Friday, February 28, 2014

A History of Lorrie Moore Reading Through Full-Title Pages (in Advance of Our Event for "Bark" on March 3).

In advance of our reading with Lorrie Moore this coming Monday, March 3, 7 pm for Bark, and in the spirit of the flurry of books, magazine articles, and television specials using the theme "a history of this in that many objects," I present a history of Lorrie Moore reading through six full title pages and the five signatures that accompany them.

1985. I am working in New York publishing. Folks would call me from other houses and ask for copies of our books in exchange for copies of their books. The higher ups seemed ok with this as they would pretty regularly ask me to get copies of books for them from other houses. You wouldn't think publishing folks would want to get their hands on the latest miracle diet (I worked on a number), but they did. Sometimes I would know what I wanted in exchange, sometimes I held onto the favor for when a vice president came calling, and sometimes I said, "surprise me."

And that's how Self Help fell into my lap. It's my only unsigned copy. I don't know why. It's a first edition in very nice shape, but apparently collectors had a feeling about her. There are a lot of copies out there, and while hardcover first editions are not going for a dollar, they are fairly reasonably priced.

1986. I have moved to Milwaukee (corrected from New York--thanks, John!) to begin working at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops. I read voraciously, as many as 20 books a month. I should note that I not only do not have cable (expensive) or internet (apparently invented, but still a secret), I actually keep my tiny television in a storage locker, and pull it out only for viewing emergencies. This is also when I do my dishes in the bathtup, a la Laurie Colwin. But don't forget, as Maureen Corrigan notes in her NPR review (where she compares the author to Emily Dickinson), we're talking about the other Lorrie.

Anagrams comes out, and I love it. It's my #1 book for the month of October 1986, as you must know by now, in my younger days, I ranked everything. I write: "I love the way Moore plays with structure. What could have been a Knopf-y woman's novel instead becomes a fascinating game of words. From the puns and the word games to the convoluted and sometimes imaginary lives of the characters, this book was great fun. Remember--an anagram is when you rearrange the characters to make a new word, but Moore's Anagrams is when you rearrange characters to make a new world."

I was 25. I had no editor. Among the 17 other books I read that month were Crackpot, by John Waters, Paradise, by Donald Barthelme, The Well, by Elizabeth Jolley, and Enchantment, by Daphne Merkin. Of the lowest ranked book,a collection of essays, whose author I will not reveal, I wrote "Who would want to be friends with this self-important slime of a man? Not me."

At this point, Schwartz doesn't really have much of a reading program. It's mostly signings. My friend John convinces me to go to Five Star Fiction in Madison for a reading.The book is signed and dated, but not personalized. Ebay hasn't been invented yet.

1990. At this point, I am a buyer for Schwartz, though I'm only being trained on frontlist by A. David Schwartz. He's given me some smaller lines to buy, but I don't think he handed over Knopf's parent, Random House, until 1991. As the all-important backlist buyer, pre-electronic ordering, I call or fax or sometimes mail in orders to publishers. Seasonally the reps will come in and take orders from me for stock orders. I seem to remember it takes two days for me to buy the Harper & Row backlist.

At this point, Moore could have come for Like Life, but I can't tell. Our monthly Schwartz newsletter started up full scale in 1994. She signed my copy, but it's not dated, so it's possible that she did this as a backlist title. And yes, Like Life was my number one book for the month, outmaneuvering only nine other books for the month from Sue Miller, Vicki Covington, Sue Townsend, Michael Nava, John Banville, and once-fellow-Madisonian Kelly Cherry.

I write: "This collection abandons the experimental structures of Self Help and Anagrams. Still Moore's women remain sharp and biting, always quick wih a fun turn of phrase. The plots contain the anticipated share of absurdities. I guess my favorite would be "You're Ugly Too "which concerns a midwestern professor who comes to New York to go to her sister's Halloween party. She is set up on a blind date, but she decides she hates him when he tells her she should wear more blue."

It was clear in this stage of her writing that she was not particularly happy with Wisconsin. I have noticed this with other writers. They write about New York and it's "exact and place-y" as I noted in my review. But send them anywhere else and the geography is murky. Perhaps this is because so many of these story writers aim to be featured in The New Yorker?

The book is inscribed to Daniel, not dated.

1994. Lorrie Moore definitely did come for an event at Schwartz this time. I had assumed she appeared at the Shorewood store, but it turned out that my write up noted that she read at Brookfield while my friend Lisa and I were driving through Albany, which was where part of the novel took place.  It was a tough month for ranking, as she was competing with my advance reads of Elinor Lipman's Isabel's Bed and Michael Cunningham's Flesh and Blood. Her ranking of #3 may have been influenced by me touting the other authors' upcoming readings.

I wrote: "She still has the wordplay I enjoy and her sharp, dry wit, but the straightforwardness of the narative reflects a new maturity tha affected readers and and reviewers alike (it was on the Village Voice A List for quite a whiled). It's as if Moore uses an emotional microscope." A List? Village Voice? What are these things that once had national meaning?

