a skull punch that can relieve brain injuries and possibly save lives.

Of course there are a few problems. There are her parents, who are a bit of a mess (as Scarlett Thomas noted in The Guardian**, "the most horribly accurate portrait of a narcissist hypochondriac I have ever read"). There's Paul's stress from the job, which is sort of compromising his integrity. And there's Veblen, who seems to have befriended the squirrel that is terrorizing her home.

They say (well, someone says...my customer Carl says) that any two books can be connected by the reading experience, and I was sort of taken aback by the ways in which last month's selection, Hannah Rothschild's The Improbability of Love and this month's, The Portable Veblen. were linked).

1. Each novel was set in a world where money had taken something with good intentions (art in the first, drug research and care for veterans in the second) and shown how absolutely corrupted it could be.

2. Both novels have themes that weigh heavily on the psychological burden that parents put on their children. In the case of Rothschild, both heroine (Annie) and anti-heroine (Rebecca) must come to terms with their parents shortfallings, and Veblen and to a lesser extent, Paul, must do so as well. In the case of McKenzie's novel, Jennifer Senior sums it up in The New York Times: "For all its charm, bounce, radiant eccentrics and diverting episodes involving drug companies and squirrels, that is what The Portable Veblen is about: shaking the demented ghosts of our youth so that we can bind with clean spirits to someone in our adulthood."

3. And that's another connection. Both Improbability and Veblen were reviewed by Jennifer Senior in The New York Times, and knowing that she also loves All My Puny Sorrows, I'm waiting for her to review and love something else in this way, so I can read it. Alas, she wasn't as crazy about History of Wolves as I'd hoped, but many other people are loving it.*

4. And finally, both books have something seemingly talking that shouldn't be - a painting or a squirrel.

Did I mention that both books were finalists for the Bailey's Women's Prize in 2016? What won? It was a first novel called The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney, which hasn't done well with us at all, despite being featured in our awards case. I think it's the cover.

LitHub asked McKenzie "What about Veblen’s medication? Melanie and Linus, her stepfather, ask her if she’s taking them several times, but they’re not specified" and McKenzie replied "I’ve never really talked about Veblen’s modalities and antidepressants. She has struggled with depression, but it wasn’t my intention to go into a lot of detail about the illness itself." But while I was reading this book, Maria Bamford's television series Lady Dynamite came to mind. I would definitely recommend The Portable Veblen to someone who enjoys this series.

Another artist whose work was called to mind while reading McKenzie's novel was Laurie Colwin. I was particularly reminded of Happy All the Time, which is also about what makes a relationship work, and had a similar fairytale quality about it. I would greatly excite me if more talented authors were inspired by this much beloved, still missed writer. Amie and I agreed that our favorite is Goodbye Without Leaving. My friend John's favorite is Another Marvelous Thing, and Marcy's is definitely the aforementioned Happy All the Time, which I should note that I liked enough to read twice. Another book that Marcy recommended to me decades ago that seemingly has had a resurgence if Barbara Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack. I'm just saying that you should probably listen to her when she tells you to read something.

As long as we're discussing book tie ins, there is the aforementioned Thorstein Veblen-penned The Theory of the Leisure Class, which is discussed in earnest in the novel. Another book that has a good amount of play is Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Are you surprised?

So what did the book club think? It's so interesting that what order we weigh in can really affect the tone the discussion takes. In this case, the most negative people spoke first, and while it got much more positive by the time we got to the halfway point of the table. Like Eileen, anyone in the helping professions seemed to like it more, and I also suspected that fans of the book might skew younger than our group. One attendee actually compared it to Eileen, which I was surprised about - I didn't think the books could be more different, but I thought her points, when raised, were valid.

One argument that was raised again was how we felt about satire. One of our most enthusiastic attendees loved the skewiering of the medicula industrial complex and thought the book was filmed with sharp humor. i should note that Elizabeth Rosen in the San Francisco Chronicle offered agreement: "I can’t help finding within these pages some strong echoes of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., which is to say, literary forebears who dared to map the landscape of dark humor in modern warfare, and others like them who were early to expose the perversity of corporate-style hospitalization."

