Thursday, May 31, 2012

Email Newsletter Goes Out with June Events and July Preview.

The email newsletter went out! Here is the link.

As I mentioned before, writing our email newsletter is all consuming. It takes at least one full day (starting at 5 am) if I paraphrase a lot from our press release and other materials, two if there is a lot of original content.

We had three folks proofread it, plus I looked over it several times as well. There will be a mistake, but we hope it isn't major. It takes something really outrageous for us to send a correction, like a completely wrong day for a very major event.

For a lot of folks, it's also their first look at our July events. I'm sort of shocked how busy our July is, and it's not all locals either; we're on several major tours. It's those where we really have to get busy and get a crowd. That's part of the contract with the publisher--you turnout, sales, and media response needs to be greater than or equal to publisher and author investment.

For those too lazy to link (or perhaps the link is broken, who knows?), here is our first look at July:

Monday July 9, 7 pm:
Sheila Kohler, author of The Bay of Foxes and Becoming Jane Eyre.
Being that several of our customers are involved with Jo McReynolds-Blochowiak's Jane Eyre Literary Journey class at Cardinal Stritch on Monday evenings, we're hoping that Kohler will do a Jane Eyre presentation before her talk about her new book. If this happens, we'll let folks know.

Meanwhile, if you want to enroll in the class, you have until tomorrow (June 1) to do so. You can register by phone at (414) 410-4428. Class meets June 11, 25, July 9, 23 from 1 to 2:30 pm. Fee is $60.

Tuesday, July 10, 7 pm:
Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight.
Yes, I did ask the publisher if we could have an evening of South African authors, hosting Kohler and Fuller on the same night, but we were not able to get the schedules to work out.

Wednesday, July 11, 7 pm:
Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River, reading with Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness.
We are calling this event "American Male." There were also suggestions of "Midwest Male" and event "Wisconsin Male" but of course the best pun would be "U.S. Male." Shane is reading the new Somerville (update: he just finished it) and thought it was great. I got a little bogged down and gave him my advance copy; he assured me that I didn't get past the setup and it pays off big time. Very exciting!

Monday, July 16, 7 pm:
Chris Cleave, author of Gold and Little Bee.
This is a fundraiser for childhood cancer org Pablove. We will have $5 tickets on available June 5. Folks may have noticed that our tickets are now taxable. We were previously declaring the tax off the tickets, but that meant we were paying taking in $5, donating $5, and paying 27 cents in tax. This makes more sense. And why do you pay tax on the ticket? Because you are buying a ticket; we are making the donation. So confusing!

In any case, I'm excited about the new novel, which is about competive cyclists. If I haven't missed the deadline, we're doing an ad at the Downer Avenue bike race. Hope I get it to them in time.

Tuesday, July 17, 7 pm:
Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff.
Pollock is doing a midwest tour, partly due to over-the-top bookseller enthusiasm. We have three fanatics on staff and they did a great job selling the hardcover. I think Pollock will also be at Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis. So folks in both states can mark their calendars.

Wednesday, July 18, 7 pm, at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall.
David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story.
We almost had this booked in the store when I thought, "No, this is a perfect library event" and I'm thrilled that everything came together. The new book is getting great advance press. It goes on sales June 19th.

Tuesday, July 24, 7 pm:
St. Sukie de la Croix, author of Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall
in conversation with Gregg Shapiro, author of GREGG SHAPIRO '77.
The caps are intentional. de la Croix's history of the the Windy City goes from the 17th century to the 1960s. Shapiro recently appeared at Outwards for his first poetry chapbook.

Wednesday, July 25, 7 pm:
Nick Weber, author of The Cirucs that Ran Away with a Jesuit Priest.
It's true. For 22 years, Nick Weber crisscrossed the country with the order's Roy Lichtenstein circus.

Monday, July 30, 7 pm:
Robert Goolrick, author of Heading Out to Wonderful and A Reliable Wife.
We're pleased to welcome Mr. Goolrick back to Boswell. Interesting that he and Cleave above dominated the bestseller lists together in the winter of 2010. Now all we need is Abraham Verghese. We have a great rec from Stacie already, but I don't want to waste it at the end of a long list. And I should have more recs before our event happens.

But I will share this excerpt from the Booklist review: "Goolrick effortlessly creates a timeless, erotically charged tale of illicit passion and peoples it with a unique cast of characters, ranging from a gifted black seamstress to a country girl besotted with Hollywood movie stars and fashion. Finely crafted fiction from a captivating writer."