Because paperback rights on this book were sold to another publishing house, I think Moore came back to Milwaukee on a paperback tour, and I'm pretty sure that this time she went to our Shorewood location. The book is inscribed to the unusual "Daniel G."

1998. This time I worked the signing at the Downer Avenue location because I noted in my review that I forgot to get the backlist signed. At this point I was sort of writing my book lists in themes, which is a prelude to "making it too complicated to keep up with.

At this point, my reading level was down to a more reasonable seven books in a month and for the third time, Lorrie Moore had my #1 book, beating out such heavy hitters as Ethan Canin, Edwidge Danticat, Fay Weldon (I devoured her), and Susan Minot. I wrote: "Moore continues to probe the insides of her characters' devastated states, with sad and funny results. If death seems closer to these characters than in Like Life and Self Help, perhaps that is a function of the author's age and that it's been acclaimed everywhere, what can you learn from me?"

This is the only advance reading copy in my collection. It is inscribed to "Daniel Goldin."

2009. I was a bit of whine baby as we couldn't get Lorrie Moore to come to Milwaukee on the initial tour. We finally got a date, and as you may have heard if you attended the event, the car service didn't show up and she wound up taking a taxi.

Our evening with Lorrie Moore for A Gate at the Stairs wound up being a wonderful evening, a great memory for me and all the folks who attended. At this point, I was still writing down books I wrote, but the write-ups I did each month have sort of morphed into this blog.

The book is personalized to Daniel with a very sweet message. Sigh.

2014. Lorrie Moore returns to Boswell for her third time (yes, she came once as an event attendee) on Monday, March 3, 7 pm. I am looking forward to getting my book signed.

On the next post, I yap about Bark.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cara Black is Back and This Time, There's a Little Leduc in The Oven--A Meditation on "Murder in Pigalle" and Details About our March 12th Event at Boswell (and Another at Mystery One)

I currently have two friends who are pregnant with their first children. While I knew that one of them wanted to be a mom for a long time, the other had told me several years ago she wouldn’t have kids. I have known enough folks over the years to reply, “You never know how you’re going to feel about things in the future” and after a few life choices that indicated to me that she had changed her mind on the issue, I learned that she and her husband were expecting.

You’re probably thinking that I’m leading into an article about parenting memoirs, aren’t you? Recently The New York Times Book Review had a cover story on such books, including a review of All Joy and No Fun, by Jennifer Senior, and Sandra Tsing Loh’s double take on The Hybrid Tiger and The Triple Package. I spent some time paging through sociologist Dalton Conley’s Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children But Were Too Exhausted to Ask, where he decides to test various parenting hypotheses on his own children. It's just out and would make the subject of an excellent post.

But I’m actually not talking about any of those books today. No, the book that got me thinking about parenting is Cara Black’s new novel, Murder in Pigalle, the fourteenth installment of the Aimée Leduc series, which comes out on March 4.

 This time Leduc is distracted by the disappearance of young Zazie, the daughter of the local cheesemongers. It appears that Zazie’s been playing detective, trying to figure out who is targeting local schoolgirls, including one of her fellow students.

Leduc feels somewhat responsible, as Zazie clearly idolizes her. Moreso than usual, perhaps? Perhaps the hormones are kicking in, because it turns out Leduc herself is pregnant. So though she’s not officially on the case, Leduc decides that Zazie’s disappearance is somehow connected this sexual predator. Perhaps all this poking around led her to the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn’t seem like Zazie was targeted, as the girls in trouble all to be young violinists.

So while this is going on, we learn about a heist taking place. A fellow named Zacharie is rounding up a gang, under the orders of a higher up. What Zacharie would like to do is attain custody of his daughter (his ex-wife is also having problems) and escape to Belgium. He’d like to take himself completely out of this deal, but he’s being blackmailed. Not good. And of course this somehow has to play in to the main story.

So we’ve sort of got several stories going on here and they all have to do with parental duty. Even as Leduc investigates, she finds herself in parent-child dilemmas. One mother angrily cares for her daughter, effectively destroying evidence. Another worries more about her job than her daughter, sending her child off to a sterile clinic instead of staying with her in time of need. And then there are the dilemmas of Leduc's situation—her business partner wants to help raise the kid while the ne’er-do-well father reappears after some time with other plans.

The story all comes together, after a series of false starts and red herrings, but I can’t really give too much away or what’s the point? You never know how starting a series in the most recent adventure will go. I read all the Hercule Poirot and Adam Dalgleish books completely out of order and it didn’t matter, but most contemporary writers like their mysteries to have an over-arching narrative. There were flashbacks to Leduc’s father’s death, and an ongoing dilemma about whether to sell the business to a competitor, a hostile takeover of sorts, but while these tidbits might have been more interesting to long-time Black readers, they did not detract from my first-time experience.

Aimée Leduc is a likeable enough detective, though she’s got a very complicated life that will probably never be completely sorted out. And boy, sometimes I wanted to scream "No Aimée, that's a bad decision!" or however you'd say that in French. The story takes place about twenty years ago, so there’s less technology than a contemporary story, although there are cell phones. The Paris details are fun, and while I know very little about Pigalle, I learned that it is a bit of a racy place, being the home of Moulin Rouge, and took on the nickname of Pig Alley by the Allied soldiers, per Wikipedia.

