Monday, June 24, 2013

This Week's Events at Boswell--Edward McClelland, Nathan Rabin, Andrew Sean Greer, and Benjamin Lytal.

We're getting into summer, but just before Summerfest break, we've got a going away party, or rather three of them, for you. I should highlight our Edward McClelland event by noting that C-Span is taping this event for Book TV. Not only will you get a good talk, you'll make the store and Milwaukee look good on cable later.

Monday, June 24, 7 pm, at Boswell
Edward McClelland, author of Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland.

The midwest has long been known as the place where manufacturing is still king, and a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel special report showed that we're at the forefront in the region--#1 in manufacturing employment among 15 other large midwestern cities. But that blessing has come with curses--in addition to our various social and economic problems, we are at the bottom (14 out of 16) in small business start ups, for example. 

In McClelland's new book, he looks at this on a regional scale. From the publisher: The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region became the "arsenal of democracy"-the greatest manufacturing center in the world-in the years during and after World War II, thanks to natural advantages and a welcoming culture. Decades of unprecedented prosperity followed, memorably punctuated by riots, strikes, burning rivers, and oil embargoes. A vibrant, quintessentially American character bloomed in the region's cities, suburbs, and backwaters.

But the innovation and industry that defined the Rust Belt also helped to hasten its demise. An air conditioner invented in Upstate New York transformed the South from a sweaty backwoods to a non-unionized industrial competitor. Japan and Germany recovered from their defeat to build fuel-efficient cars in the stagnant 1970s. The tentpole factories that paid workers so well also filled the air with soot, and poisoned waters and soil. The jobs drifted elsewhere, and many of the people soon followed suit.Nothin' but Blue Skies tells the story of how the country's industrial heartland grew, boomed, bottomed, and hopes to be reborn. Through a propulsive blend of storytelling and reportage, celebrated writer Edward McClelland delivers the rise, fall, and revival of the Rust Belt and its people.

"It is difficult to describe how truly outstanding the book entitled Nothin' But Blue Skies is to read. As a nearly lifelong Rust Belt resident, I can attest to the fact that Edward McClelland’s newly released book simply nails our industrial heritage, decline, and hopeful potential squarely on the head. From nationally known politicians like Dennis Kucinich or Coleman Young to the everyday blue-collar laborer toiling in our mills and factories, Mr. McClelland personifies the Rust Belt like no other book I have ever read on the subject. As a Lansing native, he has personally witnessed the dramatic (and sometimes catastrophic) changes just in his lifetime. In Nothin' But Blue Skies, Mr. McClelland takes the reader on a quasi-chronological step-by-step sequence of events that shook the Rust Belt down it its very core."
--Rick Brown in Rustwire

"At its best, McClelland's book reminds us of what has transpired in the heart of the country over the past 30 years and of the battering endured by hundreds of thousands of working-class families as global corporatism and federal trade policies gutted the American middle class."
--Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, June 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Nathan Rabin, author of You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes.
Co-sponsored with 91.7 WMSE.

This is our third event with Rabin, our fourth if you include group events, and his brain just takes him in places I would never think of going. In the new book, he hits up the trail to follow Insane Clown Posse and Phish, two of pop culture's most maligned "tribes." I've already written about the book at length last week, so this time let's give you some quotes.

“I love this book. Not only is it funny and well written, but it is, dare I say… beautiful. People could learn a thing or two from Nathan. Instead of judging new things and keeping them at bay because they’re “scary” or “shitty,” he embraces them and walks away with rich life experiences. So, give yourself a rich life experience of your own and read this book Then, when you’re finished, go and see a Phish show. What do you have to lose? Nothing. What do you have to gain? – maybe they’ll play a thirty minute “Tweezer” and you’ll get to see god.”
--Harris Wittels, the actor/comic/writer/musician, perhaps best known for his work on The Sarah Silverman Program and Parks and Recreation. And yes, he also has hosted the Analyze Phish podcast.

I'm not as interested in anything as much as Nathan Rabin is interested in everything.”
―Chuck Klosterman, who is coming to Boswell on Thursday, July 18 for his own book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined). Have you helped us put up a poster somewhere?

"Rabin writes like the secret love child of Woody Allen and Lester Bangs: Honest, erudite, neurotically manic, and very funny."
―Neal Pollack, who did visit us several years ago for his memoir Stretch. It was real yoga, not a parody.