The month isn't quite closed out. There may be a couple more events added.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And Once Again I Turn to a Novel to Get Insight into a World Situation--The Greece of Natalie Bakopoulos's "The Green Shore" (and Yes, She's at Boswell on Friday, June 8, 7 pm).

So are we all understanding what’s going on in Greece right now? While pundits debate whether the Greeks will stay in the eurozone or return to the drachma, it’s important to note most of the experts have no idea.

In recent elections voters protested austerity measures and voted against the two dominant parties, the New Democrats and the Socialists. More votes went to the Syrzia, the further left party that opposes the agreements, but not the European Union, though it seems possible that you can’t have one without the other. And substantial votes also went to the far right Golden Dawn party, whose platform is largely anti-immigrant. Now another vote is set for June 17, as no party is able to form a ruling government.

Of course what is interesting about the European immigrant phobia is that for years, or one could even say centuries, Europeans immigrated to the United States for many of the same reasons that these newcomers have moved to Europe. An article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History  from 1970 notes that Greeks moved to the United States mostly for economic reasons, for periodic crop failures, and a strict class system that did not allow for economic mobility. Most of the Greeks in the Milwaukee area emigrated from Peloponessus, particularly Arcadia, As is true of most migrations, a lot of folks in the community wind up being from the same place; it’s the classic practice of one person encouraging his family and friends to follow. The things you learn by reading past page one of your search results!

Sad to say, I understand very little about the situation in Greece, and learn what I can through news reports. We all wonder whether there will continue to be books that would be published on subjects like this. Are current events books still a viable subject area? I think it depends on the writer and the timeliness. And these books didn’t backlist well, long before the internet. I fear there will not be one, or alternatively, there will be a half dozen, all published within a month of each other.

I poked around, trying to find some modern books that shed light on the situation, or even a modern history, but it’s not been easy going to find something published in the United States. There’s a lot on ancient Greece, as you can imagine. I have listed a few interesting titles, and while there are certainly more, it's a pittance compared with, say, Tuscany.

Bitter Lemons, by Lawrence Durrell (of Alexandria Quartet fame) is his memoir of living in Cyprus in the 1950s, first as a visitor, then a teacher, and then as a press advisor to the government coping with armed rebellion.

Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Forged Modern Greece and Turkey, by Bruce Clark, looks at the 1920 population exchange of Turkish Orthodox Christians for Greek Muslims in what was said to be “a humanitarian nightmare that sheds light on the conundrums of religion, ethnicity and identity in the modern age.”

Eleni, by Nicholas Gage, who wrote about how his mother arranged for the escape of her children from the communist camps set up during the 1948 civil war, for which she was imprisoned, tortured, and executed. This book was a huge success, and led to a sequel which is out of print, A Place for Us. Her granddaughter wrote a travel narrative called North of Ithaka, and has a novel coming out this fall, Other Waters.

Oh, and then I did find a $160 Routledge textbook about Greece and the cold war. Any takers?

But as is the case for many social issues, here comes a novel to the rescue. It’s not going to explain what is happening now, but it will give you a bit of enlightenment about how we got from there to here. It’s Natalie Bakopoulos’s The Green Shore (Simon and Schuster, on sale next Tuesday, June 5), and it’s set during the military occupation of Greece, which was from 1967 to 1974. Bakopoulos has been putting the current situation in perspective as well. Here’s her recent column in The New York Times.

Widowed Eleni and her three children live in Halandri, a suburb of Athens. Sophie and Taki are college students. Anna is in high school. Eleni is a doctor. Her brother Mihalis is an outspoken poet of some notoriety. So it’s the eve of the crackdown, and Sophie and Mihalis are both missing. Neither have been caught, but both are in trouble, and Sophie’s boyfriend Nick is arrested.

Sophie is whisked away to Paris, where she connects with several other émigrés at a café job. Nick is released, leaves for Germany, and the romance withers. Taki leaves for grad school in the United States, where he pretty much disconnects from the family. Eleni covertly treats victims who are refused help in the hospitals, Mihalis is watched carefully for activism by the authorities, hiding out with estranged wife Irini. And it’s the overlooked Anna who gets slowly drawn into protests.

But being that the personal is the political, so to speak, everyone we follow also has personal issues to work out as well. Eleni is drawn away from her long-term boyfriend, the more conservative Dimitri, by Andreas, who is helping her at the clinic. Sophie finds herself in a love triangle with Loukas, Nick’s cousin. Mihalis winds up reconnecting into his troubled relationship with Irini. And Anna starts sleeping with Evan, an older married professor and friend of her Uncle Mihalis. Well, that’s not going to go well.