But what I really liked about Murder in Pigalle were this variations on a theme, the way the whole story came together to explore the ties of parenthood. How do we protect our children? What do we sacrifice? Is the parental bond limited to blood tie? And what makes a person break that bond? It was a meditation that I didn’t expect to get in a mystery, and gave the story a deeper resonance.

We’re hosting Cara Black on Wednesday, March 12, 7 pm, with Mystery One having a signing beforehand at 5 pm. I certainly didn’t expect to get a return visit quite so soon after our last, but being that a good time was had by all (both author and audience), and Black is good friends with Jon and Ruth of Crimespree magazine, we’re attempting to repeat the magic. All I can say is “Va Va Voom!”, which turns out not to be even remotely French.

Here are the Cara Black books in chronological order.Murder in the Marais is available at an introductory price of $9.99. Murder Below Montparnasse is also newly available in paperback.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Clearing the Clearance.

I closed out the clearance table this week. There are a few everyday items that will either be kept for our summer clearance and a few items (like one set of address books) that will go back in the address book shelf at their clearance price. There are also a few ornaments we're going to keep for next holiday, but there are a few that have seen better days and will be just charged out as a loss.

Most things get a day or two in the staff break room before I discard them; I never know what someone's going to want at the right price. I've got these Baby Lit buttons, which sold very, very well, except there are a few dregs that nobody wants. This pictured button turns out to be the least popular Baby Lit design. It's certainly pretty, but its motif is distinctly dollar signs. What classic was this inspired by? And why am I not friends with Scrooge McDuck, who would appreciate this thoughtful gift?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Releases from Lorrie Moore, Joshua Marx Feldman, Alice LaPlante, Anna Hope, Amy Greene, and Peter Swanson, Plus a Few More Details About Michio Kaku's Event Tomorrow (Which is Not Fiction but is Definitely Appealing to the Speculative Folk).

As Jason noted to me, the two biggest books coming out today are both events at Boswell. We'll be hosting Michio Kaku tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26, 7 pm, for The Future of the Mind (Doubleday) and Lorrie Moore for her new story collection, Bark (Knopf), on Monday, March 3, 7 pm.

Both events are free and likely to be quite crowded. In particular, I should note that Michio Kaku's profile has gone up quite a bit since his last release, Physics of the Future, and we are also his first event after his whirlwind 48-hours in New York, where he is doing just about every program you can possibly imagine. I was speaking to K.P. at Wisconsin Public Radio and he said the interview with Dr. Kaku was mindblowing. You can listen to it here.

Here are a few more recently-published fiction titles. The Book of Jonah, by Joshua Max Feldman (Henry Holt) went on sale earlier this month. It's said to be a modern retelling of the Biblical story, featuring a successful lawyer who starts seeing visions. What starts as a New York light satire a la Claire Messud's Emperor's Children (thanks, Ron Charles) takes on gravitas when that vision is of New York being destroyed. So while Jonah sees God's might, a parallel character, Judith Bulbrook, sees absence. Charles particularly liked the first half of the story; read more in The Washington Post. I'm not sure who the whale is, though.

We hosted Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind, where she created a psychological thriller with a unique perspective. In A Circle of Wives (Atlantic Monthly), the victim is a renowned surgeon who leaves behind a secret, or rather several, in that he has three wives in three cities. Because Grove/Atlantic uses the pub date system instead of on-sale, the trade reviews are not out there yet. Kirkus Reviews knows that like the last, she uses the mystery to frame the story, which itself is a character study. Here's an interview with LaPlante on the press Tumblr page.

This debut from Anna Hope called Wake (Random House) is perfect for our World War I table, after it has its run on Boswell's Best. It's gotten some nice write ups from Chris Cleave ("a tender and timely novel") and Rachel Joyce ("I loved it.") It's been out for a few weeks but most of the trade reviews are still from the UK press. Kasia Boddy in The Guardian reports: "Wake takes place over the five days between the exhumation and burial of the British Unknown Warrior. Each of the five sections of Anna Hope's thoroughly researched novel interweaves details of the body's ritualised journey toward London with the emotional journeys of three city women--each carefully created for her representative qualities."

Jumping a generation-ish ahead in history, we have Long Man,(Knopf) from Amy Greene, her followup to Bloodroot, just out today. It's the story of three days in the summer of 1936, as a government dam is about to flood an Appalachian town, and a little girl whose gone missing. Maria Browning in the Knoxville News Sentinel writes "The story is genuinely thrilling, full of tension and unexpected turns, but the true power of Long Man lies in Greene’s striking depictions of people and place," also noting that "the novel grapples with real questions about our relationship to nature and the price of progress, even as it delivers a story as touching and timeless as a folk tale."