Wednesday, June 26, 7 pm at Boswell:
Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, and Benjamin Lytal, author of A Map of Tulsa.

I don't want to duplicate last week's blog post, but I also want to make sure you attend Wedenesday's event. What to do?

From the publisher, a good description: It is 1985 and Greta Wells is a woman at a low point in her life: her twin brother is dead and her lover has left her. Undergoing electroconvulsive therapy, she wakes the next day in a different version of her life: first as a woman in 1918, then in 1941. Many details are the same—the same brother, aunt, and lover—but others have changed: she does or does not have a child, her brother is alive, she has a husband. Over three months, Greta cycles through these versions of her life, navigating each with its different problems and rewards. In the end, she must tie up the loose ends of these lives and, at last, decide which of these imperfect worlds to choose as her own.

From the author, a good genesis“The idea for alternate realities came to me when I misread the description of a new novel in a bookstore,” Greer says, when talking about the genesis of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. “When I realized it was not about the same characters put in three different time periods, I saw that the novel idea was actually my own….The basic question at the heart of the novel became, were you born too early to be happy? Too late? For we all live in difficult times, and find ourselves longing for some distant golden age; yet history is neither a story of progress or decline, but simply of lives led according to the limits and choices of that time. Would you be the same person you are in 1941? Are you really that indomitable? Or would you have been shaped in some way by that era, that war, and become more like your mother than you’d like to think? And by reflecting this way, one can begin to imagine how our own time shapes us…bringing up a new question: what is the essential part of ourselves that would never change?”

And here's a little more on Benjamin Lytal, author of A Map of Tulsa, including an array of spectacular recommendations from authors and critics.

After a year of college on the East Coast, Jim Praley returns to Tulsa for the summer, ready to disappear into his self-appointed reading regimen. Instead he meets Adrienne Booker: the abandoned daughter to a local oil fortune, 18 years old and living an independent, mysterious life in the family penthouse, with only her aunt Lydie occasionally looking after her. Adrienne is way out of Jim’s league, but somehow, as an unlikely couple, they click.

The relationship that unfolds defines the shape of Jim’s life to come. Through Adrienne’s eyes he sees the strange beauty of his hometown for the first time: they drink, they dance, they write and paint and sing. College feels very remote; the anonymous skyscrapers downtown have never looked better. Jim must return to college in September, but he is haunted by Adrienne. His literary ambitions lead him to New York after graduation, and he expects to see her around every corner. When tragedy strikes, Jim finds himself on a plane, Tulsa-bound.

“Lytal manages to make Tulsa’s humdrum cityscape seem newly observed, even a place that might enchant…A Map of Tulsa is a small but ambitious novel of stumbling, coming-of-adulthood love. It is witty without eliciting a single chuckle. It is wise without being preachy.”
—Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe

Superbly evocative…Mr. Lytal's exhilarating writing is reminiscent of winsome, confessional bildungsromans like Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station or John Cotter's Under the Small Lights.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

A Map of Tulsa deserves comparison with the very best novels of its kind, from James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime to Scott Spencer’s Endless Love. It’s also one of the most insightful books about the comforts (and traps) of small-city parochialism I’ve ever read.”
—Tom Bissell, Harper’s

“[A] fearless, serious and impressive first novel… Lytal holds our attention with unusual syntax and poetic concision…”
—Gary Sernovitrz, The New York Times Book Review

"For we who know Tulsa solely from attempts at two-stepping to Danny Flowers' country classic, one of the many joys of Benjamin Lytal's lithe, literate, heartfelt debut novel, A Map of Tulsa, is meeting an American mid-tropolis that's apparently as blue-collar-complex and quirkily irresistible as, well, Milwaukee. Just as I sought to serenade circa-1980 Cream City in Planet of the Dates, through his own coming-of-age novel Lytal brings his own hometown ('90s version) to bracing breathing-life."
--Paul McComas, The Shepherd Express

Did anyone notice the dramatic difference in impression when a critic compares a book to two other books you really don't know (Wall Street Journal) as opposed two you do (Harpers). But I was just as confused by the list of quotes provided--why did some authors get citations and some not?

In any case, it's settled--you now know what you're doing this week. You can go out and dance on the park benches from Thursday through Sunday, as we don't have an events scheduled. 

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