Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown, in conversation with C.J. Hribal.
One of the finest speakers on creative writing and literary criticism, Robert Boswell is also a highly underappreciated writer of fiction. His new novel, Tumbledown, received a glowing review from The New York Times Book Review earlier this year, with the reviewer noting, “Boswell can write the most refreshingly old-fashioned kind of narrative: one that evokes deep sympathy for all its characters. . . . All the novel’s characters know that in adulthood they’re supposed to settle for ‘what could pass for a normal life. Maybe it was a C- sort of life, but that was a passing grade.’ Still, they want to keep hope, wonder and love in their lives. . . . Without a whiff of sentimentality, he shows exactly how elusive such balance can be.”
My rec on Tumbledown: "At the Onyx Springs Rehabilitation Center, not that far from San Diego, James Candler is a counselor being fast tracked for the directorship by the outgoing head. His clients (formerly known as patients) include a schizophrenic, a chronic self-groper, and a mildly mentally impaired beauty. He’s also got a girlfriend coming to town (his sister’s assistant in London) who he’s only really known for a short time, which might cause some complications, since he’s already sleeping with a local. Did I mention she’s a former patient he doesn’t recognize, and you might call her a stalker? Candler also just hired his best friend from childhood, Billy Atlas, as a supervisor, and he’s pretty much the only one who knows Jimmy’s secret about his deceased brother Pook. Yes, this is that kind of multi-character, multi-perspective funny-but-not-comic novel that I gravitate towards, with Boswell giving new meaning to flawed-but-sympathetic characters. But Tumbledown is also a powerful story about life in the face of illness and loss, control when confronted by chaos, and love and lust in the midst of desperation."
Joining him in conversation will be C.J. Hribal, author of The Company Car, a novel which Robert Boswell called “wonderful,” adding “Hribal writes with grace and unerring wit in this celebration of the American family.” Both authors teach at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
Tuesday, October 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Barbara Manger, author of Riding Through Grief.
From the Midwest Book Award winning author of Mary Nohl: Inside and Outside, comes a memoir about resilience and renewal. With the same down-to-earth tone that permeated that biography of one extraordinary artist’s life and work, Manger relates her own family’s struggle to return to normal in the wake of a debilitating loss: the death of Barbara’s son, Matt.
Weaving backward and forward in time, Riding Through Grief takes the reader through Matt’s childhood, offering glimpses of his zest for life and sense of adventure, set against the events surrounding his death and funeral. In their shared attempts to create meaningful life without Matt, his loved ones discover unique ways to honor his memory, offering gratitude for all the time they did get to have with him while also knowing that he will remain with them always.
Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm, at Boswell
Valerie Sayers, author of The Powers and Due East, in conversation with Liam Callanan.
Earlier this year, Valerie Sayers, a widely regarded novelist and professor of English at Notre Dame, saw the release of her first novel since Brain Fever in 1996, which was Sayers’ second novel to be named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. The Powers—set in 1941 against a roller coaster backdrop of historic events: DiMaggio’s record season, Pearl Harbor—is an inventive novel about how three friends on the cusp of adulthood are changed because of their experiences with such giants of the time as Dorothy Day, Walker Evans, and, of course, Joltin’ Joe.
In conjunction with her new novel, Northwestern University Press has reissued Sayers’ earlier novels in attractively designed uniform paperback editions. Particularly appreciated for her ability to examine moral issues through complex lenses tinted by Catholicism, Sayers does so with stories that border on the fantastical. Joining her in conversation about her work will be Liam Callanan, author of the novels Cloud Atlas and All Saints, and professor of English and Creative Writing at UW-Milwaukee.
Friday, November 1, 7 pm, at Boswell, New Story Collections from the Midwest:
Janice Deal, author of The Decline of Pigeons, along with Abby Genni, author of The Last Animal.
In 2011, two authors joined a list of established names in an anthology titled New Stories from the Midwest. Now, two years later, both authors' fiction will meet again, but in person this time, rather than simply on the page, as they present work from their debut story collections.
My rec for The Last Animal:"When people let you down, the natural world might just be the place to find solace, or so I surmised from this fascinating new collection of short stories. Whether it be Alheimers, depression, affairs, or reasons yet to be determined, the family members of Abby Geni's characters keep disappearing. Even the surrogates, like one beloved camp counselor, can't be depended on. But fortunately there are substitute connections, whether it's the teen student of "Dharma at the Gate" who has her dog, or the young aquarium worker of "Captivity" who is quite aware of the intelligence of the octopus. One museum worker turns to specimens to process his grief at losing his mother, while another man turns to his clients' plant woes after his wife's miscarriage. Even in the stories I wasn't as drawn to, Geni's work is filled with unique images and situations. In my favorite stories, her characters and imagery are heart-stopping."
Booklist also has praise for The Decline of Pigeons, by Janice Deal, saying: “Throughout these nine striking stories, Deal deftly explores the moments during which her characters' lives shift or unravel.” These characters, isolated and flawed yet hopeful, exhibit the bravery that profound loss demands; even as they make choices that might damn them, they are magnificent in their potential to break free.
Janice Deal's stories have appeared in literary magazines including The Sun, The Ontario Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and StoryQuarterly. Her collection was a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and she is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship Award for prose.
Saturday, November 2, 11 am, at Boswell:
Lisa Moser, author of Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope.
This event is recommended for cowboys and cowgirls aged 3-7.
Featuring story time with Lisa Moser, author of the delightful picture book, Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope, wherein a cowboy and his loyal steed (actually, a rhinoceros) might be the only ones at the Double R Ranch who can save the day. We’ll also have activities for those cowpokes who might want to try their hand at drawing the scene for a ranch of their own, practice lassoing, or sing ballads around a fire (okay, not a real fire).
Lisa Moser is a Wisconsin-based children's author whose books include Squirrel's World, included in the 2010-2011 Texas Bluebonnet Master list of recommended children's books for libraries; The Monster in the Backpack; Kisses on the Wind, which received an Oppenheimer Toy Gold Seal; and Railroad Hank.
Saturday, November 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Two Month Book Club featuring featuring Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.
Join former Boswellian Halley Pucker for what is bound to be a lively discussion about Stephen King’s latest novel, Doctor Sleep, the riveting sequel to The Shining.
Monday, November 4, 7 pm, at Boswell:
SHARP Literacy presents Francisco Mora, illustrator of A Great Lakes Adventure: Salmon's Journey Home.
Illustrated by Mexican-American artist Francisco Mora, SHARP’S 11th book invites us to join Salmon as he undertakes an exciting journey to discover the place of his birth. As Salmon seeks to uncover mysteries and reach his goal, he makes a special friend who will teach him much about life and the Great Lakes.
RSVPs encouraged to Betsy Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (414) 977-1768.