Back to thrills with Peter Swanson's The Girl with a Clock for a Heart (William Morrow), a book whose title reminds me of Boy George, but Dennis Lehane calls it "a twisty sexy, electric thrill ride." A forty-something guy at a Boston literary magazine runs into his lost college love, an enigmatic woman who might have been in some shady business. She gets pulled into her troubled whirlpool of lies, betrayal, and murder, as per the publisher. Patrick Anderson quibbles with the ending in his Washington Post review, but for the most part, enjoys its delights, enjoying how "each story has its own suspense, and each carries us deeper into George’s obsession with Liana and her bottomless deceit."

Hope something tickled your fancy here, and if so, let me know if you liked it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Event-ure Time! Tonight is Gina Frangello and Robert Vaughan, Tuesday is Elizabeth Eulberg, Wednesday is Michio Kaku, Thursday is Paul Geenen, Sunday is Our History Trio for Middle Graders, and Don't Forget about Lorrie Moore Next Monday.

Monday, February 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men, along with Robert Vaughan, author of Addicts and Basements.

A Life in Men is a vivid, devastating, and ferocious novel that captures a woman’s whole life in a world torn apart by terrorism and alienation…A story of love, passion, and friendship that will rock readers to the core.”—Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River

The friendship between Mary and Nix had endured since childhood, a seemingly unbreakable bond, until the mid-1980s, when the two young women reunited for a summer vacation in Greece. It was a trip instigated by Nix, who had just learned that Mary had been diagnosed with a disease that would inevitably cut her life short. Nix, a free spirit by nature, was determined that Mary have the vacation of a lifetime, but by the time their visit to Greece was over, the ties between them had unraveled, and when they said goodbye, it was for the last time.

Three years later, Mary returns to Europe to try to understand what went wrong, in the process meeting the first of many men she will spend time with and travel with throughout the world. Through them she experiences not just a sexual awakening but a spiritual and emotional awakening that allows her to understand how the past and the future are connected, and to appreciate how important it is that she live her life to the fullest.

Gina Frangello is a cofounder of Other Voices Books and the fiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. She is also the author of one previous novel and a collection of short stories.

Opening for Frangello will be Milwaukee's own Robert Vaughan, whose first full-length book, Addicts and Basements, has just been published. Vaughan was a finalist for the 2012 Micro-Fiction Awards, and another of his pieces was a finalist for the 2013 Gertrude Stein Award. In addition to his writing, he is the senior flash editor at JMWW and Lost in Thought magazines, and leads writing roundtables at Red Oak Writing .

Tuesday, February 25, 7 pm, at Boswell: A Launch Party for Elizabeth Eulberg, author of Better Off Friends and Revenge of the Girl with Great Personality.

Wisconsin-raised writer Elizabeth Eulberg returns to her home state to launch her fifth YA novel, Better Off Friends. When a conversation with notable YA author David Levithan revealed that an editor was looking for a When Harry Met Sally type story for teens, Eulberg, whose previous books were also romantic comedies, jumped at the chance to write it.

When Levi moves to Wisconsin from California and meets Macallan, it’s friends at first sight. They hang out after school and share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way. Eventually they realize they’re best friends—which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder...are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

Elizabeth Eulberg was born and raised in Wisconsin before heading off to college in Syracuse and making a career in the New York City book biz. She is the author of The Lonely Hearts Club, Prom and Prejudice, Take a Bow, and Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. She lives outside Manhattan with her three guitars, two keyboards, and one drumstick.

Wednesday, February 26, 7 pm, at Boswell: Michio Kaku, author of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind

“Kaku has a gift for explaining incredibly complex concepts, on subjects as far-ranging as nanotechnology and space travel, in language the lay reader can grasp.... "—San Francisco Chronicle

Theoretical physicist and New York Times bestselling author Michio Kaku (photo credit Andrea Brizzi) tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain. The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics. Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about "consciousness" and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness.

Michio Kaku is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the CUNY Graduate Center, a leader in the field of theoretical physics, and cofounder of string field theory. He is the author of several widely acclaimed science books, including Parallel Worlds, Visions, Beyond Einstein, Hyperspace, and Physics of the Impossible—the basis for his Science Channel TV show, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible—and the host of two radio programs, Explorations and Science Fantastic. He has written for Time, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Discover Magazine, The London Daily Telegraph, New Scientist Magazine, and other periodicals, and his work has been published in many languages across the globe.

This event is free and open to the public, but we will close when we reach capacity of about 350 people. If we do close the doors, don't worry. We will reopen when the signing starts, and you will still be able to get your book signed. Everyone attending will get a line letter, whether you buy a book from us or not. This is also your pass in and out. Alas, you cannot get a pass for someone coming later.

Thursday, February 27, 7 pm, at Boswell: Paul Geenen, author of Civil Rights Activism in Milwaukee: South Side Struggles in the Sixties and Seventies.

Longtime Milwaukee community activist Paul Geenen, whose previous books looked at the histories of the Bronzeville and Sherman Park neighborhoods, takes on a new decade and a new community: the South Side in the era of Civil Rights.