So as these folks try to live these lives, you know that the specter of violence lurks behind every decision. Do you submit, do you fight, do you escape? There’s a little of everything in The Green Shore. Taki takes the seemingly easy path, disconnecting from his family, and comes off cold and selfish. On the other hand, everyone does what they have to do to survive. And so many immigrant stories have that break with the past. To put the Taki character in perspective, he may be modeled on Bakopoulos’s father, but he is not Bakopoulos’s father. As Tayari Jones notes in her interviews, “My father was not a bigamist.”

We’re honored to host Natalie Bakopoulos at Boswell on Friday, June 8, 7 pm, along with Bonnie Jo Campbell, the acclaimed author of many works of fiction, including the National-Book-Award nominated American Salvage, and the recently released Once Upon a River, now in paperback. It’s the Mighty Michiganders!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Fifty Shades, Erotica, Grove Press, and Scotty Bowers.

Having had a lot of register duty in the last few weeks, I have to say the most surprising turn of events has been how many people buy the Fifty Shades of Grey and the rest of the trilogy. Honestly, I thought this would move customers to the internet even customers who would normally buy in store. But the book is such a fad that all shame is removed from the occasion. It’s sort of like that era of porn chic in the early 1970s, when couples would go to date night to see Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones.

This round of erotica craziness is predominantly female--I’ve yet to ring up a man for any of the E. L. James titles. The previous fads (remember The Sexual Life of Catherine M from 2002?), on the other hand, tended to be largely women buyers as well. But the core market for this stuff in the days before internet (and I'm speaking specifically about books without pictures here), was predominantly male.

There was a time when we had erotica sections of some size at all the various Schwartz Bookshops and Dickens’ Discount Books, with the notable exception of the Whitefish Bay Book Nook. Without evening hours and having the most female-skewing traffic of all our stores, we couldn’t imagine a customer coming up without one of the booksellers knowing his or her relatives.

I was taught as a buyer to keep a steady flow of Carroll & Graf and Grove Press erotica coming into the stores. Interestingly enough, Catherine Millet’s erotic memoir (above) also came from Grove Press. And Grove made its mark testing the decency standards, publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover and then Tropic of Cancer, both of which wound up becoming court cases. A lot of this was recounted earlier this year, when Barney Rosset, Grove’s owner for many years, died at 89.

Speaking of guys in their late eighties, I just read the strangest book called Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, by Scotty Bowers, as told to Lionel Friedberg. Depending on his birthday, Bowers is either 88 or 89, born as he was in 1923. He documents his long life of multiple sex partners, with famous men and women, and his even more extensive career of finding sex partners, both men and women, for even more men and women. He admits to being a prostitute, but he’s not a pimp, because he never took money for arranging hookups. He started as a gas jockey, and then moved over to bartending, but in either profession, he used his social skills to arrange paid hookups.

The list of his “friends” reads like a who’s who of Hollywood—Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, William Holden, Kate Hepburn, Carol Channing, Tyrone Power, Vincent Price, George Cukor, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, and so forth. When the encounters with J. Edgar Hoover and Brian Epstein, Alfred and Blanche Knopf, Edward and Wallis Simpson all came up, I decided that this can’t be possibly true. It’s some sort of Zelig-like prank, where the ghostwriter linked together every rumored sexual scandal that every skidded within 50 miles of Hollywood.

I’d be embarrassed about reading this, but the whole thing, despite being compulsive reading, winds up being more sexually numbing than arousing. And with all my customers getting their S & M things on, this is more like reading Us Magazine, in comparison. The fact that he is recounting the story at 88 gives the whole thing a particularly surreal feel.

But it’s nice to know that Grove Press, which is indeed the publisher of Bowers’s memoir as well, is keeping one foot in the genre, at least.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Historically and Socially Accurate Austen Sequel at Boswell This Saturday, June 2, 2 pm, Co-Sponsored by JASNA.

If you're reading this Memorial Day, we're open 10 am to 5 pm.

And now for a bit more about this week's featured author event. There are Jane Austen novels and then there are a zillion more novels inspired by Jane Austen. There are mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and novels such as The Three Weissmanns of Westport, which is a play on Sense and Sensibility. What isn't? On our recent modern/classic table, I purposely excluded all Austen inspirations as they would have taken over the table.

I was browsing the Austenprose website, where I noted this blogger's top Jane Austen inspired novels of 2011. One confusing thing was that almost everything had five stars, making it rather difficult to rank. And it's heard to separate The Trouble with Mr. Darcy from The Truth about Mr. Darcy.

