On Wednesday, June 20, we're hosting Matthew Batt, author of Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House Into Our Home Sweet Home. It's about fixing up a house in Salt Lake City that is, as you've guessed from the title, with baggage.
As you can imagine, this is fertile ground for a good narrative nonfiction writer. In fact, we actually have another writer, Ron Tanner, writing about a similar experience in Baltimore. It would have been fun to have the author of From Animal House to Our House on the same bill, but neither author lives around here, and mostly, you're at the mercy of the tour.
Currently Batt lives in St. Paul, but he has Milwaukee roots. The problem for us is that we have no idea how sturdy those roots are. We're flying blind--the book is his first, so we can't depend on promoting the backlist. And the book's official on sale is just days before our every bookstore's worst nightmare, the non-hometown launch.
But we are not afraid, we are brave, much like the Batt and his wife in Sugarhouse. We're very excited about the book, and we've heard so much about Batt. We've had all these writers exclaiming when they see him on our schedule. "Oh, you have Matthew Batt? You're going to love him!"
So Stacie noticed today that Dean Bakopoulos has been making Lego author tableaus, perhaps in honor of Legofest, which is going on at the Frontier Airlines Center now through Sunday. She started showing them to me as they were popping up, and well, they are pretty much the funniest thing I've seen in a while, but that is partly because I haven't been reading many funny books because they are so hard to sell.
I sent the Lego portrait of Dean and Patrick Somerville (they are reading together here on July 11--that is going to be an awesome event, by the way) and I sent it to Summer, Dean's publicist, and Summer asked Dean to make (a commission, I'd say) a portrait of Matthew. (It's probably Matthew because otherwise our author is Matt Batt, and I don't know how to respond to that). And he did! And you can see the uncanny resemblance--they wear the same tool belt! And that is what you see above. I think the photo below just doesn't do him justice. He's much more Lego-rific.
1. Publishers Weekly called Sugarhouse "a charming take on domescity."
2. Booklist recalls that this entire genre pays tribute to the big daddy, Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, and remarks "Batt makes the story feel fresh through a combination of lively storytelling, some very funny misadventures, and a goodly portion of real human drama, for the decision to buy a house wasn't a whim, being prompted by some pretty dire circumstances. A thoroughly enjoyable variation on a venerable theme."
3. From Candyfreak's Steve Almond: "Sugarhouse is a whale of a book -- an uproariously funny and deeply affecting account of home ownership and its discontents. Matt Batt has written a must-read manifesto for anyone who's ever faced off against a fast-talking real estate agent, an impossibly stubborn varnish, or a family on the brink of heartbreak. I'm still not sure how he managed to stuff so much life into one little book, but I'm dazzled at his achievement."
Not in Milwaukee? Here's where else Mr. Batt will be:
Magers & Quinn, June 19, 7:30 pm
Powells, June 21, 7:30 pm
Elliott Bay Books, June 23, 7 pm
Salt Lake City
Kings English, June 26, 7 pm
Tattered Cover, June 28, 7:30 pm
Common Good Books, July 10, 7 pm
Tomorrow--a guest blog from Batt. I commissioned Mr. Batt to write an essay about Summerfest, since he is bumping up against the Summerfest publicity hole.