Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dreaming of Lake Superior and Danielle Sosin's New Novel, "The Long-Shining Waters" (Event on June 8).

Walking the floor of Book Expo, I found myself drawn again and again to many of the independent presses.  Admittedly, we wind up doing more business from the folks with distribution deals from PGW, Consortium (both arms of Perseus), Random House, Penguin, Ingram Publisher Services and Independent Publishers Group, but lately we've been working more with presses like Emergency, McPherson, and other presses without such deals.

There is a fluidity to the staffs at these houses, especially at what seems to be the center of small publishing in the midwest, Minneapolis/St. Paul.  At the Coffee House Press booth, there was Jessica who used to be at Milkweed.  We hoped together that someday, Madison's Sam Savage (author of the cult hit Firmin and the upcoming release Glass) would discover the joys of meeting with his fans the way that David Rhodes did. But like fellow Mad City native Patrick Rothfuss, it's been hard to convince either to make the 100 mile trek (hey, if you know how to get them to come east, feel free to help).

At Milkweed, their lead fall title is from Milwaukee's own Larry Watson, whose novel American Boy comes out in September. But we're still getting ready for our event on June 8 with Danielle Sosin, author of The Long-Shining Waters, winner of this year's Milkweed Prize.  I hadn't read the book yet, as our review copy went to Boswellian Carl, who liked it so much that I felt bad about asking him to give it up.  Plus I am such a slow reader. Who can trust me to get books finished?

Here's Carl's quote about The Long-Shining Waters, by the way:
"With Lake Superior as the lodestone, this novel tells the tales of three women from different times (1622, 1902, and 2000) who are all at crossroads in their lives. A mysterious fourth character looms in the background and ties the narrative together flawlessly. The storytelling is beautiful, as is the imagery of The Big Lake."

But then Mike Fisher told me he was reviewing the book for the Journal Sentinel, and he too wound up really enjoying The Long-Shining Waters. He writes about the three women, Grey Rabbit, Berit, and Nora and their stories:
 "All three stories are amazingly textured, reflecting lightly worn research on topics including Ojibwe life, Superior geology and--especially--the tools and rituals of daily work, from sewing and fishing to bartending and glassblowing.

"Parceled out in increments that rarely last longer than a few pages, these three stories are themselves interwoven with brief, lyric interludes that recount Superior's own history and give voice to both the Great Lake itself and to the drowned--from inanimate timber to lost sailors--entombed there." You can read the complete review on the Journal Sentinel's Tap website.

On doing a little more research, I found this wonderful write-up in the Minnesota Star Tribune:

"The construct is brilliant, the prose fine, the characters beautifully developed, the regional sense powerful. One minor complaint -- Sosin sprinkles among her three tales stream-of-consciousness passages in italics that sometimes seem narrated by the lake itself, sometimes by a geologist or historian, or are they the words of the women in the book? A little confusing, and too much. But on the whole, this ode to the greatest of all lakes is nothing less than grand."  Click here for the complete review.

OK, I was convinced!  I started reading the book in New York, and The Long-Shining Waters turned out to be the only good thing about our plane being delayed four hours. Yes, our plane was delayed in Orlando when the plane in front of it broke down.  There were some weather issues too.

Sosin captures the majesty of a Great Lake I've never seen (though I simply approximated by tripling everything I know about Lake Michigan) in all it's dark storminess.  The four interwoven narratives (I admit I also had a little trouble with the fourth unnamed voice but it really didn't mar my reading experience) become a poetic chorus, stretching back through history, reinforcing the notion that the lake was here before us and will be around after us too.

How about a little more Sosin love?  Susan Salter Reynolds wrote about Sosin's novel for the Los Angeles Times, and boy did this get some pickup.  I found the piece reprinted in the Kansas City Star, the Lexington Herald-Leader, and the Idaho Statesman, among other papers/websites.  Here's a bit of what she had to say.

"You don't see writing like this often, so infused with an intimate relationship to nature, certainly not in debut novels. It may be that with nature shrinking away from us, young writers don't marinate in the sounds, smells, colors and emotions that were once readily available."  Read more.

No wonder Ethan at Milkweed told me that The Long-Shining Waters was selling pretty well. Cheer Sosin on at her Boswell event on Wednesday, June 8, 7 pm.  The event is free!  But one more pitch for the book--it's printed on 100% post-consumer recycled, acid-free paper.  Nice looking jacket too, with moody pumice-colored endpapers.

Oh, and much thanks to Sosin for linking to Indie Bound for purchases.  Here's her website.

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