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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Decoration Day! We're Open Today, NPR Reads Now Available, More Events Later in the Week for the Bookish Sort.

We're open regular hours today, but we close at 5 pm.  Yes, I should have given you a bit more notice, but these sort of things sneak up on you.  Just so you have it right in your calendar, we're also open 10 am to 5 pm on the 4th of July and Labor Day.

Just wanted to give you a head's up on the semi-annual Stamberg + Booksellers segment on NPR.  It aired today.  Here is what Rona Brinlee at the Florida's BookMark and Lucia Silver of Studio City's Portrait of a Bookstore (Los Angeles) talked about.  Oh, and me too.

Brinlee recommends such gems as 22 Britania Road and You Know When the Men are Gone, while Silver's taste runs to The Sisters Brothers and the new John Sayles' novel (a cat crusher!  That's my favorite line), A Moment in the Sun.  I want to read them all.  And you will too after you read their descriptions.  The audio should come up later this morning. I'll post it on Facebook. Once again, I give you the link.

I’m hoping you’ve heard about our event at Sugar Maple this coming Thursday, at 7 pm. It features three authors talking/reading about their book (I’m never quite sure of the talking-reading percentage until the event starts), Pete Nelson, Josh Wilker, and David Anthony. The event is free and attendees will get a coupon for select varieties of Lagunitas-brewed beer, while supplies last. And no, you can’t run in, get your coupon, and leave, so don’t try it.

So a little more about this Lagunitas, the sponsor that came with the event. They are a craft brewer based in Petaluma, about 40 miles outside of San Francisco. Here's their web page.

Local writer speaks/reads about her life in a family targeted by the McCarthy witch hunts on Friday, April 3, 7 pm. When Chris Christie told me at our in-store book club that she was working on a book, I told her to bring it on, and we're pleased to announce our talk/reading with Christie for This American Family, her memoir of life as a red diaper baby. Ellen Bravo offers praise: "With searing honesty and moving detail, she describes the collateral damage when those in power decide that standing up for equality is ‘un-American."

And if anyone asks, we are not hosting the governor of New Jersey at the moment. 

Dog days come early!  We're having a very special kids-and-family-friendly event with Lois Ehlert on Saturday, June 4, at 4 pm.  This is our first event with Ms. Ehlert, a Milwaukee treasure, and her new book about Rrralph a very, very intelligent dog, could milk a laugh out of a turnip.*

For this special event, we are opening the doors to well-behaved dogs.  Alas, this also means that we cannot allow food or drink in the store between 1 and 4 pm on Saturday, June 4.  It's a small price to pay!

Here are some book events going on elsewhere...

Wednesday, June 1, offers Wayne Breitbach, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, at Mequon's Next Chapter, starting at 7 pm. I'm just as confused about what to do with all those requests from folks I barely know.  What am I supposed to use this for?  Finally there is someone to ask, and he's local too. Should be a very interesting event. 

Also at Next Chapter is acclaimed novelist Ursula Hegi, author of the new novel, Children and Fire, coming this Thursday, June 2, 7 pm.  Hegi returns to Burgdorf, Germany, at the start of the Thrid Reich, which was the setting for her legendary novel, Stones from the River. This time the focus is on an idealistic teacher who finds herself compromising her integrity as the Nazis come to power.  More events on the Next Chapter website.

As it is Memorial Day, I thought it would be a good idea to re-mention the Reclaiming Our Heritage Civil War reenactment that is going on at the Zablocki VA Medical Center (or since we’re thinking 1865 when it was founded, the Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home) , starting 9 am on Saturday, June 4 and continuing into Sunday, June 5. Remember? They co-sponsored our Nathaniel Philbrick event last month.

This is the tenth (and alas, final, for now) festival at the VA.  There are not just re-enactments, but drumline and bugle corps, a tea room, tee shirts for sale, and capped off by a rummage sale. Click here for more information.

*This superlative brought to you by Arthur Plotnik, author of Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives.  Hear Mr. P. on Tuesday, June 7, 7 pm. You love words, don't you?  So helpful in that speaking and writing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anything Interesting to Say About What Sold Last Week? Of course! Plus a Tee Shirt Link.

Before I get to the bestsellers for the week, I wanted to note that Carl's been hard at work linking up our tee shirts for sale on our website.  We've also added some of the Out of Print book tees that have become quite popular. Here's the link. Just a reminder that the men's sizes of the fishy tees run large.

