Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Books from Lawrence Wright, Zephyr Teachout, Christian Rudder, Terrence Holt, and Diane Ackerman

As you know from the Boswellians post, today is the day that Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests come out, but we're talking up nonfiction today. The first book on our list is Lawrence Wright's Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David (Knopf). If you're like me, you already devoured Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air today. The peace that resulted was unprecedented, and a lot of it came from Carter's unique relationship with Sadat--it just goes to show how important inter-personal relationships are to world events. Joe Klein in his New York Times review explains that the origins of this "magnificent" book about a peace of history mostly ignored by historians was a play that Lawrence Wright called Camp David. That Wright is a man of many talents; it's too bad I missed his epic opera about Scientology.

When our Harvard/Yale/MIT rep was in today, I asked him if Zephyr Teachout, the author of Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard) was related to Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal drama critic. She is not, but their common name led them to a friendship. John noted that Ms. Teachout did just capture a third of the vote in the Democratic primary running against Andrew Cuomo in the Working Families Party. Here is a profile of Teachout in The New Yorker; it turns out that the book doubles as a campaign platform, albeit a particularly academic one.

Speaking of The Wall Street Journal, I just read an article that discussed how online quizzes, all the rage right now, are a goldmine for advertisers too. For some reason, we're much more likely to give out personal relationships if it reveals which character in Grease we most resemble. That's my segue to Christian Rudder's Dataclysm: Who We Are* (*When We Think No One's Looking.) (Crown). It's about how we live so much of our lives online that data scientists can finally observe us in vast numbers, without filters. The author was a co-founder and president of OKCupid (now part of IAC Interactive and also the focus of a Wall Street Journal story--that subscription is really paying off, though this link is to an old article which speculates on them spinning off the Match group. Here's The Washington Post review from recent guest Jordan Ellenberg. 

It's a rather black group of covers, isn't it? I'll switch things up with a plug for Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories (Liveright), from Terrence Holt. Holt's short stories, In the Valley of Kings, had a long-time staff rec at Boswell and was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham award. Well of course he was a doctor (MDs are such overachievers, are they not?) and as such, here are some essays of being a resident; this time Boswellian Jane flagged this an important and powerful book. Danielle Ofri remarked in The New York Times that Holt's prose was "exquisite and restrained." The much-missed Susan Gusho (of Harry W. Schwartz and Next Chapter, now at Watermark in Wichita) gushes: "Both human and humane, Internal Medicine beautifully spans the gap between doctor and patient, between data and meaning, between science and art. If fiction is a lens revealing greater truth, readers can glean much about the hopes and frailties of doctors and patients, that we are all, finally, heir to." Read the whole review here

At the sister imprint of Liveright, W.W. Norton, a major fall release is The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us, by Diane Ackerman. In what is said to be her landmark book (seems impossible, as she's had several groundbreakers already), "she confronts the unprecedented reality that one podigiously intelligent and meddlesome creature, Homo sapiens, is now the dominant force shaping the future of the planet Earth." Jared Diamond writes: "Ackerman's vivid writing, inexhaustible stock of insights, and unquenchable optimism have established her as a national treasure, and as one of our great authors." Rob Nixon reviewed the book in The New York Times; he called it a "dazzling achievement but questioned some of her pronouncements." And here's Barbara J. King in The Washington Post.

Hope something here captures your attention. Every featured title is Boswell's Best through at least next Monday.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Event Post--Daniel Shumski's Waffles, Chelsea Cain Kicks It, Kevin Miyazaki offers a Re-lake-able Series of Portraits, the Pout Pout Fish Goes to the Library, Michael Perry Does Dystopian, and the UWM English Department Unites in Reading.

Monday, September 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:

Daniel Shumski, author of Will It Waffle?: 53 Unexpected and Irresistible Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron, with samples by Julie Pandl, author of Memoir of the Sunday Brunch.

From the publisher: "How many great ideas begin with a nagging thought in the middle of the night that should disappear by morning, but doesn t? For Daniel Shumski, it was: "Will it waffle?" Hundreds of hours, countless messes, and 53 perfected recipes later, that answer is a resounding: Yes, it will! Steak? Yes! Pizza? Yes! Apple pie? Emphatically yes. And that s the beauty of being a waffle iron chef waffling food other than waffles is not just a novelty but an innovation that leads to a great end product, all while giving the cook the bonus pleasure of doing something cool, fun, and vaguely nerdy (or giving a reluctant eater your child, say a great reason to dig in)."

Behind the griddle is Julie Pandl, one writer whose spent many a brunch behind a waffle iron. The author of Memoir of the Sunday Brunch is helping us with samples. 

Kristine Kierzek speaks to Shumski in the Journal Sentinel food section.

Listen to Daniel Shumski on Central Time's Food Friday segment on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Watch Shumski today on Morning Blend on WTMJ4 and Studio A on Fox6.