And McKenzie has noted that The Portable Veblen, which was written over a number of years, was originally meant to be more of an anti-war novel. As she noted to Bethanne Patrick in the LitHub interview: " While some of those characters were inspired by families and people I observed and met at the Menlo Park VA hospital, I’m also blending in something that concerned me from the beginning: The issue of being a participant in a clinical trial. One of my family members was in a clinical trial. I’m one of the people I’m describing and creating. One of those people waiting to hear the good news. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand that the trial wasn’t going to do anything for our loved one. We had a lot of regret: Why did we put everyone through this?"

And another one of our enthusiastic participants compared the book to A Confederancy of Dunces.

But I'll give one of our negatives a little more space. She didn't like any of the characters and wished she was at home reading Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life.

Why squirrels, one participant asked? Squirrels are an animal that live in close proximity to but completely independent of humans. Of course they are not the only animals like this. Perhaps they are not as scary as rats or as cute as rabbits. Every so often we spot raccoons and opossums in our yard, and we've even seen a few coyotes. In London, the fox is the most talked about urban prowler. But McKenzie chose the squirrel and aside from one of our booksellers having a very strong hatred for squirrels and so she wouldn't read it, there doesn't seem to be any harm in that.

I have no idea how you'll feel about reading The Portable Veblen after reading this essay, but I'm hoping you are intrigued enough to try it. I enjoyed it a lot and think it makes for a great discussion. Other interesting reviews to check out are Jeff VanderMeer's in the Los Angeles Times and Maureen Corrigan's essay on Fresh Air, which gets extra points for calling the novel "squirrelly."

For the next few months, we'll be meeting at 6 pm, due to event scheduling.

On Monday, February 6, we'll be discussing Brit Bennett's The Mothers at 6 pm. We'll start off sans author, but Bennett will join us for a little spoiler question-and-answer at around 6:40, before doing her talk/reading to the general public at 7.

And on Monday, March 6, we'll discuss Paul Beatty's The Sellout at 6 pm. At 7 pm, we'll break so that we can attend Will Schwalbe's presention of Books for Living. Looks like we'll be talking about satire again.

On Monday, April 3, we'll be back to a 7 pm start for Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, held in conjunction with the Milwaukee Public Library's The Big Read. I believe we'll have at least one attendee from the Library to talk with us about the book and discuss the Big Read process.

 *Emily Fridlund will be at Boswell for History of Wolves on Friday, January 13, 7 pm, in conversation with Daniel Goldin.

**It is interesting to note that while I wouldn't instinctively recommend The Portable Veblen to our buyer Jason, the fact that Scarlett Thomas and Jeff VanderMeer, two authors he really likes, reviewed it enthusiastically, makes me think he might enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

More on Clinton Kelly's (ticketed) visit to Boswell on Saturday, January 14, 7 pm.


Before we get started, here's the ticket link to our event on Saturday.

I have this surreal feeling whenever we book someone for an event at Boswell that I never expected to be hosting. If you ever said to me ten years ago that one day Clinton Kelly of What Not to Wear and The Chew would be visiting, I probably would have laughed hysterically. For one thing, I would have told you I'm not hosting anyone - I'm buying books for Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops and I'm afraid of speaking in front of a crowd of more than 10. I did in fact occasionally host events at Schwartz, but my specialty was for groups of...10. And I wouldn't know what The Chew was.

Reading Mr. Kelly's new book of essays, I Hate Everyone, Except You, I'm guessing he also would have been surprised at the turn his life has taken. He started out in the world of magazine publishing, just before the fashion journalist turned into the newest breed of celebrity. His first job in front of the camera was for a QVC spinoff shot in Astoria, Queens (which we used to go to regularly, but our only stop was Uncle George's Greek restaurant, which was a favorite of my father). And like many career paths, his was filled with a number of twists and turns. Often it seems like it was fate that got him to the next rung of the ladder of success, but of course it also takes drive and talent, and for the path he chose, charisma too.

What fun this book is! Like Kelly, I grew up Long Island (well, Queens, but I could and did walk over the border). I also had the desperate desire to go to glamorous amusement parks, and when I first went, I went with my parents, also like Kelly. Once we got to the park, I became frightened of all but the gentlest of rides. It wasn't until my twenties when something snapped in me and I became rollercoaster obsessed. But perhaps part of my 20-something obsession with amusement parks was my interest in counting couples in matching outfits. They were mostly male-female couples but sometimes three or four women would attend the park dressed alike. Many of the outfits looked like shorty pajamas, or baseball uniforms that were emblazened with the names of football teams. When people discuss late eighties and early nineties fashion, you rarely see mention of matching shorty pajama style leisurewear, but believe me kiddies, it really happened.

