Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boswell's Best Memoir Roundup, with Some Asides.

I would like to say that I thought long and hard about this blog post. But I have to admit that I've been focusing on all sorts of crazy things that have nothing to do with the blog post, like booking events in the fall (lots of smaller things--nothing I'm going to break the fourth wall to crow about right now) and finishing up our tax audit (no scares there) and ordering holiday cards (had a rant ready on customers who get made when you don't say "Christmas" but then wondered why a card filled with Christian iconography said "Season's Greetings") and then went on a detour about whether we should have book clubs setting up regular meetings here when nobody in the group buys books from us.

And it doesn't help in the catching up department that yesterday I left early (for me) to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the Downer, the newest film from the director Shakespeare in Love. It's very sweet and has Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and various young and beautiful Indian actors and actresses to be smitten with. What more could you ask for?

It turns out they changed the name of Deborah Maggoch's book, which was originally called These Foolish Things. I guess that is pretty smart, though it drives me crazy when I know the book, and doesn't bother me at all when I don't. It turns out that The Intouchables, the other film playing at the Downer Theatre, also had a tie-in book, but that book is called A Second Wind, not The Intouchables.

It's a memoir. Speaking of memoirs...

I'm happy to say that most of the books that we feature on Boswell's Best usually get the attention we expect; there actually are not too many overlooked gems. But as one of our customers noted to me in an email, one can't keep track of everythning, and it's nice to have a bookseller pointing things out. Here are three memoirs that I noticed in the Boswell's Best section (20% off, at least through next Monday) that had already been on my radar.

Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails, a memoir by Anthony Swofford (Twelve).
The author of Jarhead (successful) and the novel Exit A (not as much) returns to tell what happened after his success. A sibling lost to cancer, a divorce, and a bit of a downward spiral of excess followed. He turns to his father for support, only they don’t have that kind of relationship. While Kakutani in The New York Times compares it to Jarhead a lot, and finds it less, well, “gainly,” she is a strong advocate of his talent for prose. I’m afraid to say that nobody will be happy with me, however, for posting this Washington Post review by Charles Bray, certainly nobody who is working with Swofford. My apologies to all. Hey, I didn’t write it.

Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson (Random House).
Who knew that chef wunderkind Samuelsson ‘s backstory of how he got from Ethiopia to Sweden? Everyone but me, likely.  By the age of 24, his Aquavit earned him a coveted three-star rating from The New York Times. But an outpost in Minneapolis did not work out at all, and he took a left turn in terms of cuisine with the launch of Red Rooster in Harlem. Now there’s no other writing credits in the book, but according to Mr. S. Veronica Chambers put “the fine touch on the words.” One wonders when the co-writer gets the credit and when she is left out. Dwight Garner in The New York Times certainly knew that Chambers read the book. Do readers decide not to read a book because of cowriter? Are there studies? This fascinates me. Jason’s wife Melissa read it and gave Yes, Chef a thumb’s up. But I admit I got bored during his season of Top Chef Masters. And I don’t understand the complaint that a restaurant in Harlem shouldn’t charge so much for fried chicken. I want to read this, but I haven't yet.

Full Body Burdern: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats , by Kristen Iverson (Crown). A young woman who grows up in the shadow of a (secret) nuclear weapons plant sees the destructive power of secrets in both government and her own family. She learns of a fire that came close to a nuclear chain reaction. And she uncovers detailed accounts of the government’s attempt to conceal the toxic and nuclear wastes released by the plant. Note this is paraphrased, but the rule that we booksellers live by is that promotional copy is meant to be copied. Nobody’s going to accuse you of plagiarizing if you’re trying to sell the darn book. I heard Iverson interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. No surprise, this is just the kind of story that Gross would get into. Drama-y.

And now to figure out if one can reink a Dennison 210 price stamper for less than the cost of the stamper itself. Right now my bet's on no.

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