Oh, and don't forget, all books are also for sale on our website too, many with Google editions ebooks available for download.  They work on anything but Kindle.  I usually link, but there are too many titles on bestseller day--I'd get nothing else done and the lawn is looking shaggy.

Here are our top 5 hardcover fiction books for the week:
1. Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks
2. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
3. We the Drowned, by Carsten Jensen
4. Sixkill, by Robert B. Parker
5. Doc, by Mary Doria Russell

I don't get to talk to that many editors at the show, but coincidentally, I got to say hello to Geraldine Brooks' current and previous editors. I don't know what to do with that information, but since the event went very well, I had no shame in the introduction.  You'll notice that our Paris table (featuring The Paris Wife) has bumped to the front of the store.  It was a little cramped on our side table, and we are really selling both books and stuff off it. Time to reorder!

Hardcover nonfiction, now with 10% longer subtitles:
1. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larson
2. Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
3. Lies that Chelsea Handler Told me, by Chelsea's Friends, Family and Other Victims
4. Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen
5. A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother, by Janny Scott

Kind of Father's Day-ish, don't you think?  Lots of calls for the ESPN book. Here's a piece from Sports Illustrated.

Paperback fiction:
1. Separate Kingdoms, by Valerie Laken
2. An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Marilyn Taylor, Denise Lowe, and Walter Bargen (Wow, since we didn't want to confuse people as to who was coming, I have never really listed all the editors before.)
3. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
4. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
5. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

I didn't get to go to our event with Marilyn Taylor and Bruce Dethlefsen or Elaine Petrone as I was in New York, but I heard from Stacie that both the poets and the pregnancy class went well. 

Paperback nonfiction:
1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
2. The Miracle Ball for Pregnancy, by Elaine Petrone
3. God Calling, by A.J. Russell
4. College Safety 101, by Katherine Baty
5. Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne

Happy graduation table, everyone!

Kids Books:
1. Marco Flamingo/Marco Flamenco, by Sheila Jarvis
2, Carmela Sets Sail, by Carmela and Steven D'Amico
3. The Everything Kids Cookbook, by Sheila Nissenberg
4. I am a Bunny, by Ole Rissom and Richard Scarry
5. Rrralph, by Lois Ehlert (event next Saturday, June 4, 4 pm)

...and then a bunch of Father's Day books, including Todd Parr's The Daddy Book, and Clifford's Day with Dad.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Gift Post--I Shop for Cards at a Wonderful Book store

After Jim Higgins' kind words in the Journal Sentinel's Recommended Reading blog (much thanks!), I realized I better make sure that I do a gift post today.  That was a bit of a worry, since I have so many other things to write about.  We've got several great events coming up where I loved the book (Dean Bakopoulos, Danielle Sosin), plus I've been away for a week, so what can I say about gift items?

I did see some good stuff at the show. Several vendors we sell (Blue Orange, Out of Print) made their first showings at Book Expo this year, and several others (Folkmanis, Peter Pauper, Moleskine) had new product for bookstores to see.  The big news at Moleskine, by the way, is that red and sky blue volants are discontinued, replaced by yellow orange and two shades of green (darker than the old pastels that were discontinued last year).  Yes, I take this stuff seriously.

There are not too many card vendors that show at Book Expo, and I had missed the yumtastic New York stationery show by a few weeks.  In New York, however, it's easy to get ideas for new product--just walk into any cool store.  They aren't so happy when you write stuff down, but I tend to buy my samples, as I like a good card, and that seems like a win-win for everyone.

Having spent my last few shows wandering the New York bookstores, I asked Amie if she'd accompany me on the only substantial free block of time to see the quickly-turning-into-a-legend Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.  I know there are other great stores that have opened (Word, Jenn!) but Greenlight is on the C line and our hotel was on the C line, and it really was kismet, especially when we got out of the subway at Lafayette and my stomach smelled New York style pizza.

Two slices of Sicilian from Not Ray's** later, we went into a brightly lit mini-temple of reading, with piles of paperbacks, solid staff recs, friendly booksellers (Angel, Pat) and bookcases that were eerily reminiscent of Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum. Oh, plus our old pal Alexis, new friend Rebecca, and a Norton rep. I had a very strong fondness for Greenlight already, partly because they started up just about when we did, and partly because I had been following Jessica (did get to see her on the convention floor!) and her business plan very closely. It was a great idea to share it with the public, and even greater that Greenlight was the result.

