Monday, February 4, 2013

Two Events--John Bolger on Friday, and Faith Barrett with Aviva Cristy on Saturday.

February's always a little quieter for events. We've only got two this week, both with local ties. What I've found is that there are less things going on, as long as you don't schedule against the Super Bowl or Valentine's Day, so as long as the weather holds, the turnout can be pretty good. Even with some of the coldest weather of the season, our event with Ian Rankin turned out to be particularly successful last Friday.

Friday, February 8, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Bolger, author of The Hunters.

Paul Kruk lies in a hidden hunting blind with his father's Winchester rifle, deciding whether to kill a man. With twists and turns, The Hunters explores the lives of the people touched by Paul's decision, from the men in his hunting party to his beautiful, brilliant sister, as this literary novel carefully and honestly depicts their choices, their actions, and the events that follow.

John Bolger has a PhD from the creative writing program at UWM, and you also might know him from his day job as a lawyer. The evolution of this novel came from a short story called "The Stone,"which won a literary prize, which led to a program at the Aspen Writers Foundation. There he met Pam Houston, who discerned that there was actually a novel running through the stories.

This is not an unusual thing. Dan Chaon famously discovered that three of his short stories were related, and they didn't even have the same characters. This became the genesis of Await Your Reply.

Pam's a big fan. Here's her quote for The Hunters:

"I love this portrayal of the Northwoods, and the feeling of impending winter that pervades--the pressure cooker that is created by all these people trapped in such a cold bleak place. I like how information is withheld and delivered, and the way all the men in town are ruining their lives for the same woman. And I love most the twisted sense of justice, and just how twisted it gets in the end. A pinch of Hemingway and a pound of Cormac and all the rest original Bolger. This is a terrific book." ~ Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted and Cowboys Are My Weakness.

More praise from Ron Carlson:

"The men and women, the weapons, the deerhunt all make a huge and fragile danger in John Bolger's novel The Hunters. There is care and harm in this book and all written with felicitous and steady grace." ~ Ron Carlson, author of The Signal and At the Jim Bridger.

I went to see Ron Carlson several years ago, when he appeared at the Bay View branch of the Schwartz Bookshop. Later on I learned that he taught with my brother-in-law at Arizona State. But sadly, I couldn't drop Gus's name, as I didn't learn this until after the event.

Saturday February 9, 2:00 pm, at Boswell;
Faith Barrett, author of To Fight Aloud is Very Brave: American Poetry and the Civil War

This event will feature opening reader Aviva Cristy.

 Barrett may teach at Lawrence University in Appleton, but she certainly has connections here, and when Barrett's book was announced, several regulars wondered whether she would be speaking here.

Focusing on literary and popular poets, as well as work by women, African Americans, and soldiers, this book considers how writers used poetry to articulate their relationships to family, community, and nation during the Civil War. Faith Barrett suggests that the nationalist “we” and the personal “I” are not opposed in this era; rather they are related positions on a continuous spectrum of potential stances. For example, while Julia Ward Howe became famous for her “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in an earlier poem titled “The Lyric I” she struggles to negotiate her relationship to domestic, aesthetic, and political stances.

Barrett makes the case that Americans on both sides of the struggle believed that poetry had an important role to play in defining national identity. She considers how poets created a platform from which they could speak both to their own families and local communities and to the nations of the Confederacy, the Union, and the United States. She argues that the Civil War changed the way American poets addressed their audiences and that Civil War poetry changed the way Americans understood their relationship to the nation.

Barrett is also co-editor of Words for the Hour: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry. Alas, it's hard to bring in academic backlist to events unless it is from the same publisher, as we have to get special dispensation to carry the books in the store to support the event such that they are not deemed textbook.

When we booked this event, Stacie and Todd immediately thought of Aviva Englander Cristy as aan opening reader. Cristy currently teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she is a doctoral candidate in English. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and publications, including Best New Poets 2012 (which we carry!), and her chapbook, The Interior Structure, is forthcoming this spring.

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