Tuesday, September 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Chelsea Cain, author of One Kick and Heartsick:

After a series of adventures with psychopath Gretchen Lowell, her new heroine, Kick Lanigan, has a dark past, having been kidnapped as a child, and held captive for several years. Now as an adult, she's investigating another missing child: Booklist raves: "This is an edge-of-the-chair thriller, and Cain negotiates the twists and turns with finesse while keeping her foot firmly on the gas pedal. Excruciating yet always compelling."

Alison Flood in the (UK) Guardian praises Cain's newest: "Leavened with Cain's pitch-black wit, One Kick, the start of a new series, is a dark, dangerous journey into evil to find the vanished children, and entirely hide-away-until-you-finish-it gripping."

Wednesday, September 17, 6 pm, at the Haggerty Museum of Art, 530 N 13th St, Milwaukee, WI 53233: Kevin Miyazaki, photographer of Perimeter: A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan.

From the publisher: "Commissioned by the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University to create an artwork reflecting on the importance of freshwater, Milwaukee-based photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki embarked on a two-week, 1,800-mile drive around Lake Michigan. In Perimeter, Miyazaki's images of the lake and those drawn to it produce what he calls 'a contemporary portrait of Lake Michigan.'"

Read this interview with Mary Louise Schumacher in the Journal Sentinel regarding Perimeter's original exhibition at the Haggerty.

Thursday, September 18, 4 pm, at the Oak Creek Public Library, 8620 S Howell Ave, Oak Creek, WI 53154:
Deborah Diesen and Daniel X. Hannah, author and illustrator of The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School.

On The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School: "Mr. Fish nervously awaits his first day of school. He frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math until he's reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills."

Watch Deborah and Dan on Morning Blend on Thursday. I'll have the link posted this weekend. Meanwhile you can enjoy these Pout Pout Fish videos.

Thursday, September 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Perry, author of The Scavengers and Coop

Michael Perry's first novel for kids is, per the publisher, "an imaginative and humorous novel for middle-graders. With a neighbor's help, 12-year-old Ford Falcon learns to survive in the harsh world outside the Bubble Cities by scavenging for items to use or tradeNskills she needs after her parents go missing."

Kirkus Reviews enthuses: "Sufficient unanswered questions exist to fuel a sequel, but there's no cliffhanger-Perry provides a satisfying closing for his restless heroine.Comparisons to other gritty, engaging tough-girl-with-a-strong-moral-compass stories are inevitable, but Maggie has originality and grit to spare."

Listen to this interview with Michael Perry on Wisconsin Public Radio's Larry Meiller Show.

Friday, September 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
The UWM Department of English presents United We Read. One faculty and three graduate students from the Creative Writing program will be reading from this work in the fall 2014 launch of this popular series that moves from bookstore to bar to park.

This week's fantastic lineup includes Professor Kimberly Blaeser, and graduate students Ann-Marie Blanchard, Franklin Cline, and Mark Brand.​


A sneak peek at Monday, September 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven, reading with the Soulstice Theatre.

Entertainment Weekly gave Station Eleven a resounding A: "One of her great feats is that the story feels spun rather than plotted, with seamless shifts in time and characters. Here, a young Arthur's fateful meeting with his first wife. Then, a Michigan airport where stranded passengers cluster in huddles of horror beneath screens showing CNN. Now, a resolute band of actors whose caravan roams between dystopian settlements performing Shakespeare and Beethoven. ''Because survival is insufficient,'' reads a line taken from Star Trek spray-painted on the Traveling Symphony's lead wagon. The genius of Mandel's fourth novel—the first with the marketing muscle of a major publisher—is that she lives up to those words. This is not a story of crisis and survival. It's one of art and family and memory and community and the awful courage it takes to look upon the world with fresh and hopeful eye."
 
Sigrid Nunez reviews Station Eleven in The New York Times Book Review: "Station Eleven is as much a mystery as it is a post-apocalyptic tale, and Mandel is especially good at planting clues and raising the kind of plot-thickening questions that keep the reader turning pages. Why does the prophet own a dog with the same name as a dog owned by Dr. Eleven? What is the meaning of the two black knives tattooed on Kirsten’s wrist? Who is this “V.” to whom Arthur has written a slew of letters over the years? If Mandel has to rely heavily on coincidence to bring certain parts off, she does so with satisfying panache."