After a number of years in fashion judgment, Kelly moved to cooking and crafts. But whatever he's talking about, he has a delightful sense of humor, and that all comes back in I Hate Everything, Except You. This new collection of autobiographical pieces touches on his blended family upbringing on Long Island, singleton New York adventures, life with his always understanding husband Damon, and of course a little small screen gossip. There are a few fictional pieces (featuring characters named Clayton and Chetley) and while some details can be a little racy, I know you can handle them.

Here's the table of contents:
Kamikaze (a trip to Action Park)
Brilliant Ideas (Trying for a job at Marie Claire)
Auditions, The Universe, and Other Whatnot (that fateful day)
Memorizing Porn (the dialogue is underrated)
Turd in the Punchbowl (Paula Deen's jellied chicken wings)
Freakin’ Fabulous, the Sitcom (What Not to Wear)
The Switch (how he met Damon Bayles)
Clinton for President (medicinal marijuana)
You Young, Me Restless (a Miami story)
Textbook Penis (stranger than fiction)
Stockholm Syndrome (Clinton and Damon go to Stockholm)
The Way it Went (a shopping channel story)
I’m Waiting (waiter stories)
Your a Psychopath (a little hate mail, and the misspelling is on purpose)
Salad Days (competitive salading)
Rich and Famous (giving a commencement address)

Tickets are $26 and include admission to the event and a copy of I Hate Everyone, Except You. On the night of the event only, an $18 Boswell gift card is available in lieu of the book. Kelly will personalize your book, will sign books brought from home, and will pose for photos. You can also order by phone by calling (800) 838-3006. It's event #2716017.

If you haven't been to one of our ticketed events, don't worry! There's a decent amount of street parking, and a parking garage across the street. The top floor is priced like the surface lot it replaced. There's a surface lot about two blocks north of us When you enter the store, you'll get a line letter that is like your ticket to let you back in if you leave. And if you come early, there are four places to eat within a block of us--Pizza Man, Cafe Hollander, Bel Air, and Henrys.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Event preview: Nick Petrie in conversation with Jon Jordan, Emily Fridlund in conversation with me, Kevin Henkes, and Clinton Kelly, which is ticketed

It's a clean sweep this week, as I've read all the books we're featuring at events this week. It's harder to do than you think.

Tuesday, January 10, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Nick Petrie author of Burning Bright, in conversation with Crimespree's Jon Jordan

From Daniel: "Peter Ash is still on the run from his PTSD, but this time he’s in the redwoods wilderness of Northern California. Escaping from from a bear, he finds an investigative reporter hiding from a surprisingly violent group of government agents, who started pursuing her after the sudden death of her mom, an academic researcher in technology. Do they think that her mother passed info to daughter, and will they bother to let her live if they get it? Ash is always up for a challenge, and it doesn’t hurt that an attraction is brewing between our couple on the run. Burning Bright may not have the gritty Milwaukee setting of his first novel, The Drifter, but it makes up for it in thrills. It’s a heart-stopping chase, filled with all the paranoia that ensues in this age of the easily hacked and traced. "

We have had so much fun hand-selling The Drifter this past year and it's great to see that Burning Bright is building on the succcess of the previous novel featuring Peter Ash. At Murder and Mayhem, The Drifter was our bestselling book, what with half the coordinators of the program talking it up. It's such a great start to a series, and though Peter Ash titles will take place all over the country (and perhaps outside of it), book #1 in the series will always be right here in Milwaukee.

Burning Bright is featured on Entertainment Weekly's Must List this week. And David Martindale in the Fort Worth Star Telegram had great things to say about the new book: "The first quarter of the book is a roller-coaster adventure in an almost literal sense, a fast and dangerous chase that begins with a zip-line ride from tree to tree and ends with a wild auto pileup and shootout along a desolate forest road. It’s what Peter thinks of as 'a pretty interesting day.'