In the early 1960s, as members of Milwaukee’s growing African American
population looked beyond their segregated community for better jobs and housing, they faced bitter opposition from the real estate industry and union leadership. In an era marked by the friction of racial tension, the south side of Milwaukee earned a reputation as a flashpoint for prejudice, but it also served as a staging ground for cooperative activism between members of Father Groppi’s parish, representatives from the NAACP Youth Council, students at Alverno College and a group of Latino families. Paul Geenen chronicles the challenges faced by this coalition in the fight for open housing and better working conditions for Milwaukee’s minority community.

Paul Geenen Geenen lives in Milwaukee where he is a community activist, author, and grandfather of eight. He is the author of Milwaukee's Bronzeville: 1900-1950, Schusters and Gimbels: Milwaukee's Beloved Department Stores, and Sherman Park: a Legacy of Diversity in Milwaukee.

Can't make this event? Mr. Geenen will be at the Milwaukee Public Library, 807 W. Wisconsin Ave., on Sunday, March 9, 3 pm.

Sunday, March 2, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Historical Middle Grade Fiction Panel, with Gayle Rosengren, author of What the Moon Said, Wendy McClure, author of Wanderville, and Rebecca Behrens, author of When Audrey Met Alice,

Each author will take ten minutes to present their historical middle grade novel to the audience in our inaugural Historical Middle Grade Fiction Panel with Gayle Rosengren, author of What the Moon Said, Wendy McClure, author of Wanderville, and Rebecca Behrens, author of When Audrey Met Alice. Following the discussion, panelists will field questions from each other, Boswellians, and attendees. Great for ages 8 and up, this panel will cover topics ranging from the Great Depression to orphan trains to First Daughters and Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary.

Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will adore What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren. When Esther’s father loses his job in Chicago during the Great Depression and the family moves to a run-down farm in Wisconsin, everyone is worried but Esther. She thinks of the move as an adventure. As Jan Dundon wrote, “I absolutely LOVED What the Moon Said! Esther is one of those rare characters who grabs your heart and doesn’t let go.” Gayle Rosengren grew up in Chicago and lives near Madison, Wisconsin. A school librarian for many years, she now writes full-time. Her mother's move from the city to a farm during the Great Depression helped inspire Esther's story.

In Wendy McClure’s Wanderville, a group of children from New York hop off of a moving train in 1899 to escape rumored horrors of the new life slated for them at their destination in Kansas. Their new friend, Alexander, tells them that they’re the first citizens of a new town called Wanderville, a town without adults where freedom is paramount. This book is perfect for fans of The Boxcar Children and Little House on the Prairie. Wendy McClure is the author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie and several other books for adults and children. She is a senior editor at Albert Whitman and Company, where her recent projects include books in the Boxcar Children series.

In Rebecca Behrens’s latest, When Audrey Met Alice, when frustrated First Daughter Audrey Rhodes
discovers Alice Roosevelt’s secret diary hidden beneath the White House floorboards, she’s inspired to ask herself, “What would Alice do?” Audrey’s Alice-like antics are a lot of fun—but will they bring her happiness, or a host of new problems? As BookPage puts it: “When Audrey Met Alice is a terrific work of blended realistic and historical fiction… [t]he combination of humor, history, light romance and social consciousness make Rebecca Behrens’s debut novel a winner.” About the Author: Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Rebecca Behrens dreamed of becoming the following: a zoologist, an Olympic swimmer, or an author. One out of three isn’t bad! Today she lives in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books.

Teachers, this is a great opportunity to discover some new middle-grade authors. If you are interested in a school appearance for Gayle Rosengren or Wendy McClure (and maybe even Rebecca Behrens), contact Hannah, who does our school outreach.

And don't forget about next Monday, March 3, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Lorrie Moore, author of Bark: Stories.

Lorrie Moore, after many years as a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is now Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Moore has received honors for her work, among them the Irish Times International Prize for Literature, a Lannan Foundation fellowship, as well as the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award for her achievement in the short story. Her most recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs, was shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction and for the PEN/Faulkner Award. (Photo credit Linda Nylind. I can't get the new one from Zane Williams to upload).

From Jeff Giles, in Entertainment Weekly: "But I don't have the heart to really complain about any of this: I've been addicted to Moore's voice for a long time now and want more, not less, of it. Her new collection, Bark, rounds up a decade's worth of short stories, the most perfect of which ran in The New Yorker."

From Mike Fischer in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Bark is filled with such regret for a vanished past; true to form, Moore connects characters' private sorrows to the larger world, in which Americans have grown similarly estranged from a younger version of our collective self-image."