Here's our blog post about the Soulstice Theatre collaboration, featuring Margaret Casey, Bo Johnson, Josh Perkins, and Stephan Roselin, and organized by Mark Flagg. Their next production is a staged reading of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, on September 19, 20, 26, and 27.
 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Annotated Boswell Book Company's Sunday Bestsellers, Week Ending September 13, 2014, including Sunday Journal Sentinel Reviews

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Liar's Wife, by Mary Gordon
2. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
3. The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
4. Vampires of Manhattan, by Melissa de la Cruz
5. Perfidia, by James Ellroy
6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
7. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
8. The Secret Place, by Tana French
9. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
10. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

We highlighted six new fiction books this week, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven on Tuesday, plus five more on Wednesday, but we didn't yet get around to James Ellroy's Perfidia. His World War II novel is set after Pearl Harbor, when a team of three Los Angeles detectives (including one Japanese-American) is charged with solving the murder of a Japanese family. Colette Bancroft in the Tampa Bay Times (you should know her because her excellent reviews are often reprinted in the Journal Sentinel) writes: "James Ellroy is back at work on his version of the 20th century. And if, like me, you are among his legion of fans, you will dive into Perfidia with a shiver that is equal parts anticipation and fear — because you know it's going to get very dark very fast."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau (event is Wednesday, September 24, 7 pm, at Boswell)
2. Perimeter, by Kevin Miyazaki (event is Wednesday, September 17, 6 pm, at the Haggerty)
3. 13 Hours, by Mithcell Zukov
4. Waking Up, by Sam Harris
5. Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
6. World Order, by Henry Kissinger
7. Elephant Company, by Vicki Croke
8. The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, by Greil Marcus
9. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott
10. Death of a King, by Tavis Smiley

A customer came up to me who was reading Henry Kissinger's World Order, was in wonder that the statesman was now 90-something. John Micklethwait, in The New York Times, is more struck by an alternate history in which Kissinger might still be running foreign policy: "If you think America is doing just fine, then skip ahead to the poetry reviews. If, however, you worry about a globe spinning out of control, then World Order is for you. It brings together history, geography, modern politics and no small amount of passion."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy (event is Tuesday, September 30, 7 pm, at Boswell)
2. Behind God's Back, by Miki Knezevic
3. The Mathematician's Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer
4. TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
5. Longbourn, by Jo Baker
6. A Guide for the Perplexed, by Dara Horn
7. Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein
8. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
9. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Based on the number of titles in the top ten that I've read, you can guess that we had a major book club selecting their titles for the year. The Illusion of Separateness was further buoyed by a program Mr. Van Booy is doing at an area school. He'll be speaking to two high school classes, and the kids will be reading the book ahead of time. I just can't figure out why other stores haven't jumped on the hand-sell bandwagon was this book. It's a deceptively easy read that nonetheless offers a poetic style and much food for thought, but best of all, a lot of readers finish the book very enthusiastic and ready to spread the word. That's why the Milwaukee area sales for the hardcover were among the best in the country. It wasn't just us--it was folks who learned about the book from us recommending it to other people. And our enthusiasm continues; Mr. Van Booy visits on Tuesday, September 30,  7 pm.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
2. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
3. The Bully Pulpit, by Doris Keans Goodwin
4. Inside the Godfather, by Daryl Brown
5. Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel

With the Roosevelts: An Intimate History documentary series from Ken Burns starting (and getting great advance reviews, like this from David Bianculli at Fresh Air), Simon and Schuster moved up Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Bully Pulpit to take advantage of the resulting enthusiasm. She was one of the historian consultants for the series, per this article from Mark Dawidziak in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Books for Kids:
1. Fiona's Lace, by Patricia Polacco
2. Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece, by Patricia Polacco
3. The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
4. The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco
5. Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, by Dr. Seuss
6. Blue Bloods, by Melissa de la Cruz
7. The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco
8. Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
9. Gifts of the Heart, by Patricia Polacco
10. The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco

Did I mention that Patricia Polacco visited this week? But I should also note there's been a lot of enthusiasm for the previously unpublished Dr. Seuss stories, Horton and the Kwuggerbug. Here's a story about the book's release from NPR's Morning Edition.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews the new novel from Lauren Beukes, Broken Monsters, which chronicles the search for a bizarre serial killer through modern Detroit. Higgins writes: "Beukes, a genre-busting South African novelist with a sharp prose style who has a good handle on America, won the United Kingdom's top sci-fi prize for the dark fantasy Zoo City, then delivered The Shining Girls, one of the great horror-thrillers of our time. I'd rate Broken Monsters just a tick below The Shining Girls because of the great compassion she invested in the earlier novel's victims. But we're talking here about the difference between an A+ and an A." Mike Fischer reviews The Paying Guests, the new novel by Sarah Waters, that we've had some great reads on at Boswell. Several Boswellians even interviewed the author. Fischer writes: "This being a Waters novel, ecstasy of a different sort awaits us; for all their differences, Frances and Lilian's physical proximity soon becomes intimacy. Waters always writes well about sex and her new novel is no exception: It's both hot and sensually beautiful, transcending cheap cliché." That said, he was pretty disappointed in the book, particularly when a criminal act separates the two and yet binds them together with a secret.