So when the folks at Chawton House came to us asking if we'd host a signing for Ava Farmer (AKA Sandy Lerner) for her new book Second Impressions, I didn't know what to think. Would the fans come out?  But then I learned that the event would be co-sponsored with JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of America, and I my fears dissipated. Former president Marsha gave the book a thumb's up as did our own Jane.

Our event with Lerner/Farmer is this Saturday, June 2, 2 pm, and it takes place at Boswell. (Note that Chawton House had nothing to do with the other two Austen-inspired jackets on this blog. I couldn't stop myself from collecting them. I wish I had room for twenty more).

Chawton House is billing Second Impressions as the first socially and historically accurate sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I found a quote from Gloria Steinem, whom you don't generally expect to be on the blurb list for a book like this. "Each sentence is a model of humanity and humor," she notes.  More quotes here.

Second Impressions is set ten years after Pride and Prejudice. As is noted, "the novel explores questions of the characters' potential lives beyond the close of the original masterpiece. With the Great French War over and peace come at last, what does England look like in the late Regency? And is there a place for Austen's heroes and heroines in an England greatly changed by industrialization, with a new elite of fortunes made in trade and reformist politics?"

We don't always think of Austen writing about class and change; it's clear that some Austen-inspired works are more interested in peppy banter and romance. Perhaps this more realistic focus is what kept it off of the Austenprose website. But come to think of it, where's Death Comes to Pemberley? Not only was it a high profile release, but James received almost unanimously high praise. I did figure out why Second Impressions didn't make the list; it was reviewed in 2012.

See you Saturday.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Bestsellers-Films and Signed Copies Drive Sales.

Paperback fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Silver Sparrow, by Tayari Jones
3. Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James
4. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
5. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
6. Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
7. Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks
8. The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht
9. Elizabeth I, by Margaret George
10. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by Deborah Maggoch

Needless to say, E.L. James is driving sales in paperback fiction (we actually have an erotica subcategory, which we almost never use), but beyond that and our book club staples and post-event pops, it's nice to see folks checking out Deborah Maggoch's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which has been at both screens at the Downer Theatre for several weeks. I thought I'd reference Mike Scott's review in the New Orleans Times Picayune, as I am still smarting over their news to publish only three editions per week, but he quibbled more than most of our customers. So we'll also link to Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle, who offered five stars instead of three.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Uprising, by John Nichols (signed copies available)
2. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
3. It Started in Wisconsin, edited by Paul Buhle
4. F in Exams, by Richard Benson
5. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Nichols and Buhle pop from our Monday event. Not much else to say of interest here. We've gotten through the college graduations and there's a few weeks more left of high school (regarding F in Exams, though it always sells well from our impulse table). It's almost time to flip the graduation and Father's Day tables.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Canada, by Richard Ford
2. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
3. In One Person, by John Irving
4. The Newlyweds, Nell Freudenberger
5. Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

Lots of interesting review of Mr. Ford's latest. Here's Emily Donaldson in the Toronto Star: "Ford has built his peerless reputation writing a uniquely proprietary version of the common man, one who resists the examined life with amiable taciturnity, who views regret as a waste of time. Fate, in Ford’s world, is simply luck: good or bad."

And here is Jane Uruquhart in the Toronto Globe and Mail: "There is a sure-footed, plain-spoken quality to Ford’s language that is pitch perfect for the tale being told, as well as for creating the atmosphere of the landscape, both physical and emotional, with which Dell must come to terms. It is a language that back-flips over Ford’s celebrated Bascombe Trilogy (he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Independence Day, the second of the three books) and into the cadences and reflections of his beautiful 1990 novel Wildlife, also told from the point of view of a teenaged boy."

It also got reviewed in the United States.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Are You my Mother, by Alison Bechdel
2. End this Depression Now, by Paul Krugman
3. The Good Food Revolution, by Will Allen
4. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen
5. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Our Bechdel pop was based on us getting back in signed copies, though based on our sales of them, they won't be around much longer. And speaking of post-event sales (three out of the top five on this list), lots of folks have been asking me where else Will Allen will be speaking, as they were not able to attend our event. On Monday, June 18, Allen is at the Oconomowoc Arts Center, and we should soon know the date at Discovery World for folks who are say, carless.

Books for Kids:
1. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
2. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
4. Good night Wisconsin, by Adam Gamble
5. Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators, by Leonard S. Marcus

Several booksellers and customers alike have been enthusiastic over this collection of interviews with children's book illustrators.  The Kirkus review notes the fascinating insights but pines that there is overlap from a previous volume. The likelihood, however, is that you probably haven't read the previous volume. 

Next week's sales pops?

