Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The September selection consists of:
Playing for Change sampler
Pete Seeger at 89
Mindy Smith, Stupid Love
Levon Helm, Electric Dirt
Christopher O'Riley, Out of my Hands
Tim Buckley, Live at the Folklore Center.
Now our only problem is that the sign they gave us on a pdf doesn't fit in the signholder. After sending them this photo, someone realized I was trying to stuff the sell sheet into the slot for the header sign. Another one is on its way--hurray!
Monday, September 28, 2009
But without knowing too much, I wonder how Powers' works connect. Do they always have that meta quality? In Generosity's case, the author reassures us he's telling a story, despite the whole thing being ripped from today's headlines. Would the hordes of readers who jumped on the Powers bandwagon with the last NBA-winning Echo Maker happily go back into his collected work?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
We also came into possession of three white pressboard cases. They also have wheels, which is a positive. But their white color is glaring, and it's always been our game plan to paint them before they came out on the floor again.
Amie and I bought some spray paint on sale at Downer Hardware, a shade of green that is not too dissimilar from our greenish-gray doors (which match the darker green of the pipes and the lighter greenish-cream of our walls). Bookseller Jocelyn agreed to take on the challenge.
Here's what we learned. Those cases eat paint; we have used many, many cans, and Jocelyn has not even completed the first case. Considering the cases are flat surface, we should have used traditional paint. It turns out the other cases may be in complimentary colors instead of matching.
Another lesson for the future.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
"I don't know," he replied, "but Johanna the rep told me it was a soup cookbook." OK. Well, I listen to ANYTHING Johanna says, so if she says it's a soup book, that's what it is. To be fair, there are almost 400 pages of soups in this book. Soups are the star--the rest is bonus. There's arugala and apple, roasted squash, sweet potato bisque, nettle soup, pickle soup, and chestnut soup. As it's a Norton cookbook, it's edited by Maria Guarnaschelli. That means you'll likely see it nominated during awards season.
I love soup. I love it at restaurants, and I love making it, though I haven't made it much lately. Takes too long. Working at the old Schwartz offices, I was lucky enough to be surounded by soup places--TLC, Soup's On, Soup Brothers, and Soup Market. There's also Uncanny Soup Company, that used to be called Soup Ladle. Let me just say this concentration of soup cafes is rather unusual for a city.
So it's been a bit of a harsh awakening to move to Downer Avenue. Sendiks has one selection a day, Hollander has two, but I'm used to six. There's more variety on North Avenue (and it's really not that far all you pedestrians on North), but it's a bit tough to do in the half an hour we usually allot for lunch.
I've been aching to do a post on my favorite varieties of soup in Milwaukee, but I couldn't figure out how to put it in this blog. I was going to cook a chicken tortilla out of one of our cookbooks, but who has time. I'm afraid that by the time I get around to it, one of my favorite places will either close or change their recipe.
So soup. Today I'm going to talk about chicken tortilla soup, I love it, and in particular, I love three varieties in Milwaukee. They are all so different, that you could rotate among the three for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not be bored. (Soup for breakfast is not a bad idea. When I visited my sister in Beijing, we ate in a traditional breakfast spot, where we were served broth instead of tea as our beverage, chicken or duck!)
So let's start with my tour of chicken tortilla.
Oh, TLC Soup, how I miss eating there three days a week. I still am able to stop by when I'm working a closing shift, but it often means eating lunch at 10:30. Doesn't phase them. They are at the corner of Michigan and Milwaukee downtown, and are known for having very long lines and selling out of many varieties by 12:15. Renee tends to spice aggressively, so you should always ask beforehand if your sensitive to that sort of thing. She also notes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, and usually has some gluten-free bakery. Her son Dan works with her, and Ruby's also been there quite a while. Everyone is as friendly as Renee, who knows many, many of her customers by name. (Note that I am reading John Eisenberg's That First Season; he's appearing at Boswell on October 15th. Yes, I am reading a book about football.)