So I'd normally talk about books, but my eye was drawn to their great collection of cards. No pedestrian selection for them.  Lots of local lines (including Seltzer, which Ididn't know was borough born), letter press, postcards, all with a grace and whimsy that I love.  Rebecca, who buys the cards, offered me lots of great ideas, in addition to us oohing and ahhing over several of the designs. I am thinking of forming the Loyal Order of Bookseller Card Obsessives.  Details in another post, I guess.

So there I am running around, a bit loud, yapping about anything that catches my eye, picking up a signed copy of Alison Espach's said-to-be-scrumptious novel The Adults* (we started with one, and sold...way more than one...wish it got a full year in hardcover so I could hand-sell it at Christmas, but the paperback is in September) when Rebecca says something like "You should meet Jenny" so I turn around and yes, it's Jennifer Egan, in to sign some stock.

Scream, scream, scream***. Et cetera.  Ms. Egan remembered walking into the Iron Block (downtown) Schwartz to sign stock for The Invisible Circus.  On top of all her talent, a good memory.

Two signed hardcovers of A Visit from the Goon Squad (Amie got one too, it's also available in paperback) later, our cloth bags were full, and we headed back to the C train, but not before Rebecca led us to one last treat, a hole-in-the-wall French bakery in Clinton called Patisserie.  Maccarons too? For a side trip, this turned out to be a whole lotta highlight.  And it worked as a gift blog post.  Win win.

*Don't forget.  Many titles now available as Google ebooks at the same price as the competition.  You can download these titles from us at our website!  I know, I'm surprised too.

**The pizza was fine. But I'm sorry, that place tisn't "romantic", as claimed in the Yelp review.

***Too much caffeine. I was running a sleep deficit and made up the difference with many cups of black tea.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Figuring Out the Buzz at Book Expo, and Why I Pooh-pooh Waiting in Line to Meet Authors, and Yet Melt Like Butter When I Talk to Them.

The world of the book expo is a like interacting with Batman's arch-villain Two Face. Sometimes we're excited about the books, and those of us with pretty decent sales are pretty enthusiastic.  But after another coin flip, there's a lot of worry about the fate of our business.  Publishers wonder why we're not doing more with ebooks, or why we don't have more inventory despite tightened credit, or maybe talk wanders to Amazon's expanded publishing program.  A lot of folks look to the dramatic disappearance of the record store and tie that to the doldrums that the music business is in.  Despite the inordinate ways to discover music online, one fabulous way to discover music is now very, very difficult to expierience--browsing a store.  We are lucky to have Exclusive Company not to far from our store and Rush-Mor in Bay View.

So it's hard not to hit emotional highs and lows during the show. As long as I focus on the books, it's pretty good. It wasn't news that both Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Ernest Cline's Ready Player One were exciting reads waiting to be discovered by our customers.  Both Next Chapter and Boswell have already had strong reads on both novels. Two authors with upcoming events at Boswell have had a lot of great reads from booksellers, Ann Patchett with State of Wonder (event is June 22nd) and Alice LaPlante with Turn of Mind (event is July 13). 

Folks who heard us yap on about Mudbound for what seemed like years will be glad to know that Hillary Jordan has a new novel called When She Woke.  And Scribner seems to have jumped Alice Hoffman back to buzz level with her new historical novel coming this fall, The Dovekeepers. And though there didn't seem to be reading copies, a lot of folks were talking about Jeffrey Eugenides and The Marriage Plot.  And yes, he's coming to Boswell on Sunday October 23, 2 pm, but that's worthy of an entire post.

There is a lot of nonfiction with tremendous buzz as well.  One bookseller friend was most looking forward to Joan Didion's Blue Nights, while another raved about Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising.  And for history, there was a lot of talk about Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. And I was quoted as talking up McSweeneys first cookbook, Mission Street Food. Read more in the Publishers Weekly roundup of booksellery enthusiasm.

One thing that has changed is that is much harder to get the hot galleys without waiting on a signing line.  There is an autograph section of the show, and there are also signings in the booths.  The lines snake all over the floor, and because so many of the booths are much smaller than they used to be, signgings clog the traffic of all the booths nearby, making it harder to walk the floor.  Since we have to have a certain amount of meetings, and I also need to pretty much see the whole floor, I worried that waiting in lines would eat up my show time.  Besides that, I get to see so many wonderful authors at Boswell that this seemed an odd use of my time. 