From John Freeman in The Boston Globe: "Yet in each story of Bark, the knives of Moore’s wisdom feel newly sharpened, their jab urgently swift." More to come. Hope to see you at one of this week's events.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Bestsellers for Week Ending February 22--Pops from Alice Hoffman and Jennifer Senior in Hardcover,

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
2. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
3. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
4. Ripper, by Isabel Allende
5. On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-rae Lee

Last weekend a customer came in, looking for a book for her daughter. She wanted a novel that highlighted the Lower East Side, and I had just the book, but it wasn't coming out until Tuesday. Alice Hoffman's new novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Scribner), is set in a pivotal moment in New York history,wrapped in a mystery, but with Alice Hoffman's storytelling gifts on full display. Wendy Smith in Newsday calls the new book "a return to top form." while Patty Rhule in USA Today calls it "mesmerizing."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
2. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
3. Schottenfreude, by Ben Schott
4. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
5. All Joy and No Fun, by Jennifer Senior

I have mentioned that there are a surprising number of high-profile parenting books out and some have been selling quite well. Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Ecco) has hit a particular nerve and has had the resultant sales. Andrew Solomon reviewed the book in The New York Times Book Review and here's Senior answering advice questions in The Washington Post. If you missed Solomon on the TED Radio Hour talking about his own book, Far from the Tree, vertical and horizontal identities, and how it shaped his own parenting experience.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
2. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
3. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud
4. The Home for Wayward Clocks, by Kathie Giorgio
5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jason and I were pondering paperback reprint jackets at the front desk, and I realized in the middle of writing this that this was more of a separate blog post, so I'm going to withold judgment on the paperback jacket of The Woman Upstairs (Vintage) for now. Instead I'll throw some more reviews and features at you. Ron Charles's review in The Washington Post is filled with praise, while as a counterpoint, here's a long essay in The London Review of Books from Emily Witt.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Civil Rights Activism in Milwaukee, by Paul Geenen (event 2/27, 7 pm)
2. The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel
3. After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
4. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
5. The Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku (event 2/26, 7 pm, come early)

Two upcoming events have a pop on this week's bestseller list, as well as one of this week's events, which had decent turnout in spite of the weather. Alas, the two Wisconsinites mentioned in After Visiting Friends (Scribner) were kept away by the rain/snow mix and flood warnings. We should have very nice evenings with Michio Kaku on Wednesday and Paul Geenen on Thursday. Both events should be bustling, but in particular, please come early for Michio Kaku, as we might hit capacity. The truth is that Geenen, being local, will likely do more events in the future for Civil Rights Activism in Milwaukee (History), most notably one at the Milwaukee Public Library on Sunday, March 9.

Books for Kids:
1. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage
2. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
3. Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick
4. White Space, by Ilsa J. Bick
5. What Presidents are Made of, by Hanoch Piven

It's an events sweep in kids, with Ilsa Bick on Tuesday and Sheila Turnage on Wednesday, plus an appearance by Hanoch Piven in conjunction with The Milwaukee Jewish Federation where we provided books. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (Kathy Dawson/Dial), continues to win over fans, with lots saying that it's even better than the first outing. You'd hope that the follow up to a Newbery Honor title that has strong crossover to adults would get at least some regular trade reviews, but boy, those review holes are small. Here's Meghan Cox Gurdon's in-brief but still enthusiastic write up in The Wall Street Journal.

In the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Lorrie Moore's new story collection, Bark (Knopf), which goes on sale this Tuesday, February 25, and is the focus of our upcoming event with Moore on Monday, March 3, 7 pm. It's her first full-length story collection since Birds of America in 1998. 1998! Fischer notes that "true to the state in which she lived and taught (Wisconsin) for almost three decades, spring never seems to come for these transplants, each of them enduring dark, bleak winters that can make even Birds—-not exactly a walk in the park--seem light." So she moves to Tennessee and the jet stream moves south with her!

Here's a book that is saying Jim Higgins, come read me! It's Jo Walton's What Makes This Book so Great: Rereading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Tor).  Walton doesn't let the reader down. Higgins writes "What makes her book so great is that she's a pretty terrific writer herself. The author of multiple fantasy and alternate-history novels, Walton has won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Among Others(2012), one of the most bookish great science fiction and fantasy, or SFF, novels ever."

Several books called a siren song to Carole E. Barrowman as well, and she recounts them in her Journal Sentinel "Paging through Mysteries" column. Alas, one of them is not Isabel Allende's Ripper. Allende disparaged the genre on an NPR Weekend Edition interview with Arun Rath (here's the apology). I think part of the problem is like any genre, there are good and bad practicioners of said genre, and she may not have chosen carefully, either the books she read or the words she chose. Here's the way this could have been said: "I didn't know much about the mystery genre, but having explored historical and contemporary fiction, as well as memoir, I was up for the challenge. I read a number of books, some of which I liked and some I didn't, and realized that I could put my on spin on the mystery/thriller, much like Louise Erdrich did in The Round House" or something like that. Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review liked it more.

I particularly like the fact that Carole E. Barrowman invited Isabel Allende to Milwaukee to hear either Cara Black or Denise Mina. Cara Black's newest is Murder in Pigalle (Soho), on sale March 4, and Barrowman notes that it has a "darker tone" than her earlier books, while preservering her "distinctive flair." I'll have my own take on Black's work later this week in a dedicated blog post. She'll be at Boswell (7 pm) and Mystery One (5 pm) on Wednesday, March 12.