Nick Petrie will be at Boswell for the launch on Tuesday, January 10, 7 pm, where he'll be in conversation with Crimespree Magazine's Jon Jordan. After he does some touring, he'll be back to do two more library events, on Friday, January 20, 6:30 pm, at Greendale's Hose Tower, and Saturday, January 21, 1 pm, at the Whitefish Bay Library. He'll be at our friends at Books and Company in Oconomowoc on Thursday, January 19, 7 pm.

Friday, January 13, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Emily Fridlund author of History of Wolves in conversation with Boswell's Daniel Goldin

Daniel Goldin writes: "In a small town in the Minnesota North Woods, Linda stumbles through high school (or maybe middle school). Her parents are refugees from a commune and are not particularly great at socializing. At school, Linda’s teacher is fired for possessing inappropriate materials. The rumor is that he also was spending time with a classmate, but it’s not like Linda is ever going to spend the real story. The only people she spends time with is her neighbors, who hire her to take care of her son Paul. He’s an odd kid, but he and Linda bond, which only makes things tougher when Linda figures out what’s going on with the family. This is a coming-of-age novel that ponders how a kid can make sense of the world in the face of trauma. The moody wilderness setting could easily be Wisconsin as much as Minnesota, and this is the kind of book that makes me wish that Midwesterners had more of a regional sensibility, like Southerners, so that we would cheer on great fiction writers like Fridlund, whose only sin is that they are writing on the other side of a river."

From Megan Hustad in The New York Times Book Review: "It is not giving away too much to reveal that after ratcheting up the tension, Fridlund does not take readers to the sunless place many might guess — a warren of child pornographers deep in the woods, an inconvenient hole in the ice. That I was relieved at the slow-motion tragedy that does unfold is testimony to Fridlund’s daring. An artful story of sexual awakening and identity formation turns more stomach-churning; child sacrifice takes many forms, and sometimes the act doesn’t require bloodshed but simply adults too wedded to their ideals."

Emily Fridlund has had her fiction has appeared in a variety of journals, including Boston Review, Zyzzyva, and Five Chapters. She holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Fridlund’s story Catapult was a finalist for the Noemi Book Award for Fiction and the Tartts First Fiction Award. The opening chapter of History of Wolves won the 2013 McGinnis-Ritchie Award for Fiction.

Should be a great event. Join us! One last pitch: a profile in Bookselling This Week, from the American Booksellers Association.

Saturday, January 14, 2:00 pm at Boswell:
Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes comes to Boswell for Egg.

Kevin Henkes picture books have taken a bit of a turn towards the metaphorical, what with Waiting and now Egg. Kirkus Reviews also noticed the connection between the two books: "In Waiting, he used white space to great effect to give the figurines space as their attention was directed outward, to the moon, the stars, the wind. Here, pages are framed, and some are divided into four or 16 squares, which then open to full-page spreads depicting surprise, wonder, and newfound companionship. The frames and boxes complement the idea of containment in eggs, especially of the something enclosed in that fourth egg. When the four friends float off into the sunset, the sun itself morphs into an egg shape, with a hint of a new surprise in their lives. Another stunner from Henkes, who is able to evoke so much with few words and such seemingly simple illustrations."

What I love about these books are the sense of wonder they inspire, returning me, even as an adult, to my childhood. And I love the panel designs, which remind me of my favorite comics strips. They so remind me of some of my very favorite Sunday strips from Peanuts, no less. I might be off base here, but if you don't believe me, maybe you should check your memory by rereading some old collections.

More raving from School Library Journal: "Fans of Henkes will delight in his use of line, simple forms, and a gentle palette, all of which clearly portray feelings, depict action, and suggest character. The concise text and straightforward illustrations, however, belie a more complicated tale. Is it simply a story of waiting--perhaps one of friendship? Or does it suggest the cyclical nature of young choosing their actions and flying out into the world? This is a book that readers will want to pore over and talk about and read again and again."

We're so excited to be hosting Mr. Henkes, but please note, there are signing restrictions for this event. To enter the signing line you must purchase a copy of Egg. There are also no posed photos, videos, or flash photography.