Their chicken tortilla is a staple of Thursdays. It's a chicken and cornmeal-based soup and packed with vegetables too. They'll top it with chili fixings, though it works very well plain, thank you. It's hearty, meal-sized, and just delicious. If you take out, they'll give you the tortillas separately (make sure they include them), but I like them mooshy.
It's a really great place, and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Milwaukee. It's great for kids too, and once she opens for Saturdays in the fall (if she does so--every year I think it's going to end), you won't have to deal with crowds.
Head a few blocks south into the Third Ward for Water Buffalo. It's on the corner of (wait for it) Water and Buffalo. It's a restaurant, not fast casual like TLC, but prices are moderate and I think they do a decent bar busines, and in nice weather, you've also got riverside seating.
Their chicken tortilla is cream based, and not quite enough for a meal. But hear's the thing--order the large, not the small! The small is missing something, and that is a skewer of roasted vegetables that accompanies the top, pepper, onion, and...I think tomato. Maybe not. I love deskewering things, but aside from my interest in playing with my food, it really adds a lot to the dish. Very yummy. I must head back there soon.
And then there's Riviera Maya in Bay View. Yes, I'm sure you were a bit skeptical--he's talking about chicken tortilla soup and he's not including any Mexican restaurants? Well, I am. Almost weekly, Kirk and I head to this restaurant on the KK-Howell triangle (alas, where the last Bay View Schwartz was located), generally on Sundays, and indulge.
It's tomato based. They have a vegetarian option, but I always include their shredded chicken and rice. And I almost always get a large. They give a small soup instead of the traditional chips and salsa here. You can order them off the menu, but really, what you really want to do is order their chips with their mole sampler. That's six moles--traditional chocolate, plus pumpkin, almond, tomatillo, peanut, and sesame. It's a great appetizer for a large group, and don't let them tell you what each one is. Guess for yourself--it's not easy. If folks so desire, they can get one of these sauces on their enchilada later.
Well, this is way too long a posting. But I had another angle in talking about soup. It's Empty Bowls season, and my ex-coworker Nancy Quinn is once again volunteering her time to make this event a great fundraiser to ease hunger in the Milwaukee area.
A whole bunch of chefs and restaurants get together on Saturday, October 10th, at the MATC South campus in Oak Creek. For $20 donation per bowl, you get to pick from a delicious soup, and have a beautiful handcrafted bowl to take home. I've gone several times and have always enjoyed it. Your dollars fund local food pantries so that others can eat soup too. And they are always looking for volunteers.
I don't know if my favorites will be there, so now you've got four places to go. And please consider opening a soup place on Downer Avenue. Fast casual is fine, but please include a decent amount of table space. I know the Soup Brothers Outpost on Prospect and North didn't work, but though I love their soups, the place never looked liked it was quite open, and certainly didn't have the charm and humor of their Walker's Point home base.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
But first, one last book for Grove, a new collection called War Dances. It's stories and poetry, which from some authors might be second string material, but not from Alexie...
Monday, September 21, 2009
Oddly enough, some of the largest accounts for titles, generally mass merchants, also buy from wholesalers, through their jobber divisions.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
This comes to mind, having just finished my annual preparation of Vegetable Chowder, using as much produce from the South Shore Farmer's Market as I could. You have to wait until late in the season, cool enough for the broccoli and cauliflower to return. This season I also got my potatoes, onions, and garlic from there, but had to go elsewhere for carrots (because I forgot), mushrooms (because this year there's no mushroom stand) and celery (because you cannot buy celery in Wisconsin. I don't know why but I assume it's too cold).
I also bought some heirloom cherry tomatoes from Ken, but those were eaten in about ten minutes (and I bought two packages).
There are two copies of the Moosewood on my cooking shelf, having bought a second copy when Mollie Katzen jiggered the recipes. In the end, some of her "get rid of all butter" initiatives have fallen out of favor. This recipe dropped from one stick to one teaspoon; my soup had something between the two. My obsession with the book started in New Hampshire, not too far geographically from Ithaca. I've been making broccoli mushroom noodle casserole ever since, and I have pencilled in notes that reflect my changing tastes.