Perfect example.  I saw Dava Sobel signing her long-awaited new book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. How cool!  So I think about getting in the line, but my eye cannot see to the back.  Then I remember, hey, she's coming to Milwaukee on Wednesday, October 19 (I'm not sure what we're doing with her, but it's going to be very special, so check back for details) when she will really, really really be quite amenable to siging a copy of her book for me.

That said, I am as star-struck as the next guy.  So when I was talking to my pal Patrick Ryan at Granta, (his most recent novel its the kids book Gemini Bites, about which I am quite excited after talking to folks at the Grove Atlantic/Granta gathering), a very nice woman came up to us and joined the conversation.  A little chat and then introduction from Patrick: "This is Francine Prose." Instead of saying, "Hey, I have a pile of novels at home waiting for your signature", we had a very nice talk about the new issue of Granta, "The F Word."  Prose was a contributor.  Oh, the F word is feminism.  We could have talked about Prose's current novel, My New American Life, her new novel about an Albanian immigrant who escapes a brutal dictatorship only to be swept into some messy high jinx in New Jersey, but it's still on my dining room table, waiting to be read. 

And from there, I was swept to Julie Otsuka, whose novel When the Emporor was Divine has become a modern classic about the Japanese internment.  Her new novel, The Buddha in the Attic, follows some Japanese women who become mail order brides.  Not yet read, but now on the top of my list, after spending some time with the entrancing* Otsuka.

But it gets better.  So tune in tomorrow when Amie and I accidentally meet a huge literary star while browsing new paperbacks and stealing ideas for greeting cards.

*Yes, I am now using Arthur Plotnik's Better Than Great: A Plentitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives for every blog post.  Want to spice up your language life?  Come to our transforming talk on Tuesday, June 7, at 7 pm.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Obligatory "I Visited Book Expo and All I Got Was This Crummy Tee Shirt" Post, Only I Got a Phenomenal Tee Shirt.

Walking the floor of the annual Book Expo, we've certainly seen a transition. The whole thing is now on one floor, and there are lots  of digital booths that we can't do too much with right now. That said, you should all be aware that we sold our first ebook last week, and we're excited about number two.

I should really fill my whole day with meetings, and sometimes feel like I have totally squandered the trip by not doing so. But the one year that I packed a whole lot of structured meetings in, I found myself upset for having not seen enough of the show floor.

Though I do a few meetings each day, and certainly RVSP to a good lunch, dinner, or drink invite, I believe in a certain amount of spontaneity and accidental meetings at these things. William Whyte, the urban planner, always said that cities work in part because of these accidental meetings, and Book Expo is no less than a temporary city within a city. There are of course some publishers that I will never wind up talking to, as they are either besieged by visitors or not at the booth, but that's just the price. It's turned out to be a very productive show, and I am walking into my fourth day excited about many books and chock full of ideas.

There are many celebrities to be found on the show floor and environs. I have always been bad at celebrity spotting, but while I was at the Independent Publishers Group anniversary champagne toast with my pal Mary, Flavor Flav (author of the memoir with the out-of-the-box title Flavor Flav) stopped by to hang out. He had a little minion thing going on.  I talked to his publisher's rep (no, I think this was his publisher), who is also publishing CNN anchor Don Lemon's coming-out memoir, Transparent. But the only celebrities who were really willing to pose were Elephant and Piggie.

Most authors, celebrity or otherwise, are there to hawk there upcoming releases, and come with long signing lines that meander along the booths, blocking traffic.  Far fewer advance copies are just for the taking, and the atmosphere is way different from the ABA's Winter Institute, where you can pretty much be assured of getting a copy of anything you want. In the end, I decided that I probably have most of the hot galleys waiting for us at Boswell, and a signature isn't worth a half hour wait.  This show is open to the public, and there are a lot of grabby grabbers. They were great about keeping out luggage carts this year, but I still spotted several folks with enormous tote bags filled with multiple copies of hot giveaways. Though the giveaways are scheduled, most disappear quickly.

Who am I kidding?  I got some darn good swag myself (pictured).

Here are your other questions answered:

Q: What seems to be the buzz book of the show?
A: I could spend an hour on that, but Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus seems to have a lot of very, very, very enthusiastic reads already.