I totally understand where Fischer is with this, but since I've got three fans on staff, I've got to counterpoint the review with one from the Boston Globe, where Rebecca Steinitz claims Waters is writing "at the height of her powers." She has a caveat: "Despite — or perhaps because of — its ominous tension, the middle slows to a near-glacial pace (including a single climactic evening that stretches to about 30 pages of minute detail). But overall, the novel is so delicious that, by its gasp-worthy last few pages, any bitter taste is long forgotten."

Here's info on the Sterling North Book Festival, taking place at Edgerton High School on September 27, featuring David Wiesner, Deborah Blum, David Benjamin, and several other area writers. More info here.

A Hank the Dog book is coming. We'll find out if it's for the Brewers only to sell, or whether they want us to sell it too. In the old days, you wanted other retailers to participate, but nowadays, online sales take care of that reach.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wrapping the Week Up in Words: Book-Related Segments from the Shepherd Express, Urban Milwaukee, OnMilwaukee.com, Lake Effect, Wisconsin Public Radio, and Morning Blend.

First of all, don't forget to read Friday's post on The Boswellians, where Sharon, Jen, and Carly interview Sarah Waters, author of The Paying Guests, on sale Tuesday, September 16.

And now for this week's books in the news, Milwaukee edition. First up is the Shepherd Express book page. David Luhrssen reviews Brazil: The Fortunes of War: World War II and the Making of Modern Brazil, by Neill Lochery. His take?: "Lochery writes with an eye for detail, putting readers in the Copacabana and on the beaches of Rio as well as the smoke-filled conferences were deals where made."

While we hosted James Brown's son Daryl, The Shepherd Express came down on the side of his sister Yamma Brown, featuring Cold Sweat: My Father, James Brown, and Me, written with Robin Gaby Risher. David Luhrssen calls this a "dishy account of an imperious talent whose uncontrollable rage included beating her mother behind closed doors." My take on this one? They haven't finished arguing this legacy out.

And thanks for featuring Miki Knezevic's Behind God's Back as the Book Preview this week. We had a great time.

On to Will Stotts, Jr.'s column in Dial/Urban Milwaukee. This week he recommends the third volume in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy. He dares you to start right in on volume three, The Magician's Land. From Stotts: "Purists would never start at the end of a trilogy, but I think this book is good enough to make you set those prohibitions aside. Compulsives may balk, but I wouldn’t want to delay this kind of gratification just because I hadn’t read the two previous novels."

From OnMilwaukee.com, I was remiss in not linking to Bobby Tanzilo's interview with Stuart Rojstaczer, author of The Mathematician's Shiva. On his Milwuakee connections: "I grew up in a colorful community of Polish and Soviet WWII survivors who ended up in Milwaukee and my childhood is a great wellspring of emotions and creative ideas. I write a lot of short stories that take place in Milwaukee. There might be a time when I take a selection of them and create a book." It turns out that Rose Anne, a long-time FOB (friend of Boswell) went to high school with Mr. Rojstaczer. And yes, the "j" is pronounced like a "y."

Over on Milwaukee Public Radio Lake Effect, Mitch Teich interviewed Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. From their write up: "These creative pairs span a diverse group of fields - computer science (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak), biology (Francis Crick and James Watson), and even art (Vincent van Gogh and his brother, Theo). But Shenk says no pair better exemplifies the power and the chemistry of creative partnerships than John Lennon and Paul McCartney."

On Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed a member of another collaborative pair this week, Bob Gaudio who made his start with the four seasons. Early in their career, he and Frankie Valli made a handshake deal--Valli would share in the publishing royalties of Gaudio's songs, and Gaudio would split Valli's performance revenues. It still holds more than fifty years later.

Stacy Tonio and Ken Keffler appeared on Monday's show to talk about canning and preserving the flavors of summer. Their most recent book is Truth about Nature: A Family's Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors.

On Wednesday, Lake Effect talked to Patricia Skalka, author of Death Stalks Door County. The inspiration?: "Author Patricia Skalka has been traveling to Door County for nearly 30 years. She and her family have a rustic cottage where they stay to enjoy the serenity and the county’s culture. But her long periods of time there got her to thinking: What about the dark side of Door County?"

Our Door County fiction event is on Monday, September 29, 6:30 pm, at the Milwaukee Public Library's Loos Room. J.F. Riordan appears, author of North of the Tension Line, the first in a series of novels about Door County, which as you've guessed, is "north of the tension line."

Friday's Lake Effect features two book segments. First up is Karen Abbott, author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, "the story of how four women were involved in the war effort on both sides during the Civil War."

Up next is Jordan Ellenberg, UW-Madison mathematician who recently appeared at Boswell for How Not to Be Wrong. He explains how "math is all around us, all the time." Right now there's just a link to the whole show. If I see segmented links, I'll update this post.