Front page New York Times Book Review:
The Outsourced Self, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, reviewed by Judith Shulevitz
The Great Divergence, by Timothy Noah, reviewed by Benjamin Friedman
Land of Promise, by Michael Lind, reviewed by David Leonhardt.
Three books on the front page and black on green graphics does not give me hope for great sales on these. The internet version has traditional contrast.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Cue section, Jim Higgins's summer reading round up is so all-encompassing that I'm going to look at it tomorrow, when we only have one event for our weekly round up. But there is also:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, reviewed by Bryan Wooley
The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, by Shehan Karunatilaka, reviewed by Conrad Bibens
and an interview with Delia Ephron, author of The Lion is In, reviewed by Nancy Chipman Powers.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--More Wooden Boxes.

For some reason, we have had a hard time restocking greeting cards of late. As of today, we had six outstanding orders, and several vendors who are normally Johnny on the spot have taken forever. I wouldn't be so concerned about this, but our congratulations cards are almost (but not quite) wiped out, and that's with a number of high school graduations to come. Fortunately today Anne was able to process Artists to Watch, which had 3 congrats/graduation cards, and another wedding, which also goes in the same case.

Another order that came in was from our Polish box vendor. We brought in several designs with more of a sports motif for Father's Day. There's a fishing lure, tennis court, baseball diamond, and golf tee design. Not that these are necessarily for men, but probably would sell better to guys than a lot of the floral designs, despite the many fellows who love gardening. But we can also confound stereotypes with musical, map, and pirate motifs.

I just can't get over how nicely priced these boxes are from M. Cornell. I haven't bought one yet because I'm suffering from the paradox of choice." No, I want that one. No that one!" One of our blue boxes that we had came restocked in more of a purple, and I thought, "I wish I had bought the blue one so I could now have both shades." And oh, that mushroom!

And since I have the appropriate motif at hand, I should let folks know that we're open on Memorial Day from 10 am to 5 pm.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Short Post--NPR Summer Picks.

Regular FOBs* will not be surprised at my summer reading selections. But the link to the NPR picks from Lucia Silva at Portrait of a Bookstore, Rona Brinlee of The Bookmark, and myself. This installment is bittersweet, as Portrait closed its doors last week after more than a quarter century servicing readers.

Lucia’s picks:
I Saw A Peacock With A Fiery Tail., by Jonathan Yamakami and Ramsingh Urveti
The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, A Cunning Revenge, And A Small History Of The Big Con, by Amy Reading
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall
Hole In My Life, by Jack Gantos
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson

Rona's picks:
Absolution, by Patrick Flanery
The Book Of Jonas, by Stephen Dau
A Good American, by Alex George
The Healing by Jonathan Odell
Hit Lit: Cracking The Code Of The Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers, by James W. Hall
Mr G: A Novel About the Creation, by Alan Lightman

My picks:
Coral Glynn, by Peter Cameron
Boleto, by Alyson Hagy
Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith
The Cheerleaders Of Doom (N.E.R.D.S), by Michael Buckley and Ethen Beavers
The Collective, by Don Lee

 Here's a link to the audio story, plus a list of our picks. My confession--I'm afraid to listen. What if I got everything wrong? What if I sound stupid? Of course I'll listen, but I'm going to wait a little longer.
*Friends of Boswell, of course.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Picture of the Day--Tayari Jones at Riverside University High School.

I learned yesterday that per MPS guidelines, it is okay to post pictures of students, as long as you don't refer to them by name. So here is Tayari Jones posing with some of the students after she spoke to them about writing in general, and Silver Sparrow in particular. I just smile every time I look at it.

After tonight's talk by Ben Merens, it's time for our event break. And that means I need to start working on our June events email.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Story of the Day--What One Author Went Through to Get to Boswell.

So last night we hosted Samuel Park and Diana Abu-Jaber for their new-in-paperback novels, This Burns My Heart and Birds of Paradise, respectively. For Ms. Abu-Jaber, it was a relatively conventional affair. She did some interviews in the afternoon, and got to Boswell just before 7.

But for Park, it was a bit crazier. His game plan was to take the bus up from Chicago, but just before departure, his bus driver quit. They called up a replacement, but that driver wasn't ready, and it took about 90 minutes for that driver to arrive.

And yes, the traffic out of Chicago was terrible. They'll call it NATO traffic when the story is told to grandchildren. Just before Abu-Jaber went on, Park called. We picked him up and got him to the store. A little talk, a little conversation, some signing and though a bit out of the ordinary, it turned out to be a pleasant evening.