Q. What's the advance copy that you are going to drop everything to read?
A. I'm thinking it might be Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, as it seems appropriate to read something set in New York before I leave. But first I have to finish Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind.  Lots of booksellers have already read this, and I've been having some great conversations about this novel, told from the perspective of a woman with Alzheimers.

Q. What about that great tee shirt?
A. It's from Biblioasis, that wonderful indie publisher that brought us Alex MacLeod's Light Lifting and Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac.  We're excited about Bruce Jay Friedman's fall memoir, Lucky Bruce

Q: What are the Scientologists dressed as this year?
A: Pirates.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bars and Father's Day and Funny-Sad Dads in Bars Listening to Murder Ballads and Collecting Baseball Cards (Yes, it's an Event on June 2 at Sugar Maple).

A visit to New York reminds me of childhood, and part of my childhood, if you can believe it, involved going to baseball games.  As I grew up in Queens, this mostly consisted of Mets outings in Shea Stadium.  We would park about two miles away as you didn't have to pay for parking this way. But more than the game, I think my childhood was typical in that for a while at least, I had a decent collection of baseball cards.

Unlike some kids who bought baseball cards at the candy store (or candy store equivalent), one pack at a time, I had a fast track to baseball success.  My  dad worked at a clothing factory (mostly women's coats) that had a candy warehouse adjacent.  My father would periodically bring home a wholesale carton of something or other, and that would sometimes be baseball cards.  (It would other times be Partridge Family trading cards, but that's a story for when Danny Bonaduce has his next rise-from-the-ashes-leaving-addiction-behind-and-I'm-doing-fine-now memoir. It's hard to believe there hasn't been one.)

That's part of why I was intrigued by Cardboard Gods, the memoir by Josh Wilker, recently published in paperback, that uses baseball cards as jumping off points to tell the store of Wilker's rather unusual upbringing.  It all started when his mom left his dad for Tom, but instead of Dad moving out when Tom moved in, he just took the living room.  Eventually the new couple moved to Vermont and bought a fixer-upper, only it was the kind of foreclosure one with uncomfortable graffiti and weird smells.  And bucolic Vermont?  Not so friendly.  That only made young Josh more dependent on his old brother Ian, but you hit an age where it's hard for brothers of different ages to be so close. 

It takes perhaps half a lifetime to settle this unsettling start, but it’s format of the journey that makes Wilker’s memoir special. It’s told through his collection of baseball cards, with each chapter focusing on a different player, from gods like Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, and Jim Palmer, to more obscure sprites and winged creatures such as Rowland Office, Bake McBridge, and Carmen Fanzone. Sometimes the cards are asides; other times they are integral to the story. But it’s clear that the Zeus of the bunch is Carl Yazstremski, the anchor of the beloved Boston Red Sox, the team, that like the Wilker family, simply cannot win. Or can they? More on the Cardboard blog.

It reminds me a bit of Pete Nelson's I thought You Were Dead, the novel from last year about the guy who's confronting his dad's stroke, his girlfriend's leaving, his dead-end job, and a drinking problem.  Oh, and a talking dog, of course. The book had some big fans among the staff of Boswellians and was the #1 Indie Next Pick.  We hosted an event with him at Boswell with Joe Meno.  You can read more here.

And there's another book out from Algonquin, a paperback original called Something for Nothing, by David Anthony, about a 1970's pilot who is convinced to save his failing business with a little drug running, that seems to have the same vibe.  Wouldn't it be great to have an event with all these guys reading together?  Well Craig was one step ahead of me, and has organized The Free Beer Tour, sending the guys to a half a dozen markets. But where to have something like this?

We had such a good time last year at Sugar Maple last year with Dan Chaon and Justin Cronin that I've been hoping for a good opportunity to go back.  So when the folks at Algonquin started talking about sending around three reads for alterna-dads, with the jump-off point that there would be beer served, we immediately thought of our book-friendly bar in Bay View.  The other stops are bookstores, but that's a long aside I won't go into here.  The event is Thursday, June 2, at  7 pm.  Admission is free, but over 21 restricted (Honestly, I think a teenage kid would not get these stories anyway).  Lagunitas (the sponsor) is providing one free beer of select varieties of their beer with admission to the event.

Our event includes Eric Holliday's gang of murder balladeers, the band Married to the Sea, which will be playing after the reading.