Over at Wisconsin Public Radio, Kathleen Dunn spoke to Clarence Page on Tuesday, whose new book, Culture Worrier: Selected Columns 1984-2014: Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change, has just been released by Agate Publishling. The book contains 172 columns originally published by the Chicago Tribune.

On Thursday, Kathleen Dunn spoke to sociologist Marianne Cooper, author of Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times. From the program notes: "The author of a new book about about inequality and risk in American society joins Kathleen for a discussion about rising economic insecurity, rolled-up safety nets, and what really keeps Americans up at night." Publishers Weekly writes that "Cooper offers a robust analysis of gender dynamics, with sharp insights about the heavy burden on women to manage the family's anxiety. Cooper's necessary and timely study is a discomfiting reminder of the human cost of the recession"

On the Wednesday Joy Cardin show, also on Wisconsin Public Radio, the guest was Paul Roberts, author of the The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification, a book that we recapped in our new and noteworthy column. I listened to this interview and found the author's premise provocative: that online social networking and shopping has worsened our impulses to act impulsively.

On Thursday, Joy Cardin spoke to Parker Palmer, author of numerous books about spirituality, education, and politics. I should note that Parker Palmer is appearing in Milwaukee on Thursday, October 16, for a rare Milwaukee appearance. It's a ticketed event sponsored by The Medical Society. $40 tickets includes a book. Register here.

Over on Central Time, Veronica Rueckert and Rob Ferret talked with Jen Shelton, an English professor at Texas Tech University, on the topic of how World War I changed literature.

This week's Wisconsin authors segment features 13-year-old author Emily Page (Rawn), who has completed the second volume of a young adult trilogy called The Spirit's Shadow. She talks about how she writes in between her eighth grade studies. As the book is on a print-on-demand publishing platform, it's available from us to order, but pre-payment is necessary and the book is nonreturnable.

Friday's Central Time brings democratic candidate for governor Wendy Davis, who has written a new memoir, Forgetting to be Afraid. She's known as the politician who led an 11-hour filibuster to block a plan to close most abortion clinics in Texas.

On a lighter note, our new pal Daniel Shumski was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio's Food Friday (twice, as these things go, in the 3 pm and 5 pm hour) for Will it Waffle. Featured dishes are waffled eggs miga and red velvet waffled ice cream sandwiches. I am particularly excited about this interview as I overnighted the book, so I share some excitement in the booking. And of course Daniel Shumski will be waffling with Julie Pandl at Boswell next Monday, September 15, 7 pm.

On the Morning Blend, Friday's show featured Betsy Woodman, who that day was our host at Boswell. She spoke about the Jana Bibi novels, including her newest, Emeralds Included.

Wow, what a week in books! Hope you found something of interest for your to-be-read pile.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reviving Memories of Our Event with Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, and Chelsea Cain Last Year--Chelsea Cain is Coming Back, Pat Rothfuss is Our UWM Guest, and Palahniuk Has a New Book.

This went to folks who bought tickets to our Chuck Palahniuk event at the UWM Union last year.

Last year we had the great honor to host Chuck Palahniuk at the UWM Union. It was a great show filled with beach balls, glow sticks, laughs, and horrors, with great special guest stars Chelsea Cain and Monica Drake. Since you were one of our attendees, we thought you would want to know what our guests are up to this year.

Chuck Palahniuk’s got a new book out on October 21 called Beautiful You. It’s about a lonely law firm associate named Penny Harrigan who finds herself being wined and dined by a millionaire socialite and playboy, C. Linus Maxwell. Why does he have any interest in her? Could it be he is testing a line of sex toys, so powerful that it will cause women to leave men in droves? It’s a possibility. Publishers Weekly writes "Palahniuk continues to push limits in this satire of sex and consumerism... His cheeky wit is at its best in this grotesque novel; his semi-erotic writing is efficacious and there are some downright beautiful scenes."

Mr. Palahniuk is not touring Milwaukee this year, but we did get a giant inflatable banana to promote the book. You can hold a copy (of the book Beautiful You, not the banana) at the Boswell Books website, boswellbooks.com.

That said, we are very excited to welcome the return of Chelsea Cain, also featured at Palahniuk’s event. She’ll be at Boswell on Tuesday, September 16 for a free event promoting her new series, One Kick, starring Kick Lannigan, a woman who was abducted and held captive between the ages of six and eleven. She’s just the person to help other abducted children and her first case is a doozy. No advance registration for this one. Should be fun!

I also wanted to let you know that we do have a follow up event at the UWM Union this fall. On Friday, October 31 (yes, that’s Halloween), we’ll be hosting the great Patrick Rothfuss, for his first Milwaukee event in over five years. You know him from The Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear; his new release is The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a novella. Tickets will be $22 and include all taxes and fees and a copy of the new book. This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Bookstore. We should have tickets on the Brown Paper Tickets website around September 15. Just search “Boswell Rothfuss” and that should lead you to the page for sales.