Our talk continued during the signing, focusing on their latest novels, which interestingly enough, both have heroines who break the mold for cuddliness. Both authors have strong senses of place. And both have interesting cultural backgrounds to work with. Abu-Jaber is the child of a Jordanian father and an Irish mother, while Park is of Korean parentage, but was raised in Brazil. Both authors found themselves using their cultural heritage in some of their writing, and yet other times, have felt hemmed in by it.

With all those cultures in play, I started feeling a bit hungry, and suggested that the perfect spot would be La Merenda on National, with its world tapas. Just a snack, mind you.

Regarding this pull/push with material and cultural identity, it's really no different from the mystery writer who wants to write an epic historical (Ken Follett) or the science fiction story (Walter Mosley). Isn't this the challenge of every published writer--do you let yourself fall into a formula and find an audience, or do you keep trying new things, and find yourself starting from scratch with each new venture?

Of course I started riffing on one of my favorite subjects--that women writers are subjected to more "boxing in" pressures than men. It's just another variation of the type (men) versus body parts (women) cover controversy. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that book clubs should read Park and Abu Jaber's novels in succession.


So today, something completely different. I met Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow, at Riverside High School, where she graciously agreed to speak to the AP English classes. What a wonderful talk! But it's been long few days and I'm tired. Tomorrow's Ben Merens (hooray, we made the Shepherd Express calendar) and after that, no authors for a week. I sort of feel naked just talking about it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Boswell's Best Fiction, as of May 22.

A customer came up to me last week and asked "What is Boswell's Best and how long does it stay in the magical 20% off case?  And the answer is, it's all in Jason and Amie's brain, keeping track of this stuff as it gets bought. Sometimes we get co-op monies for them, sometimes we don't, but we never make a decision to not feature something because there is no co-op. Mostly our buyers collaborate with our reps, we look at track, we watch advance reviews and buzz, and cross our fingers. It's pretty much all hardcovers, and rarely do you see anything under $20, except for kids' books.

We almost never keep things on the list for less than two weeks. And the stay is open ended, based on rate of sale. And yes, Boswell Benefits members accrue dollars on these titles towards their $5 coupons. When we first opened, one didn't, but it was too confusing to explain the exception.

Jason and I went through some upcoming titles to find some notable fiction due for release on Tuesday. My apologies if anything was delayed. I wrote this before several of our Tuesday on-sale shipments arrived.

Canada, by Richard Ford (Ecco). This is Ford's first novel after many books at Knopf. It's funny how this is a big deal, as most authors switch publishers with regularity. But only unsuccessful writers tend to leave Knopf; the high profile ones tend to stay put. So Jason made sure we had copies of The Sportswriter and what I now know to be called The Bascombe Trilogy.

Backstory is only one reason to put a book on Boswell's Best. How does it hold up? Here is the rec from Tova Beiser of the Brown University Bookstore, which was used to accompany Ford's #1 Indie Next pick status for June.

Canada, Richard Ford’s long-awaited new novel, is not one to be rushed. While the plot sounds sensational — robbery, murders, a flight across the Canadian border — Ford’s laconic, measured prose forces the reader to slow the pace and savor the story. This is a novel about actions, intentions, and consequences as well as about belonging, introspection, and the solitary nature of life. Powerful and atmospheric, Canada will excite and gratify Ford’s fans and introduce newcomers to a masterful American writer.”

Oh, and Ms. Beiser has amazing earrings. Just saying.

The Kissing List, by Stephenie Reents (Hogarth).
The Hogarth list was started with great fanfare by the Crown division of Random House. It is their attempt, mind you, not their first attempt, to traverse the waters of literary fiction. That said, this time it's with Maya Mavjee and Molly Stern steering the boat, which if you know publishing, is a big deal.

The new list is filled with high profile acquisitions like Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's The Watch, but were I reading at the speed I once did, before I did things like restock bookmarks and try to figure out if there is a book tie in to the new Diane Keaton movie, Darling Companion (and after we figured out there was not, would I know of a place that had spiritual charms for canines?), this is the book I would read. Check out this quote from Anthony Doerr.

"The Kissing List is a relevant, daring, and beautifully-written book. The writing is breathless and tricksy, and at the heart of each story lies a radiant desperation. There are dashes of Amy Hempel in here, and Aimee Bender, too, but ultimately the book comes out of a sensibility all Reents' own.” --Anthony Doerr, author of Memory Wall and About Grace"

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, by Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury).
Two stories intersect in this buzzed-about novel, one present, one past. In the first, it's 1923, and two sister's are on their way to be missionaries. One is fired up with the passion of God, while the other has a book contract. In the present, a woman befriends a Yemeni emigré who together investigate a recent inheritance, the contents of a elderly woman's apartment.

