Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The August Indie Next List Starts Tomorrow--Shane, You Can Start Printing Our Shelf Talkers.

0ne of the sad truths about the release of the Indie Bound list is that it reminds me of all the titles I meant to read but hadn’t gotten around to yet. For you, the adventures begins, but for me, it often ends, as I’ve missed deadline and feel guilty about the whole reading process, like sneaking candy. Not that I don’t sneak a lot of candy.

So the August Indie Next list begins tomorrow. M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans is the #1 book. I know that my friend Sue at Lake Forest Books loves it. I’m sure Wendy is very disappointed that I didn’t read it yet.

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman (Scribner)
“World War I is over and Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia as a lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock. His young bride, Isabel, joins him, and they love their isolated life on Janus. Sadness descends, however, as they try unsuccessfully to start a family. A small boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a beautiful, healthy baby girl whom they make their own, living happily until they go back to the mainland and begin to realize the consequences of their actions. With incredibly visual prose evocative of the time and place, compelling characters, themes of forgiveness and redemption, and a riveting plot that won’t let you put the book down, this is a great debut novel.” —Judy Crosby, Island Books, Middletown, RI

Jane is a huge fan of this book, which just got a Booker Longlist nomination. The review by Janet Maslin this week was mixed. Of late, that’s good for her.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (Random House).
“‘He walked so surely, it was as if all his life he had been waiting to get up from his chair.’ Recently retired Harold Fry receives an unsettling letter from a co-worker from years past. Queenie is dying in hospice and when Harold sets out to post a return letter, he is seized by the idea that if he keeps walking, Queenie will live. So begins a pilgrimage of personal transformation for Harold — and quite possibly for the reader as well. Insightful and touching, this journey will stay with readers for quite some time.” —Julia MacDonald, The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, VT

Jane also read and enjoyed (no surprise) the new Tsukiyama. We’ve just confirmed with the Milwaukee Public Library that Tsukiyama will be coming to the Loos Room at Centennial Hall for a conversation with novelist Jane Hamilton on Thursday, September 27, 7 pm.

A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama (St. Martin’s Press).
“The words of Chairman Mao, ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend’ prove to be a trap for Sheng, a high school teacher who dares to speak out against the Communist Party. He is imprisoned, leaving his wife and young son to make their home with his father, a retired university professor. Sharing their story through alternating voices, Tsukiyama is a masterful craftsman and storyteller, and the reader is quickly caught up in the turmoil of the early days of the Cultural Revolution in China.” —Elizabeth Merritt, Titcomb’s Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA

I haven’t run into Mr. Cook at a book convention in several years, but I do remember that he has great taste that plays well to many of our Boswell customers (let alone booksellers), and we had a great run with Powell’s The Interrogative Mood. So a Southern retelling of Waiting for Godot can’t seem to miss.

You and Me, by Padgett Powell (Ecco)
“Experience the utter joy of shooting the breeze on the porch with a couple of crotchety, intelligent old codgers. Inventive, funny, and profound, Powell turns phrases like a dervish in this Southern-styled ersatz retelling of Waiting for Godot. A wonderful book that perfectly captures kicking back and trying to make sense of the crazy world streaming by.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

I've heard of other good bookseller reads on Klaussmann's novel, which sounds Postmistress-y, doesn't it? And that Martha's Vineyard thing--I want to tell a struggling writer to head off on vacation, but instead of relaxing, check the head count to make sure there's an audience, and start writing. You can use this to crib notes, a 2009 list from AOL of America's most popular resort towns.

Tigers in Red Weather, by Liza Klaussmann, Little, Brown
“Pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea — or something stronger — and get ready to travel from post-WWII America to 1980s Martha’s Vineyard. You are about to meet five beautifully drawn characters who will fascinate you and break your heart. Klaussmann brilliantly weaves their lives together and, as the story unfolds, we find that each of them is covering up something. The dynamite ending comes as a complete surprise and yet it is so right. Don’t miss this gem.” —Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

And finally, it makes me worry that I am the only bookseller in America in love with this book. Say it isn’t so! Please prove me wrong.

The Collective, by Don Lee (W.W. Norton)
“In this sometimes heartbreaking, at other times hilarious novel, Eric Cho contemplates the life of Joshua Yoon, the Korean novelist with whom he, along with provocative visual artist Jessica Tsai, once formed the 3AC or Asian American Artists Collective, first in college and later in Cambridge. What may have led Joshua to commit suicide — or was it? — by running into the path of an oncoming car? Lee once again tackles identity themes, but this time through the lens of the college novel. A triumph!” —Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

You can read the rest of the list on the Indie Bound website.