So it's nice to see that the book, though not the sales dynamo it once was, still has some life in it. We sold one at the store last week. The book outlasted Katzen's association with the Moosewood, and it outlasted Ten Speed itself, the publisher that earlier this year was sold to Random House.
I love a comment I heard from some Random Houser (and I know scores, so you'll never know who leaked this anecdote) about the purchase. Well into the process, Ten Speed made mention of Tricycle Press, their kids' line.
"You have kids' books?", a rather surprise executive replied. Apparently, this was substantially into the purchase negotiations. It's probably not true, but I like it anyway.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Well, Milwaukeeans, cancel your flight plans. Ms. Moore is appearing at Boswell on Thursday, November 12th, at 7 PM. It's a free event, with very few restrictions. (She won't sign backlist without purchase of a new book.) We ask that you buy your book from us; if nothing else, that you leave your competitor's bag at home.
While we're still on the subject of Moore, I want to give a big thank you to everyone at Random House and the Knopf Publishing Group (ok, and anyone I knew who knew her* to put in a good word) who helped make this happen, as well as Ms. Moore herself. I know she is pulled every which way by publishing demands this fall, what with all the great attention her novel has received. I'm glad to say that A Gate at the Stairs is our #1 hardcover fiction book for the second week in a row. As a special thank you to our customers, we're going to keep this book discounted 20% through the end of the month.
If we reach capacity, the doors shut for the reading. But folks who want their books signed will be able to come back in once the reading is over and some of the crowds have left. Go have a drink at Hollander or Henry's. If this happens, you'll need one. But don't have more than one or you'll get obnoxious and we won't let you back in anyway.
Look, I don't expect this to happen. But for our big names (that would include Sherman Alexie on Wednesday, October 21s, 7 PM, and the just-added Ralph Nader on Sunday, September 27th, 5 PM), my suggestion to you is to get to Boswell Book Company early, at least a half an hour beforehand.
Remember, the success of our events determines whether we get events in the future. (This translates to...buy your book from us, or at least from another local indie in the area).
*Or knew someone who knew her. Or knew someone who knew someone who knew her.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Twenty years later, we were still using them, and the same ones at that. They were a bit scuffed, and some had broken. We had gotten new calendar racks that faced out more wall calendar, but they also have a taller profile. We took cases that had books and tried to adapt them to calendars.
When the Schwartz stores were closing, I had to decide how many cubes to take along. Many of Downer Avenue's were gone, and I was graciously offered some of another store's stock. I didn't take enough. I learned a bit of a lesson, as replacement cubes turned out to be far more expensive than I expected.
So when my pal Sue visited for lunch this week from the wonderful Lake Forest Bookshop, she commented on our calendar cubes. And though I spend just about every moment I'm not in Milwaukee visiting other folk's bookstores, my first reaction was "Doesn't everyone sell calendars like this?" But I think, on reflection, the answer is no.
Our bestselling calendar continues to be that August to August engagement calendar that comes in a half dozen colors. People are fiercely loyal. They aren't displayed in the cube.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
--David Sedaris (the quote is longer but my hands are tired)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Valerie Laken stopped by, she of the wonderful novel Dream House, to buy the new Lorrie Moore. We started chatting and I invited her to lunch with my friend Sue Boucher, who was visiting from the Lake Forest Book Store the next day, as well as friend, sales rep, Downer Store opener, and guest blogger John Eklund. I took a bit of a chance including her in the mix, but we were having so much fun talking about the ins and outs of book publishing and promotion (I think Dream House will be a great book club book in paperback, and I was trying to offer tips) that I wanted to continue the conversation. It turned out that John and Valerie hit it off well; John is a huge fan of A Gate at the Stairs, so how can two Moore-o-philes not bond?
The conversation veered again and again towards the story form. A piece of Lorrie Moore's novel had been published as a story in The New Yorker. Was it the genesis of the novel, or an excerpt? No one knew.