A new Palahniuk, a return visit from Chelsea Cain, a rare appearance from Pat Rothfuss—how can this not be a great fall?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five New Novels, Two of Which are Set in 1886. Brian Hart, James Howard Kunstler, Lin Enger, Julie Lawson Timmer, and Laird Hunt (Plus Info on Larry Watson's Paperback Event in Elm Grove)

Folks know Leif Enger from Peace Like a River and So Brave, Young, and Handsome, for which he was the featured speaker at the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch in 2009. What folks may not know is that his brother, Lin Enger, is also a talented writer. An Iowa Writers Workshop grad, this Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship recipient teaches at Minnesota State University Moorehead.

His novel, The High Divide (Algonquin), is set in 1886. Gretta Pope wakes to discover her husband Ulysses has left his family behind, on the far edge of Minnesota's western prairie, with only the briefest of notes. Sons Eli and Danny set off after hi, following scan clues, and ending up in Minnesota's Badlands, and Gretta has no choice but to follow them, leading them all into a mess of complications. Enger has received many strong recommendations, including this from Larry Watson, who writes that "his characters are vivid and complex, and his descriptions of northern Minnesota in winter are astonishing. Powerful and engrossing."

Speaking of Watson, I should note that the paperback of Let Him Go is now out, a book that a number of us at Boswell championed. We're working with the Friends of the Elm Grove Library to present their Elm Grove Reads program featuring Watson at the Sunset Playhouse on Wednesday, October 22, 7 pm. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Elm Grove Library. Call (414) 782-6717 for more information.

Brian Hart's The Bully of Order (Harper) is his follow-up to Then Came the Evening. Strangely enough, it's also set in 1886 in the Washington territory. Jacob, a physician, and Nell Ellstrom find a new home on The Harbor with their son Duncan, only when Jacob is revealed to be a fraud, he skips out, leaving wife and son to fend for themselves. Duncan grows up and falls into any number of predicaments, like joining a criminal gang and falling in love with a woman well about his class.

Hart's got very nice advance reviews from Kevin Powers, Philipp Meyes, Amanda Coplin and John Dufresne. The starred Kirkus Review is particularly enthusiastic: "Hart’s sense of place—terrain, weather, frontier people—is brilliant, every scene an homage to Robert Altman’s epic McCabe and Mrs. Miller. It’s a tale of robber barons, 'clean, covetous and mean, and millworkers, lumberjacks and feral toughs, 'the maimed and the mutinous.'" I've also spotted a couple comparisons to Cormac McCarthy.

One novel that's garnered a lot of great enthusiasm from booksellers (and is still set in the 19th century but a couple of decades earlier) is Laird Hunt's Neverhome (Little, Brown). At Boswell, Jen Steele offered this recommendation: "Imagine if Penelope went off to war and Odysseus stayed home waiting for her return. In this Civil War Odyssey, Constance has disguised herself as Ash Thompson, joined the Union Army and gone off to war, leaving behind her husband to take care of their farm. Neverhome is a terrific and heartbreaking tale about Ash Thompson; wife, soldier, traitor and legend."

On the critic front, Matthew Tiffany offered this about Neverhome in The Kansas City Star: "Hunt’s writing is straightforward, unadorned in its complete portrait. At no point does the story feel like one told by a man in the 21st century; it is all of a piece with the temperament and thoughts of a woman taking up arms for her country. Laird Hunt has crafted a body of work in which each of his novels feels like an extension of those that came before it. Even with a wide range of subjects, his writing plumbs the depths of the the internal struggles we all face and the external circumstances that shape how we respond.

I've read a number of books by James Howard Kunstler in the past, and our buyer Jason has recommended some of the World Made by Hand novels. The newest is A History of the Future (Atlantic Monthly), a quiet post-apocalyptic novel where the end of oil, the pandemics, environmental disasters and the ensuing mayhem have left the survivors pursuing "a simpler and sometimes happier existence." In upstate New York's Union Grove, the townspeople prepare for a post-consumerist Christmas, while learning of the New Foxfire Republic, controlled by a female evangelical despot, a former country music star named Loving Morrow.

Donna Seaman in Booklist wrote that "Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner." It's kind of odd that Kunstler only links to Amazon on his website for book sales.

And finally, here's a new novel from Julie Lawson Timmer called Five Days Left (Putnam). It is notable to me, as it is the first Amy Einhorn book that's not "an Amy Einhorn Book." Of course nobody gossips with me so I don't know what happened, but it's not like her books weren't working--there are not one but two Liane Moriarty novels on the national bestseller lists right now, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies. We'll see what she brings to Flatiron, the new Macmillan division.