But I sort of prefer the low-tech preview version, which does not seem to be for members only.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What's Going on Boswell This Week? A Reminder about Robert Goolrick, Ron Tanner, and Joe Meno.

Monday, July 30, 7 PM, at Boswell:
Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife, and the new novel, Heading Out to Wonderful.

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of a few hundred people, nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money.

Finding work at the local butcher shop, Charlie befriends the owner and his family, including the owner's son, Sam, who he is soon treating as though he were his own flesh and blood. And it is through the shop that Charlie gradually meets all the townsfolk, including Boaty Glass, Brownsburg's wealthiest citizen, and most significantly, Boaty's beautiful teenage bride, Sylvan. This last encounter sets in motion the events that give Goolrick's powerful tale the stark, emotional impact that thrilled fans of his previous novel, A Reliable Wife.

Charlie's attraction to Sylvan Glass turns first to lust and then to a need to possess her, a need so basic it becomes an all-consuming passion that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path. Told through the eyes of Sam, now an old man looking back on the events that changed his world forever, Heading Out to Wonderful is a suspenseful masterpiece, a haunting, heart-stopping novel of obsession and love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

A former advertising executive, Robert Goolrick lives in Virginia with his dog, Preacher, who doesn’t care so much about reading books.

Wednesday, August 1, 7 PM, at Boswell:
Ron Tanner, author of From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story.

Eleven years ago, Ron and Jill, then his girlfriend of six months, discovered the Baltimore house of their dreams: a 4,500ft2 Victorian row house that had belonged to a notorious fraternity, and it showed. The collapsed fireplaces, bannisters and wall-to-wall graffiti would prove more than a challenge to two renovation amateurs. A decade later, they prove that love (and a lot of sweat) can prevail.

“I fell for the house, I fell for the girl (and, predictably, her dowager of a basset hound), but most of all, I fell for Ron Tanner, one very fine storyteller. I'm still a bit stunned that I could become so entranced by a tale involving rehab nerds, real-estate shysters, frat-house vandals, Dumpsters, rats, and a whole lot of tools, but I'm enough of a writer to know this: when someone of great heart meets the most deeply personal challenge of a lifetime -- especially when it seems strange or insane to just about everyone else -- that's the place where the best and most moving stories begin. For Ron Tanner, it began with a woman wrapping glasses in an antique shop . . . and a small sign in a Baltimore window. How little he knew of what was to come, and how glad you'll be that he never backed down.”
–Julia Glass, author of Three Junes.

Author Bio: Ron Tanner teaches writing at Loyola University in Baltimore and directs the Marshall Islands Story Project He is the author of two books: Kiss Me, Stranger, and Bed of Nails, which won both the G.S. Sharat Chandra Award and the Towson Prize for Literature.

Thursday, August 2, 7 PM, at Boswell
Joe Meno, author of Office Girl, The Boy Detective Fails, and many other novels
with opening poet Dan Nowak, author of Recycle Suburbia.

“It is 1999 in snowy Chicago, and art school dropout Odile (pronounced O-deel) is having a rough time: she is stuck in a dead end office job, in love with a married man, and can't create any interesting art. Nick is a twenty-four-year-old, chronically depressed, and soon to be divorced artist who is obsessed with recording sounds of the city. Together they decide to start their own art movement that celebrates the transitory, fleeting moments of contemporary life. Office Girl is a sweet, snowy bicycle ride through the uncertainties and difficulties of post-college life.”
–Boswell bookseller Shane Papendorf

“This light, dreamy, and quirky story is Jack and Jill for hipsters. The spunky Odile and the tragic Jack are two creative, socially-inept kids lost in a post-college, pre-professional life where everything is exhilarating, frightening, and wonderful all at once. Working dead-end jobs and dealing with the ups and downs life can bring, Odile and Jack find temporary fulfillment in the music and art they find and create - but they seem to long for something more soulful...is it love? Will they find it, or have they already found it?”
– Boswell bookseller Nick Berg

Joe Meno is author of five novels, two short story collections and several stage plays. Winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Great Lakes Book Award, his work has been published in One Story, New York Times, and McSweeneys. Meno is an associate professor of fiction at Columbia College.