I've yet to read Denise Mina, but I'm very excited to host her for The Red Road (Little, Brown), a Glasgow-set novel that is "heavy with guilt and bristles with tension." Detective Alex Morrow's newest outing opens on the day Princess Diana is killed, "setting up a series of events whose consequences reach deep inside Morrow's current investigation."

And finally there is Keith Thomson's Seven Grams of Lead (Anchor), "one of the more sophisticated and slick spy thrillers I've read in ages", quoting Barrowman. The protagonist is a Washington-based journalist whose source (and old flame) is murdered in cold blood in front of him, leading to a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Jon Jordan of Crimespree is also a fan, writing “Thomson is now on my shortlist of authors I will drop whatever I'm doing to read."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Gift Post--Spring Insect Magnets, a Hedgehog Magnet and Photo

What gave me the idea for doing gift posts on Saturdays? For one thing, I actually do a lot of gift buying on Saturday. I think it's because a lot of event programming is set up during the week when I'm getting lots of emails, but with the email rather quiet on the weekends, I can concentrate on card restocking and the like, as long as we have enough folks on the selling floor. I also figured that one component of our blog constituency, publishers, also didn't read the blog on the weekends.

I spent the morning trying to figure out how to reorder our newspaper-and-wire flowers that sold so well at Valentine's Day. They were originally just meant for a spring-transitioning-to-Mothers-Day table, so the fact that they came in early enough to be a good substitute for a be-mine bouquet was a bonus. But now I've been stymied in reordering. I have three ways to access the vendor--through the vendor's printed catalog, through their website, and through a sales rep website, and none of the options allowed me to order with identifiable jpgs and allow us to complete the order with the correct minimum. Don't worry, I'll figure out next week.**

Meanwhile, we moved the spring table to the front desk, and had a number of fun items to add to our mix. They also had a line of insect magnets, using the same dyed newspaper over wire technique. There's an assortment of butterflies, dragonflies, and a ladybug, and Anne made a nice magnet nest by inverting a wire display bowl.  The items are made in an urban Bangkok neighborhood. I can ask Mark, my old friend who has lived in Bangkok for a number of years, to check out their operations.

I don't think of hedgehogs as a spring animal, but they match the insects and since we love hedgehogs*, I couldn't help but bring a few in. Not only are these folks magnets, but they also can be put on a flat surface and display anything from photos to invitations to a memorable greeting card.

In March, we'll pull out the kites and jump ropes and garden stakes, but honestly, it still feels a little early. I did, however, bring in another spring tradition, some kind of crazy ball for the front desk, that will drive us a bit nuts. This orbit ball has light-up action and somehow seems like the perfect tie-in for our event with Michio Kaku on this Wednesday, February 26, for The Future of the Mind, at 7 pm. It's free and we're going to fill up, so come early, come early!

*These have gone over very well with much of the staff, but Sharon in particular has a general fondness for the hedgehog.

**I'm also trying to avoid going to Boswell today because our next two weeks are packed with events. Jason noted that I did what I promised I wouldn't do and booked seven days straight, if you include the slightly-moved in-store book club discussion on March 4. Our topic is Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers, by the way.

Friday, February 21, 2014

R.I.P Bantam Bantam: The Consolidation of the Little Random Colophons.

Has everyone else been following the consolidation of the Little Random division colophons? It can be confusing to discuss this, as there is Random House the corporation, which is now Penguin Random House (at least temporarily) and then there is Random House the publishing division, which is the result of a consolidation of formerly independent publishing companies Random House, Ballantine, Bantam, and Dell**, plus a few assorted imprints like Modern Library, Villard, Delacorte and who knows, maybe Fawcett*, though I think that's been completely phased out. This is a business unit within the trade book division. I may have the exact terms wrong, but you get the picture.

I noticed it earlier in 2013 on a Ballantine Book, where the B was replaced by a Random House house. And this week I was shelving and spotted two Danielle Steel novels side by side, one with the Dell logo (a striped square developed during the BDD days) and one saying Dell but with a Random House logo.

Interestingly enough, Penguin tried this years ago, when we started seeing Penguins on Plume books. That initiative was eventually reversed, even though of late, the Penguin division of Penguin Random House has been trying to do some aggressive branding of the Penguin. The confusing thing about that is the initiative has generally covered all Penguin USA titles, including ones that are not branded Penguin.

And all this makes me think, what exactly is the corporate logo in five years of Penguin Random House? Can you imagine a Penguin or a house replacing a Borzoi? How about King Penguin (Crowned, of course) racing a Borzoi and a chicken (a Bantam) towards the Random House. And while I don't have much to say about the Ballantine B or the Dell Square, I was quite fond of the Bantam chicken. I double-checked the new Peculiar Crimes novel from Christopher Fowler, The Invisible Code, and if any book would have the Bantam logo, it would be a book from Christopher Fowler, but alas, it's now been carved up and being served at Random House. Rest in peace, Bantam chicken (or as some of you might refer to it, Bantam bantam).