Elaine Petrocelli at Book Passage is a great reader whose taste I trust. Here's what she's said about this novel, which also has a nice shout-out from Helen Simonson, of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand fame.

"Who wouldn’t be fascinated to meet Evangeline as she rides her bike in 1920’s rural China along side her sister and their charismatic missionary leader. Although her goal is supposed to be bringing Jesus to the people, Evangeline is working on a book which will be called A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar. When the three missionaries stop to help a girl screaming in pain as she gives birth and then dies, they are arrested and finally given the baby girl. What a mesmerizing beginning to a terrific novel. Joinson takes us to present day London where a young woman finds a homeless man sleeping outside her door. She doesn’t know that he is hiding from terrorist hunters, but when she gives him a blanket and a pillow, she saves him. A love unfolds that is full of political and cultural implications. Joinson seamlessly tells the stories of 2 women and 2 time periods and then brilliantly weaves them together."

And finally, a long awaited speculative novel. I say long-awaited because we've been sold it at least twice.

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, which is Hachette's sf imprint).

Time has changed much about our existence in 2312. We've colonized other planets and moons too. But then in a city on Mercury, a death presages a major change, and a figure who was once the leader in designing worlds will be led into a plot to destroy them.

I'm always a little afraid of my plot summaries for speculative novels, as I have a tendency to get confused by limited capabilities to trenscend possibility. But I will say that Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review, riffing "Robinson's extraordinary completeness of vision results in a magnificently realized, meticulously detailed future in which social and biological changes keep pace with technological developments." So they like it. But I should also note that the Kirkus reviewer got a little bogged down in the philosophical discussions.

So all these book's are 20% off, in store and on our website, though I have to say we no longer update the pricing every week, as that seemed to be a lot of busy work, based on the few orders we received. I promise that if you order the book between now and June 4, you'll get the discounted price.,

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's Going On This Week at Boswell? Nichols, Bybee, Abu-Jaber, Park, Jones, McBee, and Merens.

Monday, May 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Nichols, author or Uprising, The S Word, The Death and Life of American Journalism, and contributor to It Started in Wisconsin, with
journalist Roger Bybee.

Nichols has spent the last few months criss-crossing the country speaking about his book Uprising: Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street. We've had fairly regular inquiries from customers, wondering when he'd be in Milwaukee to talk about the book. I told everyone that we'd let them know, wherever he wound up speaking. Well, it wound up being right here at Boswell.

Our opening speaker is Roger Bybee, journalist and contributor to It Started in Wisconsin, a collection for which Nichols wrote the introduction.  I'm happy to say that Bybee will also be introducing Nichols, particularly since 1) he is a friend of Boswell and 2) he was instrumental in helping us get this set up.

Tuesday, May 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise, Crescent, The Language of Baklava, Origin, and Arabian Jazz, reading with
Samuel Park, author of This Burns my Heart, and Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Birds of Paradise, Abu-Jaber's novel about a Miami family fractured by their daughter running away from home, has been winning fans since its 2011 hardcover publication. Publishers Weekly noted that  "Abu-Jaber's effortless prose, fully fleshed characters, and a setting that reflects the adversity in her protagonists' lives come together in a satisfying and timely story."

Here's an NPR piece about Crescent, Abu-Jaber's 2003 novel about an Iraqi-American woman who falls in love with an Iraqi emigre, set in the Iranian neighbhoroods of Los Angeles. And regardingtay Origin, the 2007 literary thriller set in the Syracuse chill, Terry Miller Shannon of The Book Reporter blog notes "The author's descriptive powers put the reader into the freezing winter of Syracuse and into Lena's mind as well. The chill pervades the plot with a sense of icy, creepy foreboding that is hard to shake."

Also in paperback is Samuel Park's novel about a Korean woman's attempt to make something of her life after a bad marital choice in This Burns my Heart. Donna Marchetti offered this praise in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Trapped in servitude and a loveless marriage, Soo-Ja longs for Yul (Daniel's note: the man she didn't marry) and rues her choice. Their paths cross periodically over the years, until events force Soo-Ja, Min and Yul to face some truths about themselves and their decisions. Park's nuanced writing evokes unsettled, postwar South Korea quite well, but his portrayal of the complex, infuriating Soo-Ja is timeless.

And thanks to the Journal Sentinel, for spreading the word in Sunday's Cue section about Tuesday and Wednesday's events.

Wednesday, May 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Tayari Jones, author of The Silver Sparrow, Leaving Atlanta, and The Untelling, with opening reader Ann Stewart McBee.