Dan Nowak is editor and publisher of Imaginary Friend Press. His book, Recycle Suburbia, won the 2007 Quercus Review Poetry Series Award, and his other collections have been published by Accents Publishing and RockSaw Press. Dan has published his poems in the North American Review, the cream city review, and Diode.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Post--What's Selling this Week at Boswell? The Women of Summer Battle It Out.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
2. Broken Harbor, by Tana French
3. Mission to Paris, by Alan Furst
4. A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
5. Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness

French is the go-to girl* in this per-Jason light release week. Reviews are coming in quite strong for Broken Harbor (Viking), though The Daily News critic says it’s not her best. What is this about mystery reviewers in particular that if the new book doesn't exceed all expectations, it's a disappointment? And that's hand in hand with common prnouncements that if a critic likes it, it's the best yet, despite not having reread all the earlier installments. I have a theory, but I'll save that for another time.

But most reviews I mentioned don’t make such quibbles (there are some readers that demand that every new title in a mystery series be the best yet, or else) with Patrick Anderson in The Washington Post noting Broken Harbor provides a fascinating and suspenseful plot, believable characters and writing that is precise, knowing and lyrical. Underlying it all is a formidable intelligence, one that moves relentlessly from a family tragedy to the ugly side of police work to the sorrows of a generation.”

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss
2. The Good Food Revolution, by Will Allen
3. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, by Chris Hedges/Joe Sacco
4. Bushville Wins, by John Klima
5. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books) is Chris Hedges’ new collaboration with Joe Sacco looks at the “sacrifice zones” that have been offered up in the name of progress and profit in the United States, with the resulting poverty and environmental devastation. John Broening in The Denver Post notes that it’s a good match of writer and artist--Hedges and Sacco share both ideology and “compulsion to confront the worst humanity has to offer.” Read more here.

Paperback fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James
5. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
6. 11-22-63, by Stephen King
7. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin
8. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
9. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
10. Office Girl, by Joe Meno

Deborah Harkness makes a double pop on our bestseller lists this week, with A Discovery of Witches (Viking) and Shadow of Night (Penguin). Harkness was in town doing some promotion, and also appeared at B&N, which highlighted in our July event email newsletter. Elizabeth Hand in The Washington Post notes that while she has quibbles, the new installment is a“satisfying beach read, with enough surprise cameos and fun facts to offset its longueurs.”

Paperback nonfiction:
1. The Circus that Ran Away with a Jesuit Priest, by Nick Weber
2. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
3. 1493, by Charles C. Mann
4. Milwaukee Movie Theaters, by Larry Widen
5. The Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Willard

One doesn’t usually expect a line at the door for the paperback release of a book like Charles Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (Vintage), but I helped at least one customer that had marked the paperback date on her calendar. Possibly Fresh Air reaired Terry Gross’s interview with Mann, where she began “I just read a book that made me see the world differently. It's about an environmental upheaval that I never realized existed, and it dates back to Christopher Columbus.” How could you resist?

Books for Kids:
1. Astrojammies, by Stacey Williams Ng
2. Silverlicious, by Victoria Kann
3. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce
4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
5. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by Tom Licthenheld

Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious has generated a whole lot of “licious” in short order, like this week’s bestseller Silverlicious (Harper). Like many series, what starts as a picture book often migrates to early readers as the fans age. So this spring we had Pinkalicious: Soccer Star and in a few weeks comes Pinkalicious and the Pinktastic Zoo Day. There’s also an activity book just out, Pink, Pink Hooray. But Kann has a new picture book next winter too, Emeraldalicious, where “recycling magic turns a garbage-filled park into a greentastic garden.”

And what might hit the list next week? A Reliable Wife author Robert Goolrick is interviewed by Jim Higgins in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his reading list. He'll be coming to three area bookstores this week to read and discuss his new work, Heading Out to Wonderful. Boswell is tomorrow at 7 pm, then Books and Company on Tuesday, and Next Chapter on Wednesday. Lisa McLendon of the Wichita Eagle notes Goolrick's new novel is as sad and mournful as the mountain songs of Virginia. But it's a beautifully told story of the human failings and yearnings, and redemption sought but never quite attained."

Mike Fischer notes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that A Cupboard Full of Coats (Amistad), by Yvette Edwards, cracked the long list of the Booker Prize last summer (the new list just came out). The book was also a Kirkus best book fo the year and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. Interestingly enough, the book doesn't land until Tuesday, and I found two different jackets, one our our website and another in our inventory database. I'll just show both--which do you think is the final jacket?

Instead of paraphrasing the review, let me start with the publisher's description. "Plagued by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother's death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories. When Lemon, an old family friend, appears unbidden at the door, he seduces Jinx with a heady mix of powerful storytelling and tender care. What follows is a tense and passionate weekend, as the two join forces to unravel the tragedy that binds them."

Fischer's take, which is nuanced as always (that means he has some quibbles): "The result is a story that is both grounded in the everyday but able to transcend it." The link's not quite up yet, but you'll find it on the book page.

