When Boswell Book Company announced its opening, one of the first people I talked to was Elinor Lipman, author of Then She Found Me (the basis for the recent film directed by and starring Helen Hunt) and numerous other novels.
We met many years ago at a publisher dinner for Lipman’s second novel, The Way Men Act. So many of the folks I worked with were fans of Then She Found Me; my coworker Jeanne loved to tell how she came to the rescue at a quiet call-in radio show to rave about the book. How can I not succumb to this enthusiasm? I quickly became a big fan.
Lipman and I bonded further when Pocket gave her a layover day in Milwaukee for her novel Isabel’s Bed (or as I call it, “the bagel novel”) We had a lovely day, capped off with a bookseller dinner at Mader’s. It didn’t hurt that Lipman also bonded strongly with Schwartz’s marketing director Nancy. After that, we became one of Lipman’s few regular tour stops outside her stomping grounds in the Northeast.
Now I do not have many author friends of this sort; Lipman is gregarious and kind, the sort that makes it easy to fall into friendship, and seems to know everybody. So when she emailed out of the blue to say “What can I do to help? When is your grand opening?” I had no other option than to schedule the grand opening around her.
Lipman had another brainstorm, with origins in a successful Schwartz event some years ago. It came to pass when Anita Shreve had to cancel her initial appearance in order to be present at the Orange Prize awards, where she was nominated for her wonderful novel, The Weight of Water.
It was their idea to schedule an event together. “What could be more fun?” they proposed. What followed was a wonderful bookseller dinner at Bartolotta’s (this time featuring David Schwartz and Carol Grossmeyer among the attendees; I still have the photo), and then a very popular event, with many fans of one author being turned on to the other.
Then I thought of Mameve Medwed, an old friend of Lipman’s who has also become a friend of mine. They met together in an adult ed class before either of them had published a novel. They have always been champions of each other’s work, and often function as an early reader for feedback.
Medwed appeared once at Schwartz too for her second novel Host Family. Sadly, there was a terrible snowstorm the day of her event. I always hoped we could one day give her the audience I thought she deserved.
When asked if Medwed might fit in to this event, Lipman replied, “I can’t ask her now. She’s spending the weekend at Anita’s.” (Editor's note: totally untrue! The actual response was, "I'll ask her this weekend. We're all going to be together." Thanks, Ellie!)
They’re not the same kinds of writers (Lipman and Medwed tend towards the comic, Shreve thrives on dramatic tension) but they share many fans. I’ve read all three of their new novels and enjoyed them greatly.
Lipman’s new novel, The Family Man, is sort of a bookend to Then She Found Me, the story of a gay man rediscovering the daughter (well, step-daughter) he lost many years ago. It’s my favorite kind of book, about rebuilding family, written seriously but not taking itself seriously.
Medwed’s Of Men and their Mothers is also a meditation on parenting. Her heroines are generally put upon by the world, and part of the joy in reading them is seeing the bullies get their come-uppance. In this case, it’s Maisie Grey, who contends with a bullying ex-mother-in-law and a son whose new girlfriend has Maisie fearful that she’ll be falling into a similar role.
Shreve, you must know, is another beast altogether, and I say beast not in reference to Shreve herself, who is as charming as an author can be, but because so many of her novels explore the dark animal in our souls. Her new novel, Testimony, is about a boarding school scandal and how it destroys the lives of so many folks it touches.
Never content to write the same book twice (I’m particularly fond of her written-backwards book, The Last Time they Met), this time Shreve draws on her journalistic background to create a tableau of voices, using in novel form the techniques of the classic biographies Edie and Capote. It’s a powerful story, that, like so many stories I love, blurs the line between good, evil, victim, and abuser.
Our event starts at 7 PM, but really, the fun begins at 3 (and lasts till 5), when all three authors are joining us on the bookstore floor to be honorary booksellers. Medwed tells me this is practice for when she applies for a shift or two someday at her local Porter Square Books in Cambridge. All voracious readers, they’ve got recommendations aplenty. We apologize for not being able to stock some of Shreve’s favorites from Bernard McLaverty and Brian Moore; they seem to be out of stock indefinitely and possibly out of print. It’s a crime!
Come join us midafternoon on Friday, May 8th for this celebration of friendship. Bring your best buddy to the bookstore for some suggestions, have dinner (there are lots of wonderful eateries nearby) and come back for the reading at 7 PM.
Austin Events for the Literati – September
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