The story starts with Mara Nicholas, a woman who has it all, but we all know that doesn't bode well for an opening. This lawyer, devoted daughter, adoring wife, and loving adoptive mother has a secret, and she shares it in an online forum with Scott, a foster father who fears giving up the troubled boy in his care to his junkie mother. So I'm not sure why this is a secret, but Mara is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease and these two folks, separated by many miles, have little time left (five days, get it) with people they love.

Five Days Left has recommendations from Jodi Picoult and Christina Baker Kline, plus another starred Kirkus Reviews which notes: " Is it selfish for Scott to put the boy’s needs before his wife’s? Is it more selfish for Mara to abandon her family now than to ask them to care for her in the final stages of her disease? As Scott and Mara wrestle with ethical questions, the answers they find are both relatable and debatable. The characters are so affecting it’s tough to make it to Day 5. An authentic and powerful story.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Big Day Comes! "Station Eleven" is Out Today, and We Have Quite the Collaboration with the Soulstice Theatre when Author Emily St. John Mandel Comes to Town on Monday, September 22, 7 pm.

Our lesson for today is...listen to us. Yes, we have a lot of events, but sometimes we clearly are a little more excited than others. Today the announcement came for the Man Booker Shortlist, the first one with American authors included, and not one, but two authors who visited are in the top six. Congratulations to both Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Joshua Ferris, author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Thank you again for appearing at Boswell--we knew you when!

So I mention this today because there's a novel that comes out that we've got the same feeling about--that if you miss this event, one day you'll kick yourself. It's for Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, her fourth published novel, following Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet, which you may remember also led to a Boswell appearance from Mandel. It was a Saturday night event, which is a bit unusual for developing literary writers with no local ties, but this was what would work to make it onto the tour. Sometimes you take what you can get and make the best of it.

The Lola Quartet was her third novel with Unbridled and they'd done a great job getting booksellers behind Mandel. Not one, but two of her novels was the #1 Indie Next Pick for their respective months. But for some reason, the critics at big media, who sometimes, unfairly of course, overlook the small publishers gems, weren't buying in at the breakout level. It's tough for the indies to do a big launch campaign for fiction (nonfiction is easier, because the author's platform drives a lot of the momentum), and the books that work, either build slowly or win a major award, like Tinkers.

So it was with something akin to fascination when I heard that Emily St. John Mandel's next book would be published by Knopf from Jason Gobble*, our rep. We saw the book on the fall electronic catalog. Because of the heartland enthusiasm, Mandel would definitely making some midwest stops. Then we learned that the book would be on the editor's buzz list at the Book Expo. It's another genre change-up for Mandel, this time being a dystopian tale, set in a world destroyed by a killer flu. There are simply no people around to make the technology work, let alone keep law and order and prevent fires or react to natural disasters (the few survivors retreat into hiding), and with that, our systems collapse.

Uh, oh, now that our cult favorite author was breaking out nationally, would the tour wind up being restricted to the East and West coast? You laugh, but look at the tours for most high-profile literary writers. That's just the way it goes. But no, it turns out that not only is Emily St. John Mandel (photo credit Dese'rae Stage) coming to Boswell on Monday, September 22, but she's visiting Books and Company on September 23, both at 7, with additional stops in Illinois and Michigan, where much of the plot of Station Eleven unfolds.

But I must have inhaled an extra dose of caffeine, because it struck me with a breakout like this, we needed to go the extra mile to make this appearance more of an event. Several times we've had these great collaboration with theater groups, and Station Eleven was just the kind of novel where this might work. For one thing, the focus of the story is a theater/concert troupe that travels to small settlements to perform Shakespeare and classical music, twenty years after the apocalypse.

For another, I happened to be chatting with Mark Flagg of Soulstice Theatre, and he had collaborated with us once before, on our Dava Sobel Copernicus program for A More Perfect Heaven. It was great! So he rounded up some actors, and with input from the author, we've created a program that combines dramatic reading and a traditional author talk. And in addition to our event with Christopher Moore for The Serpent of Venice, you could say we did this once before, for Manette Ansay's Good Things I Wish You. More music than theater, but same concept. I wish we could do these more, but they are hard and require a lot of love from the collaborators.

Before I get to writing about the artists, I wanted to include Sharon and my staff recs for Station Eleven (the UK and Canada jacket is shown to the right). First from Boswellian Sharon Nagel: "Emily St. John Mandel takes a radical departure from her earlier work such as The Singer’s Gun and The Lola Quartet to bring us a dark depiction of the collapse of civilization. Reminiscent of The Stand, by Stephen King, the majority of the population is wiped out by a highly contagious flu. The few that remain must do their best to rebuild a society of sorts without most modern conveniences such as electricity or the Internet. A group known as the Traveling Symphony crosses the country, performing Shakespeare for various settlements. This provides a bright spot in this new existence, and serves to represent that not everything of beauty from the former world has been lost. Station Eleven is a stark and stunningly written story about the resiliency of mankind."