*Because Gillian Flynn is the gone girl. Get it?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--Atlanta Show, Chicago Show, No Show.

Last Sunday I went down to Chicago to the gift show at the Merchandise Mart. Interestingly enough, while it continues to shrink in size, I found more interesting new vendors there than I did at Atlanta last winter, despite being in about ten times the space (and that might be an underestimate). Perhaps I was just overwhelmed, or it might have been that an awful lot of vendors reminded me of Suzanne Sugarbaker*; I didn't expect it to be quite so regional.

That said, the vendors I did find in Atlanta have turned out to be quite a hit. We've just gotten in our second shipment of leather keychains from Sunflower. In addition to the turtle, which seemingly sold out in hours, there is now a new variety of dog, a cat, a googly-eyed owl, and a guitar. Alas, they were out of stock on the matching piano. The guitar is $7.95, as will be the piano when it eventually shows up; the rest are $6.95.

We've only gotten in one order from the Chicago show, but I'm quite fond of them. Now I just have to get them in the right place and explain what they are. Well, I know what they are--they are felt pen and pencil toppers from Fair Trade artisans in Nepal. It's just that they need signage, and Anne noted that they look better when they actually have a pen or pencil inside. We'll work on that--I have to get it right because I'm excited to bring in her flower designs next spring.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Greg and I are in the process of receiving a big holiday greeting card order Pomegranate. They allowed us to order everyday giftwrap on the same terms, so now we're back to a great assortment of wrap. We were down to just a few designs for the past couple of months. This year we spotted some nice gift enclosure cards. There are periodic requests for these, and they are not specifically holiday themed. A box of 36 cards with designs from Edward Gorey, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charley Harper or Georgia O'Keeffe runs $14.95.

*Delta Burke's character on Designing Women, the 1980s sitcom. Do you think folks from Atlanta would describe the Chicago show as a bit too Balki Bartokomous for their taste?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Short Post--Our New Art Wall Exhibit! J. Shimon and J. Lindemann's Photographs from Michael Perry's Visiting Tom (And Perry is Himself Visiting on August 24, 7 pm).

We're thrilled to have an exhibit of J. Shimon and J. Lindemann's photographs connected with Michael Perry's Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace. The new book comes out August 21, and our event is Friday, August 24, 7 pm.

This past Wednesday, Shimon and Lindemann hung the photos that open the chapters of the new book. Also present was Debra Brehmer of the Portrait Society Gallery, who will have a new exhibit of the artists' work in September. They did a beautiful job, but as I'm not a photographer, I couldn't eliminate the glare.  Plus I took the photo slanty.

The photos are mesmerizing, and yes, they are for sale too. Prints are $200 unframed, $275 framed. As in all exhibitions, we'll mark the print when it is sold, and they'll be available to take home at the end of the showing. We have a copy of each unframed print to take home for instant photo satisfaction. I am a little overwhelmed that we are in the company of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and West Bend's Museum of Wisconsin Art. This is pretty amazing.*

I'm hoping that by sometime this weekend (I'm working closing shift Friday and Saturday this weekend) I'll have the protocol set for booksellers to make the transaction. And I'll have a longer post about Michael Perry, Tom Hartwig, and the new book closer to the on-sale date.

And how appropriate to post today, as its Gallery Night. The Portrait Society Gallery is hosting a closing reception from 6 to 9 pm (and open again from 1 to 5 pm tomorrow), and it's your last chance to visit before Debra Brehmer temporarily closes for deconstruction and rebuilding. That's why the theme of the current exhibits are Destruction, Re-configuration, and Growth. Plus there's a Secret Gallery. The Gallery is at 227 E. Buffalo, Fifth Floor.

*And there's nothing like going out on a high note, regarding our Art Wall. We're expecting to give up this alcove to Starbucks, who desperately needs more seating. One day I'll figure out a new space for an art wall, but it will never be the same. I'll miss you, Arty!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Our New Friend Comic Thriller Writer Lou Berney Stops by to Sign Stock.

Just because we don't have any events for a few days doesn't mean we aren't meeting interesting authors. Today Lou Berney was in to sign stock of Whiplash River before having a scheduled talk/signing at Mystery One on Prospect.

It's my thought that it's worthwhile for publishers to send authors in for stock signings, but sometimes publishers have too large a requirement to make the stop worthwhile. I now have publicists who ask for ten books minimum before they will schedule a stop. I'm sort of surprised because isn't it in the author's best interest to meet booksellers? Shouldn't we be the ones asking for something, as we are filling down time in the author's schedule, as well as the obvious event snub, as the author is clearly appearing elsewhere?

