Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Was Once Local is Now National, as Julia Pandl's Memoir is Published by Algonquin. Our Event is Saturday, November 17, 2 pm, at the Shorewood Public Library.

I was recently chatting with a bookseller/proprietor at another bookstore and to my surprise, and she had read just about every buzz book that was out. I asked her if it was the case that she was doing this on purpose, or was she lucky enough that her interests intersected aggressively with the target market for these books. It was the latter, but more than that, she noted, these books needed her.

There are so many factors that go into deciding what to read. What’s an event? What could be an event? Has a publishing person asked me about it? Have I heard great comments from other booksellers, and figured out that jumpstarting some enthusiasm will help us sell more books? Was I just like my customers, and drawn to a book by a compelling review or interview? Did a jacket attract me? Do I have a long-standing love affair with the author? Or perhaps I am just trying to be contrary and show my individuality with the least sellable book I can find?

But another Boswell bookseller and I were having a talk about this and we agreed that there were some books we don’t read because they don’t need us. That’s true for a lot of local authors. Their friends don’t care what I think. Their family doesn’t care what I think.

So when I got the galley of Julia Pandl’s Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, all dressed up and ready to go in its new Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill packaging, I noted that this is one of those books that didn’t need me before, but it needs me now. Why? Because there are a lot of folks out there that don’t know the restaurant Pandl’s of Bayside. Julie’s ubiquitous in Milwaukee, and seems to know everyone, but despite sending the charm-o-meter off the charts, that still doesn’t radiate more than, say 200 miles.

And to be completely upfront, I noticed that in addition to Lanora of the recently departed Next Chapter, she thanked Boswell too. And that’s very kind. We had about three events altogether, and that involved a lot of write ups in email newsletters and blogs and all sorts of other things. We got to about the 250 book mark, and that didn't include our shared booth at the Wisconsin Restaurant Show.

Pandl is the youngest of nine kids. Her parents, George and Terry, raised most of them in the 4400 North block of Prospect. She calls that Milwaukee, but we all know that’s Shorewood. Just as she was pretty much the last kid left in the roost, the family decamped, first to Cedar Grove and then to Oosburg. It’s a story of many of family in the fiftes through the seventies, but you can imagine what it’s like when you’re the only kid that moves. Heck, she can’t say she wasn’t special.

And that meant a long commute to the restaurant in Bayside. Every kid had to work there, particularly for brunch, hence the title. Now that I have a family business of sorts, I imagine what it would be like to have children to do things like the receiving. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I actually do have friends at other stores whose kids worked at the business. It didn’t seem to generally go very well. (note: the original jacket of the book is at right.)

Maybe it’s a bookstore thing. But I can think of several stores that have passed successfully from parent to child. There's the Harry to David Schwartz transition, for example.

We learn that the move was a bit of a sore point between their parents. And as much as Julie fights with her dad and shows him doing things like trying to foist old Easter eggs on his customers by chopping them into egg salad, there’s a lot of love there too. If a small family can fight, a large family can really, really argue, but it gets so over the top that it’s comical.

And let’s say there’s a lot of eccentricity in the family.

Working in the restaurant builds her relationship with her dad in a way that nothing did before, particularly because it seems like from the memoir that her dad was pretty much always working. His idea of a vacation was the a restaurant convention, where it was acceptable to spend over a thousand dollars on dinner, but sinful to take potato chips from the mini bar.

And Julie realizes that the craziness at Pandl’s built that bond. And so the quandary is what to do when Dad retires? And so the other part of Julie’s story is about how she rebuilt the bond after a lot of water passed under a lot of bridges. And how did she build that bond? It was through church and a particularly charismatic priest, which led to a new ritual that of course involved dining out afterwards. For brunch.

And I didn’t realize that this was Father Tim, Anne’s beloved priest, who actually lived in the same apartment building as me many years ago.

So what do you know? I got a universal story of building and rebuilding family bonds and the joy that a local gets from knowing some of the characters. I was reminded a bit of Terry Ryan's memoir, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. And honestly you don’t have to know Father Tim to enjoy this book.

In celebration of the national publication, Pandl is doing several events in the Milwaukee area. We’re celebrating with an event at the Shorewood Public Library. Come join us for the literary homecoming on Saturday, November 17, 2 pm. The library is located at 3920 North Murray Avenue, only blocks from the old homestead at the 4400 block of North Prospect. Don’t forget to stop at Hayek’s for some candy on the way over.

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