The gang is touring to several other markets, including Anderson's in Naperville, Left Bank in St. Louis, and Bookpeople in Austin, Texas.  In addition, David Anthony is on tour for Something for NothingGet the details on his website.

And here's our Facebook page for the event.  Don't forget, our free beer tour with Sugar Maple, 441 East Lincoln Avenue, with Josh "Cardboard Gods" Wilker, Pete "I Thought You were Dead" Nelson and David "Something for Nothing" Anthony is Thursday, June 2, 7 pm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome to New York! The Upright Piano Player on the Plane, My Korean Deli on the Ground.

Greetings from the Holiday Inn Midtown, where many booksellers are staying during the annual Book Expo America convention.  I am very excited because the internet is free, the bedding is updated, the manager was nice, and there is no hole in the wall (yes, that has happened to me at other New York Hotels).  No, you didn't navigate to Trip Advisor by mistake. (Note: by the end of the show, I heard that many of the rooms were not updated, there were way too many smoking rooms allotted to nonsmokers, and our television, air conditioning, and toilet were sort of broken.  But such promise!
I also want to give a shout out to Frontier Airlines. I was a fiercely loyal Midwest Airlines customer, refusing to swtich to Northwest during the price wars when they'd sometimes be quite a bit cheaper, yes, even when I was paying.  And I've been a bit at sea about the changeover.  But I messed up my flight, and had to get it changed, and Frontier was very easy to deal with. 

Coincidentally I wound up sitting with Dave, the buyer from Next Chapter. He was reading Liesl and Po, the forthcoming novel by Lauren Oliver, while I was finishing up The Upright Piano Player, a first novel from David Abbott that my rep Jason was crazy about.  It's a man forcibly retired from the business he built up, beset by a number of setbacks, some minor and some major--his estranged wife is battling cancer, and he has a stalker, to name two.  It's like reading Anita Brookner, but with plot twists, and I think Ian McEwan is also a good comparison.  "Elegant, rich, and gratifying," says The Indendent, with assorted other UK-style raves thrown in for good measure on the back of my reader's copy. I have to wrap my head around the significance of the title, but all in all, Jason G. (the rep) made a great call and I'm glad I read this. The Upright Piano Player is coming out June 21 (update--moved up to 6/7!), which is certainly close enough for you to put it on hold with us.  And I checked Jason K.'s files, (the Boswell buyer) and this book will be Boswell's Best on arrival. Such a deal at 20% off (effectively 25% if you are a Boswell Benefits member, as the dollars accrue to your $5 coupon).

So I'm in New York, and my Sunday dinner companion has cancelled.  I need something to eat!  I think fondly of My Korean Deli, that delightful memoir that was published in March, but I only got around to reading recently.  Too bad I now know that all those steam tables are institutional food warmed up in the basement.  What no local chefs?  I'm shocked.  In the end, Ben convinced his mother-in-law to forego the steam table in midtown for a convenience store in Boerum Hill.

What convinced me to read this?  Well I was complaining to a New York writer friend that I just wasn't getting into anything I was picking up.  I needed a book that was an instant delight, and she immediately sent me a list.  Thanks, E.L.!  Since I had just read all these highbrow food books like Life, on the Line, and The Sorcerer's Apprentices, this was sort of the anti-foodie foodie book.  Just right!

It's Ben's wife's idea to buy the place. Gab gives up a corporate law job to give back to her mother, one of the many Korean families that came the U.S. in the 1980s to make a new life for their families.  Her father is a fix-it guy, but Kay's experience is in running restaurants and bakeries, though her vision of America is much shaped by gigs in Ohio and Texas; New York is a whole nother kettle of fish.  And Boerum Hill turns out to be not exactly what they expected either. It's gentrifying, but not that quickly*. Change the coffee to something drinkable (and more expensive) or get ride of the "cash in a flash" lottery machine and face the consequences!

And of course Ben keeps his day job at the Paris Review.  Coincidentally I had just had a long conversation with a local writer who had gone through a long and involved process applying for a job there.  He finally made it to the great Plimpton himself, but I don't think that interview went well.  George's loss is Milwaukee's gain. What a lovely book, and just right to put me in the mood for the convention. 