But we do bring in some copies for the author to sign if we think it's a good fit, and in Berney's case, we could immediately imagine booksellers who'd want to read his books, and customers we could sell them to. His two novels have gotten some great reviews, and his vibe is Elmore Leonardy, crime, but not quite traditional mysteries. And bad guys yes, but there are good bad guys and bad bad guys.

In the new novel (the two are related but the second is clearly not a sequel to Gutshot Straight, per the author), Shake Bouchon, formerly getaway driver for the Armenian mob in L.A., is now running a restaurant in Belize. He's not escaped entirely, being still the target of several hit men, as well as an FBI officer who wants him to rat out his former cohorts.

You get the picture. Marcus Sakey writes ""Slick, sleek, and wildly entertaining, Whiplash River is pure pleasure. I'm a snob for prose, and these words sing, managing to be at once lean and evocative, confident and wry. Lou Berney is that kind of annoyingly skilled stylist who makes everything look easy."

So Berney came by and I introduced him to some booksellers and made him give the elevator pitch. And I'm paraphrasing here, but he replied, "I've done Hollywood and I know I need to be ready for this, but..." Oh, we dragged it out of him. Hey, we make our visiting authors work! 

As someone who's both an avid reader and traveling to a lot of stores, Berney was up for a little chat about our favorite bookstores. We both oohed and ahhed about Elliot Bay and Powell's of course, and then tried to exchange tips on some lesser knowns. Berney wondered why I haven't been to Magers and Quinn yet. I confess that I don't think I've been to MSP since Baxter's closed, and that is really dating me. No, that's not true, but it has been a long time.

I asked what's going on in Oklahoma City, Berney's current home. I've been to Oklahoma once, but only Tulsa. The indie of note there is Full Circle Bookstore, at Penn Place. It's got a nice ambience, a cafe, events, and storytimes with Miss Julie. I learned that you abbreviate Oklahoma City "OKC." I like that!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Love, Love, Love The Collective. Now All I Have to Do is Convince More People of its Charms.

A few days ago I was chatting with one regular. Our conversation veered between events and reading. Folks who read the blog are well aware that I try to read as many event books as I can, and I’m lucky to enough to be backed up by a group of booksellers that are also up for reading event books. And then there are the events that we book in part because of good reads. We’ve already got two enthusiasts for the new novels from Peter Geye (The Lighthouse Road), Emma Straub (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) and Michael Ennis (The Malice of Fortune), all appearing this fall. And all authors for whom we hope our enthusiasm will translate into your enthusiasm. We're adding them to our upcoming events page faster than ever so that you can mark your calendar earlier.

But then our friend asked, “Which do you like the best?” and I had to admit that my favorite book of late is not one for which we have an event. It’s Don Lee’s The Collective, which I’ve written about already in several contexts. It was included on my NPR spring roundup, and I noted some similarities to Joe Meno’s Office Girl, in that it looked at how art and identity can become intertwined. I also may have noted (or maybe not—I realize now that I haven’t written a post completely devoted to Lee’s newest novel) that Lee had the chance to ride the wave of rebirth of the college novel, following home runs from Chad Harbach and Jeffrey Eugenides last year.

Oh, and believe me, I tried to have an event. I hoped that with the book being partly set at Macalester, Lee might go back and read in St. Paul, particularly as Common Ground just moved just off campus to be Macalester's unofficial official bookstore. Hey, once you're in Minnesota, how much is it to add Wisconsin? After all, a percentage of the folks I deal with in New York might be convinced that Milwaukee is St. Paul's sister city, if I could just keep them away from a map. But it was not to be.

Don Lee is one of those novelists (remember that essay about Sheila Kohler and Diana Abu-Jaber) who tries to stretch with each novel, and yet his varied works are thematically connected. That push and pull of cultural identity, that simultaneous desire to embrace one’s heritage (in Lee’s case a specific Korean or broader Asian-American) tends to follow Lee from work to work. But by embracing it, I don’t mean that he ever considered what Samuel Park did, and re-imagine the Korea of his earlier generations. (And on aside note, Park doesn’t want to repeat either; his next novel is likely to be set elsewhere). I see some other connections to Lee’s previous novel, the much-beloved (at least by me) Wrack and Ruin. The relationship that our narrator Eric has with Joshua, the writer whose death is possibly suicide, possibly accident, is not too different from that of the brothers in the earlier story. And while the new novel is hardly the comic romp of his previous work, it is still infused with the humor that winds through all of Lee’s work.