I mentioned how much I like the new Harper Perennial paperback original program for stories; the new collections from Simon Van Booy and Lydia Peelle seemed to be particularly well published and both got a good amount of attention; it turned out that Laken's book of stories is scheduled to be in that program!
Sue and I discussed our dinner with Dan Chaon, and I remarked how Chaon told me that the novel had the genesis in three disparate short stories that he only into the process realized he could connect. The endwork is reather seemless; it's like three strands of ribbon being woven together. (Laken later returned to the shop and purchased Await Your Reply. Thanks, Valerie!)
We discussed novels that had their genesis as stories. Books that tried to be novels but never fully mutated from their story form. There was discussion over whether Julia Glass might be considered a short story writer, though all her published books have been positioned as novels.
Conversation then turned to Nami Mun, who was soon to be visiting for the paperback release of her first novel, Miles from Nowhere. Laken had been at University of Michigan around the same time as Mun, and had heard everyone at Michigan talking about the story that became the genesis of the novel...there was a lot of buzz and the book had a high-profile sale to Riverhead (part of the the U.S. division of Penguin).
Uh, oh, expectations. Everyone knows of an acclaimed story that became a novel, but the rest of the book never measured up. I don't want to get in trouble so I'm going to throw out Carol Edgarian's many-years-ago Rise the Eurphrates. The first 50 pages knocked me over like a baseball bat (referenced from a story in Sherman Alexie's new collection). The next 300 or so were a coming-of-age story that almost had nothing to do with the rest of the book. It was fine, but it surely wasn't what Random House had hoped for.
We all know other writers who master the short story but struggle with the novel form. Susan Engberg, quoted once again, asks why one has to graduate from one to the other. That's one worry. But Laken had other roadblocks, working against her loving the book. Miles from Nowhere was published at the same time as her novel, and as Michigan alums, she surely felt competition. (Oh, come on. Much as you wish the best for your friends, it's not easy to be second best).
It didn't matter. She wound up loving the book about Joon, the Korean teenage runaway who tries to make ends meet by being an Avon lady, and also a prostitute. In fact, she sent me this rec, to use as I please...
"Miles from Nowhere is that rare thing: a book that lives up to and even exceeds the hype. It's got heart, humor, and great artistry. I think the book succeeds so well in part because Nami uses an incredibly delicate touch with the raw, sometimes harrowing subject matter of her young runaway teens on the streets of New York. In anyone else's hands, this story could seem melodramatic or sensational, but Nami's wit and deft touch make the story feel natural, accessible, and deeply compelling. Also, she's written some of the best metaphors I've ever read. This was one of my favorite books of the past year."
--Valerie Laken, UWM professor and author of Dream House
There has been praise from all sorts of media, some of which we rounded up in our recent email newsletter. But why not offer a few more links?
Here's the Dallas Morning News Review...praising Mun's absorption in the grittier world of drugs, prostitution and violence...for "those who delight in the raw power of words." (I'm still convinced that my ex-bookseller Sarah would have loved this book, but I couldn't get her to read it.)
And here's an interview in Time Out Chicago. Mun feels she was never meant to be a writer. After the first draft, she went out and interviewed marginalized people to bring the story a great authenticity.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We had a really wonderful event with John Koethe last week, celebrating the publication of his newest collection, Ninety Fifth Street. Close to 100 people showed up, lots of people bought the book, and I even was lucky enough to celebrate nearby with some folks and a glass of wine.
Koethe's poems reminded me of Susan Engberg's recent, enlightening on the story genre. She argued that stories are not a stepping stone to a novel (at least not artistically; perhaps financially), but are an art unto themself, with different rules and different standards of success. In some ways, they are closer to the poetic form. I was hoping I could somehow reprint Engberg's wonderful talk here, or use it in a story display (heck, it belong in a magazine or journal) but it's just another thing you folks missed if you didn't attend our event. Engberg's new volume of stories, Above the Houses, is now available in paperback.
Here's Engberg flanked by local writers Valerie Laken and Liam Callanan. As Tyra would say, this was my best shot. My photos of Engberg reading were a bit blurry.