Saturday, January 14, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
A ticketed evening with Clinton Kelly, author of I Hate Everyone, Except You

Daniel's take: "Though he’d already been exposed to the glamourous world of television hosting when he fronted a short-lived, upmarket QVC spinoff, life truly changed for magazine editor Clinton Kelly when he auditioned for a makeover reality show called What Not to Wear. Now as one of the moderator of The Chew, the hit television show, Kelly has moved from clothes to cooking and crafts. But whatever he’s talking about, Clinton Kelly has a wicked sense of humor and that all comes out in I Hate Everyone, Except You, a new collection of autobiographical pieces that touch on his blended family upbringing on Long Island, singleton New York adventures, life with his always understanding husband Damon, and of course a little small screen gossip. There are a few fictional pieces (featuring characters named Clayton and Chetley) and while some details can be a little racy, it’s nothing more than you’d catch on an average episode of Will and Grace. There’s a lot of funny stuff in here and a number of pieces are quite moving. If you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed."

From Amy Scribner at Bookpage: "No matter how you know Kelly, you will know him infinitely better after reading I Hate Everyone, Except You, his hilarious, wise and revealing new memoir. It seems no topic is off-limits for Kelly (except his beloved grandma), who grew up gawky and gay on Long Island. He writes warmly of his family, including his stepfather, who gamely took on him and his sister when he married their mom. He recalls his time on What Not to Wear with just the right dash of gossip, and writes candidly about meeting his future husband, psychologist Damon Bayles."

Tickets are $26 and include admission to the event and a copy of I Hate Everyone, Except You. On the night of the event only, an $18 Boswell gift card is available in lieu of the book (though why you're not taking the book is beyond me). Kelly will personalize your copy of I Hate Everyone, Except You, will sign books brought from home, and will pose for photos.

In addition to their website, you can purchase your ticket at Brown Paper Tickets or by phone at 800-838-3006. And if you need us to help, come to the store and we'll walk you through registration.

Photo credits!
Emily Fridlund: Doug Knutson
Kevin Henkes: Michael Corpora
Clinton Kelly: Heidi Gutman

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Boswell Bestsellers, week ending January 6, 2017

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (event at Boswell Mon Feb 6, 7 pm)
4. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
5. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
6. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
7. The Nix, by Nathan Hill
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. The Trespasser, by Tana French
10. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund (event at Boswell Fri Jan 13 7 pm)

It may be a new year but this week's top 10 looks surprisingly like holiday 2016, with the addition of Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves. The Minneapolis Star Tribune features a review from Peter Geye, whom has coincidentally been one of the comparison authors we've been using as we promote the book and event on January 13. He writes: "When a young family moves in across the lake, she finds herself babysitting the family’s young boy, Paul. If their bond does not evolve into love, it certainly takes on the blush of a deep and curious friendship. Over the course of a year, as their bond forms, Linda and Paul learn to coexist in a house most notable for its strangeness."

 I understand Geye wanting to pull out the factual errors in a fictional book as I almost threw a novel against a wall several years ago when an author who set a book in Milwaukee listed street names in the wrong order and incorrect zip codes. By all means change a place for the sake of the book, but if you're going to use real details, please get them right for the locals. You wouldn't put have a character cross Madison Avenue between First and Second in Manhattan, would you? But I digress.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. America's War for the Greater Middle East, by Andrew J. Bacevich
2. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
3. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
4. Upstream, by Mary Oliver
5. Classic German Baking, by Luisa Weiss
6. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
7. The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
8. Books for Living, by Will Straube (event Mon 3/6, 7 pm)
9. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
10. Mary Astor's Purple Diary, by Edward Sorel

When your losing faith in print reviews, along comes Woody Allen's take on Mary Astor's Purple Diary (already recommended by Jen Steele at Boswell) in The New York Times Book Review, which gives Edward Sorel's biography a nice bump: "I believe it was Sartre who said all lives were of equal value and who am I to argue the point, but some lives are so much more fun to read about than others, and Sorel has told Astor’s story with great flair and energy. I hope he gets his wish and over time Mary winds up commemorated on a postage stamp. Until then, I’m going to have another look under my linoleum. Maybe among all that schmutz there’s an idea I could take to the bank."