So this is what happens for all novels that I like, not just the ones for which there are events. I start doing searches. Will the hits for title-author-review be newspapers or blogs or most disappointingly, just various online retail store listings? I knew that Lee had gotten some love in Entertainment Weekly, calling it “a heartbreaking, sexy, and frequently funny story about fractured friendships.” An A-? I’ll gladly take it. Yes, it gets to the point, and I’m sure many readers can identify with this, that I take these reviews as personally as if I wrote them. Oh, how my heart died when both the daily and Sunday New York Times Book Review ripped Chris Cleave. He notes that he’s not invited to the literary party in London. Oh, I think in New York they didn’t just disinvite you, they threw red wine on you and tossed you out the door. Sigh. But I digress.

So what’s next as I search the reviews? Oh, here’s an NPR piece. Uh oh, it’s my piece. That doesn’t count.

And then I find John Freeman’s review in the Boston Globe. Freeman is the editor of Granta and former NBCC president. One should know that Lee once edited Ploughshares, but I don’t care to figure out who is logrolling. The review is glorious; Freeman totally gets it, and even his awareness of some of the novel's warts (to which I applied Compound W and made light of) are smartly targeted.

The Collective threads a perfect line between the theoretical dogfights of the classroom and the actual dogfight of experience. Half of what you learn in college, after all, is discovering what you don’t already yet have experience to fully know. One of the pleasures of college life, and writing workshops, is the notion of there being safety in numbers, that if there is suffering to be done, it will be done collectively. The Collective reveals what a fallacy this idea is, especially when experience constantly has to be doubly refracted, as it is for Lee’s characters: once against the theories that frame cultural identity, and then again through the filter of Asian American identity itself.” (Note to Eugene, my copyright lawyer friend—did I quote too much here?)

Yes, yes, that’s what’s the genius of the college novel! You learn the theory, preferably in a vaccum, and that watch that theory play out in real life. Of course, sometimes the two parts of the novel are sequential, and other times (like in Harbach) they are played out simultaneously by different characters.

Now all I need are three hundred papers around the country to pick up this review. I am formally requesting that the book not be reviewed by daily New York Times. I’m afraid of what either Michiko Kakutani or Janet Maslin would do to it. There aren't really regular reviewers as such in the New York Times Book Review, but I think this could be a hit with Liesl Schillinger. I think either Ron Charles or Louis Bayard in the Washington Post would like it. Or of course Mameve Medwed. I think she’d like it, especially as it’s partly set in Cambridge. Look at me, I'm trying to hand-sell to book reviewers.

Now here’s hoping it gets a nice Indie Next review from a fellow bookseller. Uh oh.

And now, to do a better job of selling it. And just to toot this hardcover's horn and give a shout-out to W. W. Norton, this book is sufficiently heavy. Good paper!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boswell Best Focus on Kids' Novels--Land of Stories, Shadow and Bone, Seraphina.

There sure are a lot of interesting kids’ novels on Boswell’s Best this week. I don't think about kids' books as much in the summer because our kids' events are so closely tied to schools. There was a time years ago when most children’s book releases came with one shipment in spring and another in fall. But now it’s a 12-months-a-year business and we are only the better for it.

One of the books with the biggest buzz has been Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (Little, Brown). The premise is that Alex and Conner are given a treasured fairytale book by their grandmother, and that book is probably treasured because it sends them into the Land of Stories, where Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella married the three Charming brothers, and Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive. Playing with these fairytales is of course big fun for writers (Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha van Leer are also fans of the concept, as well as our pal Michael Buckley) because it’s all public domain. You can’t play with Disney characters without the corporation’s approval—you can thank our government for indefinitely extending copyright laws for that. Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today has a good time with Colfer’s book (yes, it’s Kurt Hummel from Glee), but wishes it had been slightly shorter. I think this is the function of the smaller-than-normal trim; it almost reminds me of the old Big Little Books.

Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, a series that several Boswellians have enjoyed, is still on the Best, but you folks all know about that. Folks who enjoyed Divergent and its sequel might go for Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt) . Orphaned Alina Starkov is drafted into the army with her friend Mal, sent on a dangerous mission into The Fold, and then, when the convoy is attacked, is trained to become a Grisha. If you don’t read kids’ fantasy (let alone, adult fantasy), you’re kind of not understanding the basics of the genre—the chosen one is a plain sort with a power previously unknown. Then you add a lot of exotic sounding descriptions that play upon some sort of mythology (once again, public domain). But Bardugo has what many other kids’ fantasy books dream about at night, great reviews including a full writeup by Laini Taylor in The New York Times Book Review. As she notes about the lush setup, which draws upon Russian mythology: “Bardugo’s setup is shiver-inducing, of the delicious variety. This is what fantasy is for: letting us slip into the skin of characters grappling with great power and the destinies that come with it.”