Here's the rec from me: "In this powerful new novel, the end of civilization might not come via nuclear war or environmental catastrophe, but by a flu virus so lethal that there is simply nobody around to keep civilization going. By the time we’re in shape to recover, it’s too late to stop out-of-control fires, or contain lawlessness, let alone turn back on electricity, the internet, or gas pumps. In this post-apocalyptic world, small outposts remain, congregated around abandoned fast food restaurants and airplane terminals with little to bring joy and beauty to their lives aside from a periodic visit from the Traveling Symphony, a group of Shakespeare-performing classical musicians. One day, the Symphony comes to St. Deborah by the Water, only to find that the village has been taken over by a cult, and things turn particularly dangerous when one of the villagers becomes a stowaway. And then one of the performers, Kirsten, slowly learns that she and the ruthless cult leader might have more in common than she imagined. And in fact almost all the characters in this story are connected by an unlikely source—an actor named Arthur Leander, whose on-stage death opened the story. Station Eleven is an entrancing thriller/fantasy epic/comic satire/domestic drama, and while the setup might have reminded you of The Hunger Games, the result is more A Visit from the Goon Squad." (Just in case this gets cut and pasted out of here, I am still Daniel Goldin)

Here are the actors we are working with, in addition to Mark Flagg at Soulstice, who is coordinating the whole thing.

First up is Stephan Roselin. Stephan is excited to be working with Soulstice Theatre. He will also be directing a reading of Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations with Soulstice in March 2015. Stephan has been involved with Milwaukee theater for over 20 years. He was a Co-Founder/Producer/Actor with Bialystock and Bloom. He has also performed with The Milwaukee Rep,Chamber Theater, Next Act, First Stage Children's Theater, Renaissance Theaterworks, and Playwrights Studio Theater.

Josh Perkins has been involved in the Milwaukee theatre scene for the last 15 years. He's had the good luck to have acted for Bialystock and Bloom, Renaissance Theatreworks, Bunny Gumbo, Dramatists Theatre and acted/directed/designed many, many shows at Soulstice Theatre. His current Soulstice show is a staged reading of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio scripts. Josh is also a co-founder of Angry Young Men, ltd, a puppet performance group that has brought Night Of The Living Dead - The Puppet Show back to life at The Oriental Theater every Halloween for the last 7 years. Josh will also be working with Alchemist Theatre in their February 2015 production of 1984, a dark stage play based on George Orwell's dystopian novel.​

A veteran of Milwaukee’s theatre community, Bo Johnson has worked as an actor and technician for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Skylight Theatre, ComedySportz, First Stage Children’s Theater, The Dead Alewives, Theatre X, Theatre Gigante, Milwaukee Public Theatre, In Tandem Theater, Alchemist Theatre, American Folklore Theatre and many others. Just recently he co-founded a new company, Umbrella Group Milwaukee. Bo is currently in the cast of The Doyle and Debbie Show at Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret. Look for his production of Who Killed Santa this December.

Continuing to highlight our guests in reverse alphabetical order, we welcome Margaret Casey. Margaret’s theatrical journey started in Milwaukee and continued through many moves around the country and on to Germany and the UK. In recent years she has performed with Milwaukee Irish Arts, Soulstice Theatre, Boulevard Ensemble, Alchemist Theatre and Optimist Theatre. 

As mentioned above, the Soulstice Theatre's regular season starts with a reprisal of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as written by Douglas Adams. From the brilliantly twisted mind of Douglas Adams comes the staged reading that answers the question of life, the universe, and everything. Adams's book is one in which literally anything can happen, with the only rule being that what comes next will probably be the last thing the reader would expect and is bound to be amusing. Performances run Sept. 19 through 27 with more information here, noting that Fits 1-4 are performed on the 19th and 20th and Fits 5-8 are highlighted on September 26th and 27th. These staged readings are enhanced with lighting and original sound effects (as nearly as possible). It is humor and absurdity on a cosmic scale, i.e. just like life.

After that, The Soulstice is performing Moon Over Buffalo, running November 7 through 22, and then comes their version of Macbeth, with an all-female cast, in January 2015. Our collaboration with Soulstice originally commenced because of the Shakespeare connection, which was actually what led to the Theatre Gigante collaboration as well with Christopher Moore. It's always Shakespeare, isn't it?. Because as we've noted, King Lear plays a role in Station Eleven, not just as a pivotal plot point, but in theme as well.

The Soulstice Theatre is located at 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 2, in St. Francis, WI 53235. For more information, call (414)481-2800, or contact them here.

To recap:  1) Station Eleven is on sale today. 2) Our event with Emily St. John Mandel and The Soulstice Theatre is Monday, September 22, 7 pm. If you can't attend, why not order a signed first edition?

*Mr. Gobble is said to have had a hand in clueing in Jenny Jackson, Mandel's editor, to Mandel's potential, or so it was said in the Book Expo Buzz Panel.