So Koethe's poems really are like stories, reminding me in some ways of Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, which as you may know, is my favorite collection of poems ever, as it's also a novel. And it's also a sonnet.
A sonnet? Why we're having a celebration of sonnets on Tuesday, September 15th, 7 PM. That's tonight if you're reading this quickly, and you missed it if you're not. You've got to subscribe to our email newsletter.
Marilyn Taylor and B. J. Best are presenting "The Sonnet. Not Just for Dead People Anymore." We're also celebrating Taylor's new chapbook Going Wrong, and we'll have Best's (This Mead Lake) as well. We're working at getting these books on our web site as well. Right now the site uses Ingram's title base, but we're learning how to add our own books.
Meanwhile, we'll try to restrain our tone of suprise (Sonnets aren't for dead people! We're having poetry events and it's not even April!) and just enjoy the whole thing, tonight at 7.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Mark Caro wondered about this study when pondering our reaction to foie gras in The Foie Gras Wars, which recently won the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (that's GLIBA) for nonfiction.* He felt that our particular attraction to ducks (and my bookseller Greg confirmed that this was his favorite bird, and not to eat) made the practice an easy target for animal rights activists (as opposed to something like chicken processing. You'll have to read his book for the contradictions involved in all this, because I'm only mentioning this book in passing.)
I've also taken an informal study and found that the duck may not be as beloved in my trading area as some would think.
Study one: I buy animal tape measures to sell, 24 of them. I have 4 left, and 3 of them are ducks.
Study two: I buy Wiggles, these wooden toys that really don't do much of anything but wiggle (they are a variation on my beloved wooden robots). They came in 4 varieties, a mixed prepack, as we say. We have sold 7 of 12. What's the one variety I haven't sold? A duck. We surely thought they would do as well as or better than the scary clown, but no! The clown is sold out.
So now we bought some alarm clocks. They are similar to the ones we had one we first opened, but they have animal sounds for their alarm, instead of a buzz. Most of the booksellers really like them, and we sold a cat almost immediately. I did not buy a duck, and that sort of makes me sad. Did I err? I can reorder.
But look at the results of my study! This is like ordering the author for whom you haven't sold their last two books, but you decide to bring in the next one anyway, even though there's nothing that indicates (more reviews, touring in the area, an endorsement from the Dalai Lama) that things are gonna pick up this time around. I leave out any examples for fear of hate mail.
*The fiction winner of the GLIBA prize is Joe Meno's The Great Perhaps. Both authors read at Boswell!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Mrs. Mandel liked to pull ears.
1. The Shepherd Express has their annual Best of Milwaukee poll going on. In order to fill it out on line, you must answer at least 25 categories. Don't have a favorite bartender? I'm partial to Dan Roubik at the Palm Tavern and Sugar Maple myself...ex-bookseller you know. Who else will discuss the new Dan Chaon (Await your Reply) with you over a bottle of Belgian ale? Oh, and he liked it!
Vote for your favorites here. And here's hoping we're your favorite bookstore.
2. Please help us get on the Yelp map. Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop is #2, after Downtown Books. If you like us, let's at least get us placed. And maybe someone can tell Yelp that Schwartz closed. Yelp it up right here.
3. WISN's City Voter website is tabulating best bookstore too. Lanora of Next Chapter told me that folks are voting for Schwartz here, but in their comments, are referring to Boswell. And there's a picture of Boswellian Conrad as the shop photo.
We're trying to get this fixed. I'm hoping that you'll be able to vote for the new us instead of the old us. Here's where to do it.
4. Finally, would it hurt to write a nice review of us on Google? I'm thinking of dictating one from my mother, who thought the store was pretty large when she visited, and had some biographies, which she thought would be quite popular.
Here's how to do this. Go to Google. Select maps. Put in Boswell Book Company. We come up first. Select the one on Downer, not the locations on Oakland or Bluemound, which of course don't exist. Review away! And don't forget about our biographies.