Boswellian Pam is crazy for Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina (Random House) , joining the chorus that includes Christopher Paolini (“beautiful written”) and Tamora Pierce (“I love this book.”) Here’s her take: “For forty years, an uneasy peace has existed between humans and dragons, who can contract themselves into human form, often to work as scholars in the world of Goredd. Seraphina, a gifted musician just hired as assistant to the court music master, has a secret that could doom both her and her father. She tries to keep a low profile but, is drawn into the investigation of the murder of a royal prince that looks suspiciously like a dragon-like attack. Because she has a dragon teacher, her knowledge of dragons is useful to Krigs, Captain of the Guard. She falls in love with him even though he is engaged to the Princess of the Realm, Seraphina’s student and also friend. I loved this book. The characters were complex and the world was original and richly developed. I have read a lot of fantasy books with dragons but, this one has a very unusual twist. Hopefully this author will write more novels in the future and I look forward to eagerly devouring them.”

I’ll also direct you to Random House’s website, where they show the four starred advance reviews, from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal. Is that a chorus, or what? All three titles are 20% off through at least next Monday, including website orders.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What's Going on This Week at Boswell? St. Sukie de la Croix, Gregg Shapiro, Nick Weber.

Tuesday, July 24, 7 pm, at Boswell
St. Sukie de la Croix, author of Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall, and Gregg Shapiro, author of GREGG SHAPIRO: 77.

Journalist St. Sukie de la Croix offers a colorful and vibrant record of LGBT Chicago, from the Civil War to the 1960s. Joining him will be fellow Chicago journalist and poet, Gregg Shapiro, with a new collection of autobiographical poems.

More on their website.

Wednesday, July 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Nick Weber, author of The Circus That Ran Away with a Jesuit Priest.

Armed with a graduate degree in drama and another in sacred theology, and backed by the California Province of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit priest Nick Weber's Royal Lichenstein Circus crisscrossed the United States for 22 years. Now in Milwaukee as a layperson and leader of a popular Shakespeare program, Weber tells how spiritual seeking merged with three-ring entertainment for two decades.

Yesterday's Cue section in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on wire service reviews, so we don't have any JSonline links, but arts editor Jim Higgins wrote a thoughtful roundup of literary reactions to the tragic shooting at the Aurora movie complex last weekend, including thoughts from Deborah Blum and Dave Cullen.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Post--What Sold at Boswell for the Week Ending July 21, 2012.

I spent Sunday at the Chicago gift show, and while I was tempted to take my laptop, I realized that 1) it would be very heavy and 2) I would likely at least one of my precious hours working on the blog, when I should be finding ornaments, lunch bags, and that vendor with the wooden trees from Germany that we had in 2010. So now it's pretty late and I can't remember why we sold anything.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Gold, by Chris Cleave
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
3. Fallen Angel, by Daniel Silva
4. Canada, by Richard Ford
5. Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Gone Girl is on fire, with all the enthusiasm she generated before publication translating into amazing word of mouth building on great reviews. Now Tana French's fourth novel, Broken Harbor, just got a rave in the New York Times too, and she was sort of one of our Flynn comparisons. We'll see if they are battling it out next week.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss
2. The Good Food Revolution, by Will Allen
3. Bushville Wins, by John Klima
4. The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz
5. The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro

I guess when it comes to this category, boys rule this week. Jason spotted Will Allen at the Fox Point farmers market last Saturday, and we also noticed he did a two-hour signing at B&N. I suspect more is to come. We were also remiss in noting that Klima wound up signing at the Milwuakee County Historical Society last week. Hope interested parties caught the notice in the Shepherd Express.

Paperback fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Pryme Knumber, by Matt Flynn
3. The Devil all the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock
4. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
5. Incendiary, by Chris Cleave

Nice to see a pop at Chris Cleave's event for Incendiary. The London Telegraph noted: "The eloquence of Cleave’s heroine is equal to the atrocity that claims her family. She is by turns funny, sad, flawed, sympathetic, both damaged and indomitable, and triumphantly convincing." We have signed copies.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Clemente, by David Maraniss
2. F for Effort, by Richard Benson
3. When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss
4. Rome 1960, by David Maraniss
5. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson

Can this possibly be a true answer from a high school test?
Q: Fossil fuels are usually associated with which major type of rock?
A: Classic rock
I suspect some of our customers could do their own version of F for Effort, the sequel to F in Exams.