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (event Tue Jan 10, 7 pm)
3. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
4. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
5. The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
7. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
8. The Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer
9. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
10. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg

The Fishbowl is the story of one goldfish's plunge down 27 stories of apartment building as life goes on around it. The rumor is that Bradley Somers's novel worked much better in independent bookstores than other channels. If other booksellers are as enthusiastic as Boswell's Sharon Nagel, the paperback will break out! We're now close to 20 copies sold, on top of the 10 we sold in hardcover. It might be time for some of the rest of us to get our hand-sell groove on and help Sharon, who called the story "unique and fun."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. On Air, by Katrina Kravy (event at Boswell Thu Jan 19, 7 pm)
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
4. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
5. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
6. Nonstop Metropolis, by Rebecca Solnit
7. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
8. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
9. My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem
10. Bob Burgers Adult Coloring Book, by Loren Bouchard

With the opening of Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterley's nonfiction account has gone to the top of the national charts. One of the strange things that happens when the film rights are sold quickly is that the hardcover only really got a few months before paperback release. From Cara Buckley's New York Times profile: "Ms. Shetterly happened upon the idea for the book six years ago, when she and her husband, Aran Shetterly, then living in Mexico, were visiting her parents here. The couple and Ms. Shetterly’s father were driving around in his minivan when he mentioned, very casually, that one of Ms. Shetterly’s former Sunday school teachers had worked as a mathematician at NASA, and that another woman she knew calculated rocket trajectories for famous astronauts."

Books for Kids
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone illustrated by J.K. Rowling/Jim Kay
3. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen
4. Dog Man Unleashed V2, by Dav Pilkey
5. The Warden's Daughter, by Jerry Spinelli
6. Double Down V11, by Jeff Kinney
7. Dog Man V1, by Dav Pilkey
8. We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen
9. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
10. Pat the Zoo, by Dorothy Kunhardt

Who doesn't love a new release in January? The publisher calls The Warden's Daughter a knockout story of a girl who must come to terms with her mother's death from inside the walls of a prison. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro covers this novel, which has origins in a real-life woman he met in Norristown, Pennsylvia, his hometown: NPR notes: "Spinelli tells the story of Cammie O'Reilly, who lost her mother when she was a baby. Cammie has grown up in the Hancock County Prison, where her dad is the warden. With her 13th birthday approaching, Cammie decides it's time to find a mom, so she seeks out maternal support from the female inmates."

Over at the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page, Nick Petrie is featured for his second novel. Jim Higgins notes: Burning Bright (yes, titled after William Blake's famous poem) moves from California redwoods to the high-tech, caffeinated world of Seattle. 'Part of the DNA of Peter is that he moves from place to place, and that's a lot of fun for a writer,' Petrie said during a recent interview. Petrie said those dramatic scenes among the redwoods were partly inspired by his reading Richard Preston's The Wild Trees, a nonfiction account of the ecosystem among the treetops — and of the unusual scientists and explorers who climb up there."

From Lauren Patten comes a review of Chris Bohjalian Sleepwalker, the story of the disappearance of Annalee Ahlberg. The author of Before You Know Kindness and The Sandcastle Girls keeps us guessing: "Along the way, Bohjalian educates us about the scientific explanations for sleepwalking. At first they seem merely interesting. Then Bohjalian leads us into a darker topic, sexual behavior in sleep (SBS). At that point, we realize that by his offering the matter-of-fact scientific evidence behind sleep disorders, Bohjalian has been slowly conditioning us to willingly enter a somewhat alarming and deviant place. The SBS angle only deepens the plot."

Christi Clancy takes on Roxane Gay's new collection of short stories, Difficult Women. She notes: "Many of Gay’s primarily female characters are haunted by painful memories of abuse and loss. Some are loved and some are lonely, although these categories are not mutually exclusive. They are horny. They are not nice. They are calloused and bruised and yet, somehow, they endure. Endurance, however, comes at a cost. The constant friction in their lives is a source of quiet anger — an anger you hardly notice in one story, but then you read another, and another, and, taken together, the low hum of discontent in this collection rises to an alarming shriek."

Oh,  and one last link! Ayad Akhtar will be in town for the Milwaukee premiere of Disgraced at the Milwaukee Rep. In this profile, Jim Higgins notes in the Journal Sentinel notes: "Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2013, Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, featuring an explosive dinner-party argument about Islam, has become a bit less shocking but even more relevant. When a future president banters with reporters about the idea of a Muslim registry or lashes out at the Muslim parents of an American soldier killed in Iraq, it's not hard to imagine an increase in public arguments resembling the private one in Disgraced. Akhtar will be speaking at Boswell on Saturday, January 21, 11 am.