*What they've got turns out to be not quite a Korean Deli, but more of a Ko-dega. And here's a little interesting publishing history.  I was talking to my friend Billy, another fan of the book, and he told me it was edited by Gillian Blake, who came over from Harper.  Apparently she brought the book with her, as the book still has a ghost ISBN that shows up on our website.  There is no paperback available. And also the price is a bit off in the database for the hardcover edition.  Somebody needs to update their database (and note, not us, as we have no control over this stuff.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's Going on This Week at Boswell (and a Bit of Elsewhere).

With me in New York for the week, I promised Stacie I wouldn't over-schedule the events at the store.  Plus she's got another gig now, as the Pfister  Narrator.  This is a great gig, documenting the comings and goings, the hubbub and the behind the scenes, and Milwaukee's beloved hotel.  Her most current post is a conversation with Rick Springfield's intensely loyal fans, who tend to stay at his hotel when he's on tour.  I promised that I would dig through my 45 collection for some sort of Springfield memorabilia.  I was pretty sure that I did not own "Jessie's Girl", but might have one of the lesser hits, like "I've Done Everything for You" (the link is to the video) that I picked up as a promo copy while working at my college radio station.

On Tuesday, May 24, we're doing a double gig with Elaine Petrone, author of  The Miracle Ball Method and the new Miracle Ball Method for Pregnancy.  We're co-sponsoing this event with Invivo Salon and Fitness, and here's the schedule:

--4 pm, a free class with Elaine Petrone, focusing on the new pregnancy book at Invivo, 2060 North Humboldt.  You must register beforehand, as limited slots are available.  Call (414) 265-6065.

--7 pm, a traditional Boswell-style talk and Q&A at Boswell, 2559 N. Downer Ave. This is also free and registration is not necessary. And yes, your questions do not have to be about the new pregnancy book.  Now don't mix this up--4 pm class at Invivo (call first) and 7 pm talk at Boswell (no call necessary, unless you want to say hi).

As an aside, our friend Catherine came in (from pretty far away--thanks, Catherine!) to trade in some books and use her credits on various accoutrements de bookstore.  In her pile was a copy of the new book, The Miracle Ball for Pregnancy.  Looking for a little more information before I offered congratulations, she quickly countered, "Oh, I really should get the first book, but I want the purple balls, not the old turquoise ones." As we share a deep and abiding love of purple, I totally understood.

On Wednesday, May 25, we're having another of our very popular poetry events, and this one's a special treat.  It's a celebration of the publication of An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, featuring Marilyn Taylor and Bruce Deflefsen (poet laureates both, thank goodness I now know how to pluralize that) reading their own work, as well as selection of others in the anthology.  It's a lovely companion to Elizabeth Hun Schmidt's The Poets Laureate collection that came out last fall (and sold very, very well).  While the national program is not seemingly in danger, I'm not sure of the state of the Wisconsin one, but last I heard, the state had pulled funding. Show your support of the arts by attending.

What else is going on, author wise?

Sandra Dallas, author of many fine historical novels (Alice's Tulips, The Persian Pickle Club, Tallgrass, et cetera), offers The Bride's House, the newest in that fascinating subgenre of historical novels where the inspiration point is a house, with the sub-subgenre being the author's own house. She's at Next Chapter on Monday, May 23rd, at 7 pm, and the Oconomowoc Arts Center (641 E. Forest Ave.) on Tuesday, May 24.  Next Chapter is free but Oconomowoc's (sponsored by Books & Company) is a book and ticket package.  You were going to buy the book anyway, so why not?  Call (262) 567-0106.

And if you're not in a poetry mood, you can catch Jen Lancaster on Wednesday, May 25, 7 pm, at the Mayfair Barnes and Noble store. After funny true books, Lancaster has written her first funny novel out, If You Were Here, about buying and renovating a home in the Chciago suburbs.  See the trend?  I'll bet this is actually based on Lancaster's house!  The new book is said to be rollicking.  Yikes, this is a lot of competition for our poetry event, but I'm just suggesting that if you go to Dallas or Lancaster, you assuage your guilt by making one of your friends go to ours.

Lancaster has appeared in Milwaukee before, and it's a very fun event. You may wonder why she usually reads at B&N here, but I've noticed that many authors like to go back to places that do a good job for them.  She's not all chain--her Richmond event was sponsored by the wonderful Kelly at Fountain Book Store, the KC event by always-innovative Rainy Day Books, and the Seattle-area event is at the wondrous Third Place. More on the Jennsylvania blog.