Books for kids:
1. All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon
2. Think Big, by Liz Garton Scanlon
3. Noodle and Lou, by Liz Garton Scanlon
4. A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, by Liz Garton Scanlon
5. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Guess what we did this weekend? Yes, Liz Garton Scanlon led a picture book workshop for SCBWI. It pays to join! I only came in at the tail end, but learned some interesting details on what I writer can do to have the best kids' book possible. Her new picture book, Think Big, is sort of a wish book for kids on unleashing creativity. Vanessa Brantley Newton's illustrations mesh well with Scalon's rhymes to help us travel into a world of art, music, theater, and craft. Did I mention that as a child, I was obsessed with potter's wheels? I learned in college that it's harder than it looks. We have signed copies of both Think Big and Noodle and Lou, the next best thing to their having been a public component to the program.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--The Return of Owls.

When I am putting together gift displays, I try not to repeat myself, but it turns out that trends move slower than I expected. For every breath of octopus freshness, there's sock monkey redux.

And so it started with owls when Benjamin offered a leather owl bank. And then we started buying Kikkerland, and I fell in love with their owl corkscrew. And the luggage tags were working pretty well (one of the more popular items on the rubber duck table) so I had to try the owls of that too.

So this gave us the opportunity to flip some display tables around. Anne said that she no sooner finished setting the owl table than someone came and bought three items off it. And what makes me the most happy is that we once again have a logical place to display Sam and the Firefly.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Four Fabulously Original Trade Papebacks on Our Front Tables from Indie Publishers.

So I was wandering around the store today and noticed that there were a whole bunch of paperbacks up front that I didn't really recognize. I hadn't really remembered seeing them in hardcover, and that's because, as I confirmed with Jason, they are all paperback originals. This was yesterday's future of publishing, before ebooks were tomorrow's future of publishing. But of course yesterday's tomorrow is today, which is as good a reason as any to call these books to your attention.

Nancy Huston has a new novel? Who knew? I really enjoyed Fault Lines several years ago. The new novel, Infrared (Black Cat/Grove Press) which came out in France in 2010, is about Rena Greenblatt, a successful photographer who has overcome both a troubled childhood and twice as many failed marriages, who takes a holiday in Florence with her father and stepmother. The banal family holiday is juxtaposed, both with accounts from her lover covering race riots in Paris, and her own first-person intimate confessions. Did I get those details write? Starred review from Publishers Weekly and France Soir called it “an intense and sensual novel.”

Jason, on the other hand, read the last Nathan Larson novel, The Dewey Decimal System, and seemed quite excited by The Nervous System (Akashic), which Ken Bruen praised as “sheer magic and delirious joy” on the book jacket. Our hero, the eponymous Dewey Decimal, is living in post-apocalyptic New York City, where he attempts to make order of the New York Public Library. He’s also a vet, has OCD, and he freelances as muscle for corrupt politicians and various underworlders The new novel finds Dewey attempting to clean up the loose ends of the first book (including a killing, which I probably shouldn’t give away if you are still planning to read it). Laura Lippman pines over the perfect prose, “as tweaked and jumpy and memorable as the man known as Dewey Decimal.” To her taste, she’s more of a Library of Congress girl.

Misfit, by Adam Braver (Tin House) shows Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress on its jacket and that might be a clue that this novel is about the last weekend of her life, spent at the Cal Neva lodge, Frank Sinatra’s resort. Braver’s fascinated with this line of inspiration, having previously penned November 22, 1963 (Kennedy) and Divine Sarah (Bernhardt), more last moments of the stars--I see a boxed set someday. Dan Chaon notes “Adam Braver has a wonderfully rich imagination and his grasp of historical characters and settings is both deep and natural. I would gladly read anything he writes.” while Ann Beattie offers that this “amazing” novel is about “identity, privacy, and intimacy that both exposes and conceals its subject.” From my short browsing of the Misfit, it called to mind Lily Tuck, but I have no idea if that bears out.
Children in Reindeer Woods (Open Letter) is translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith. I am very excited to try to get all the accents correct. The author is Kristín Ómarsdóttir (perhaps best known in Iceland as a playwright, where she won the prestigious Griman award) has written a story about young Billie, whose temporary home turns out to be in a war zone. Paratroopers kill everyone in the home and then turn on each other, and Billie is forced to live with Rafael, a solider turned farmer. Shane, where are you? I think this author is channeling Jesse Ball. From Kirkus: “This is the first of Icelandic author Ómarsdottir's novels to appear in English, and it shouldn't be the last. Somewhere in the reader's mind, Catch-22 echoes faintly.”