Have I said everything I wanted to say about this event last Saturday in the blog? Well, here is Michele Norris's interview with Jones on All Things Considered. An excerpt: "It's funny, when it comes to memoir, we want to catch the author in a lie. When we read fiction, we want to catch the author telling the truth. I would like to say that my father is not a bigamist."

Thursday, May 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ben Merens, host of "At Issue" and author of the audio book People are Dying to be Heard.

While many talk show hosts just talk, even while interacting with callers, Wisconsin Public Radio's Ben Merens would note that listening is an even more important skill. In this CD, and in his previous release, Unitasking, Merens offers a playbook for personal and professional success.

Chapters (or should I say "cuts") include relationships, my mom, co-workers, strangers, a student's life, and staying in the moment.

Want to listen to Merens? He's now on 3 to 5 pm on Wisconsin Public Radio. You can listen to any of the programs in his audio archive right here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's Selling This Week at Boswell, May 13-19, 2012?

Later note: my apologies about my "link here" notes that were not taken out after I added the link. And I should note we that we are closing today (May 20, 2012) at 5 pm for a rep presentation.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
2. Home, by Toni Morrison
3. In One Person, by John Irving
4. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Morrison might charge past Mantel next week, being that she’s on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. Leigh Hager Cohen notes “this work’s accomplishment lies in its considerable capacity to make us feel that we are each not only resident but co-owner of, and collectively accountable for, this land we call home.”  And here's the AP interview with Morrison by Hillel Italie.

But maybe Mantel will keep her lead. Mike Fischer in the Journal Sentinel reviews Bring Up the Bodies this week, calling the book “riveting” and a worthy sequel to Wolf Hall.

In an interesting dual interview, John Irving in the current Out magazine notes that In One Person’s theme of bisexuality was partly inspired by his recently out son Everett. It turns out that Edmund White, a close friend of the family, also used Everett as inspiration for his recent novel, Jack Holmes and His Friend.

And finally I note that the trend in shelving used to be that we took novels seemingly published as adult works and put them in young adult, but nowadays, we seem to do the reverse. While Ransom Riggs’ novel makes the top five, our adult fiction list also includes Goodnight iPad and I am a Pole and So Can You. To the bookstores shelving this with the kids’ titles, Amie would suggest you reconsider.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Good Food Revolution, by Will Allen
2. Prague Winter, by Madeleine Albright
3. The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro
4. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen
5. Wheat Belly, by William Davis

Not too many surprises here. Here’s Carolyn Kellogg review of Prague Winter in the Los Angeles Times. And you don’t generally see health and diet books regularly in our top five nonfiction, but Dr. Davis’s charges against wheat, particularly heavily cross-bred hybrid wheat, have struck a chord with customers, and it doesn’t hurt that Davis practices in the Milwaukee area.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Ash Wednesday, by Harol Eppley
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
5. Reternity, by Neal Wooten

Neal Wooten’s Reternity is being read by one of our in-store book clubs, and it’s also gotten some nice reviews. Kirkus noted that “an earnest coming-of-age tale as well as an inventive look at the contested borderland between science and faith.” Read the rest of the review here. On trend with this blur between adult and kids’ books, Ingram classified it as an adult novel, but Kirkus reviewed it as a teen novel.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Truck Food Cookbook, by John T. Edge
2. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
3. There are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me, by Eva Gabrielsson
4. Uprising, by John Nichols
5. Arrested Development, by David Couper

This list is a nice mix of event memories and ones to come. Nichols appears at Boswell tomorrow, May 21, 7 pm, and Gabrielsson is on Wednesday, June 6, 7 pm. This New York Times piece shows how the Stieg Larsson trilogy connects with the rest of his life. (link here).

Books for Kids:
1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
2. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
3. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
4. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
5. I am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore

We had some large school orders this week; sometimes its hard to separate the bulk from the individual demand. But both groups of people were excited about Veronica Roth’s newly released sequel to Divergent. Kirkus states that “anyone who read the first book was dying for this one months ago; they'll hardly be able to wait for the concluding volume.”

Also in the Journal Sentinel Cue book page, there’s a nice profile of Jesmyn Ward from Carolyn Kellogg (yes, the same person who reviewed Albright) plus Carole E. Barrowman’s new mystery column featuring:
--Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby, by Ace Atkins
--The Lost Ones, by Ace Atkins
--Getaway, by Lisa Brackman
--Fallen Angels, by Connie Dial.

Barrowman notes that both Atkins novels succeed, offering high praise. Sharon will second that, at least on the Parker.