Also on May 25, don't forget Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow and Dreamers of the Day, is going to be at Next Chapter in Mequon for Doc, the beloved new novel of Doc Holliday. The curtain goes up at 7 pm. 

Oh, and just one more thing to do.  It's not until next week, but I'm sure I'll lose the info by then.  Darlene Wesenberg Rzezotarski's new exhibit of Polish folk sculpture is opening at the Fine Art Gallery (Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo, suite 210) in the Third Ward.  Rzezotarski is a member of one of the writing groups that meet at Boswell and I was enchanted by her work, and there is now a limited-edition book available.  It's so limited that we don't have it, but I hear it's going to be at the opening reception on June 3, 6-10 pm.  If you can't make it, the show continues until July 23rd.  I'd include a picture, but I don't have any images.  Visit the gallery for more info.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's Selling at Boswell, and Sometimes Why. For Example, Carl Really Likes the Danielle Sosin Novel.

One day I'll record a show of me counting down our bestselling books, a la Casey Kasem, but for now, here are our bestsellers for the week ending May 21st. 

Hardcover Fiction
1. The Katyn Order, by Douglas Jacobson
2. The Long-Shining Waters, by Danielle Sosin
3. Embassytown, by Chia Mieville
4. When the Killing's Done, by T.C. Boyle
5. The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

We've got events with our top two fiction stars coming up.  Jacobson's talk/reading for his second novel is at Boswell on June 13, while Sosin appears at Boswell on June 8.  Mieville seemingly sold out from the great Jim Higgins review in the Journal Sentinel, while the media is heeding the call to anoint Nesbo the next Stieg Larsson.  And all I have to say about T.C. Boyle is that we are having a nice long sale on his novel.  I should have gotten more signed!

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv
2. 365 Best Wisconsin Sports Stories, by Dale Hofmann and Cliff Cristl
3. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
4. Area 51, by Annie Jacobsen
5. The Executive's Guide to High Impact Talent Management, by David DeLong

I can't remember the last time we were chasing so many books.  In addition to Area 51, we've had trouble getting enough copies of Janny Scott's A Singular Woman, as well as Ron Johnson's The Psychopath Test. The Daily Show spiked #1 and #3. Imagine chasing books and it's not even Christmas. It's so 20th century!
Paperback Fiction
1. Room, by Emma Donoghue
2. Night of Flames, by Doug Jacobsen
3. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
4. When Men are Young, by Terry Gavin
5. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer

Our pal Cyndie crossed town to pick up Room for her entire book club. And being that it's Saturday, many customers stop in and look at Bev and say, "Didn't you used to work on Oakland Avenue" and even "Silver Spring Drive"? So anyway, I hand-sold a "Room" to one of those people.  Also a "Postmistress." Why does that always give me a thrill?

Paperback nonfiction.
1. Serve Yourself, by Joe Yonan (signed copies available)
2. Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv
3. Memoir of a Sunday Brunch, by Julia Pandl
4. Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo
5. Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne (just out! in paper)

I've been yawning all day, and sure enough, I switched out the adult and kids paperbacks when I sent out today's list. Funny, sort of.

Kids books
1. Goodnight Moon Board Book, by Margaret Wise Brown
2. Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
4. Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
5. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

It's graduation season, as if you didn't know.  I remembered when we suddenly started selling out of all our "graduation" and "congratulations" cards. 

Oh, and speaking of cards, can I put a word out to smaller card vendors? I know you don't like to do holiday cards, but we really sell a lot of Mother's and Father's Day cards and it's hard to find enough good ones.  I know that Beans and Barley has the same problem because we often wind up with the same cards for those holidays. I think there's a big opportunity there.  We see way more Halloween card designs, which interesting enough, don't sell particularly well for us.

So what will pop next week.  There are three local reviews in the Journal Sentinel this week, and two are from books that have already hit our bestseller lists.  Mike Fischer reviews Silver Sparrow, the story of two African American families with one daddy.  It's the #1 Indie Next Pick for June.  Jim Higgins tackles The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, a anthology edited by Paul Theroux.  And Chris Foran enjoys Mary Doria Russell's Doc, which we've already gone on about quite a bit here.

All books are available for sale in the store and on our website. And yes, many are available as Google ebook downloads. I don't link to every book, but when I do, the Google E Book link will appear as available.