*Fawcett was for a while owned by CBS, which currently owns Simon and Schuster. That said, that CBS is sort of a different corporation, just like Macmillan, which owns Holt, which was also owned by CBS, is the former Holtzbrinck, which acquired US rights to the Macmillan name.

**Correction! It is my inclination (my brain first wrote "implication") to group the old Bertelsman publishing operation Bantam Doubleday Dell together, but when the divisions were folded, Bantam and Dell moved to Random House, while Doubleday went to Knopf, and Broadway and Currency, which aren't even mentioned here, went to Crown.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

March Indie Bound List is Out, Featuring Nickolas Butler, Lorrie Moore, and Chris Pavone.

The upcoming Indie Bound list has several Boswell events included. First of all is Lorrie Moore's Bark, recommended by Laurie Paus at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle: “Is there any living writer who can so effortlessly chronicle the messy absurdity, unintended humor, and quiet pathos of the human condition better than Lorrie Moore? I had been eagerly awaiting another short story collection from her, and Bark delivers in full. The Moore I’ve known and loved is back, replete with her trademark pithy one-liners, wry observations, wicked wit, and spot-on renderings of her characters’ quirks, failings, and stubborn dreams.”

Moore is coming to Boswell on Monday, March 3, 7 pm. She looks like she's going to have The New York Times trifecta--a front page review (this Sunday), a feature article, and a daily review from Michiko Kakutani. I was surprised to see that David Gates' Sunday review is already posted, hence the link.

The #1 Indie Next pick is Nickolas Butler's Shotgun Lovesongs. This book, set in Wisconsin, has already had a number of good reads from Boswell. The Indie Next quote is from Bill Carl at The Booksellers at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati: "This is a spectacular first novel, full of wit, energy, love, and a true feeling of home that other writers strive to achieve but few actually succeed in creating. It’s the story of four men and a woman tied by their youth in a small town in Wisconsin. Their lives change over the years — one becomes a farmer, one an indie rock star, one a not-so-successful businessman, and one an ex-rodeo rider — but they all cling to that notion of home and small-town America, even as that dream is drying up and blowing away on the wind. Like Richard Russo, Jonathan Tropper, and Larry McMurtry, Butler knows exactly what is happening inside men’s heads and he knows how to express their feelings without ever becoming maudlin. Every note rings true. I cannot wait to see what he writes next!"

Nickolas Butler is coming to Boswell on Tuesday, March 11, 7 pm.  As we generally do, we've stickered our fliers with info about this event.

And finally there is our own quote from Hannah Johnson-Breimeier*, recommending The Accident, from Chris Pavone. She writes "Literary agent Isabel Reed is the first to receive the manuscript of The Accident, which, unbeknownst to her, is a dangerous thing to have in one’s possession. It reveals secrets that a powerful media mogul and his cronies, including a CIA agent, have spent a lifetime concealing. They will stop at nothing to see that The Accident is never published and that their reputations remain intact. Readers get an insider’s glimpse into the gears of the publishing machine as the manuscript changes hands and endangers everyone who knows of its existence. A compelling thriller for book lovers!”

You can see the entire March Indie Next list here.

*I would like to add that though she doesn't work at Boswell, I consider Susan Gusho of Watermark an honorary employee. Her rec is for Walter Kirn's Blood Will Out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Displays--Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Jane Austen, Norway?

I would like to say that display rotation happens on a regular basis, but it's more of a random spurt. I take a walk through the store and think, "It's February 13 and that display celebrates Lincoln's birthday, which is February 12."

When I hear stores talk about rotating displays every two weeks, I am completely exhausted. Can I just say that we rotate something every two weeks, but some displays seem to linger for months?

This Mardi Gras display has a natural expiration date of the first day of the first day of Lent, which is March 5. There are displays we do every year and others which get some sabbatical time. I think Stacie did a similar New Orleans display about three years ago.

On the other hand, I can't think of year where we didn't do something for St. Patrick's Day, even though it's not much of a gift-giving holiday, and we don't carry much in the way of St. Pat's themed books or gift items. I have a few four-leaf clover wooden boxes and some box cards and journals with Celtic designs. This bad boy is up for about another month, though it will probably change location again.

It's an easy display to put together, as who can resist the plethora of great Irish writers? We're featuring William Trevor, Sebastian Barry, Edna O'Brien, and company. Did you all know there's a new Sebastian Barry coming in May, a novel called The Temporary Gentleman? Something to look forward to--you can reserve a copy with us now.

I would say that Jane Austen displays run on a two-year cycle, if not annually. There's always some new novel that's inspired by her work. Last fall was all about Jo Baker's Longbourn. And we're still waiting for the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Despite the tepid response to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, the last we heard, Lily Collins was set to star, with Burt Steers directing.

And then there's Shannon Hale, and while she is coming for her new young adult novel, Dangerous, many folks know her from her novel for adults, Austenland.

This display, however, is inspired by the Jane Austen bandages, tattoos and air fresheners from Accoutrements.That said, I did redo the table to better feature Hale. She's going to be at the North Shore library on Wednesday, March 19, 6:30 pm.

On the other hand, I don't believe we've ever done a salute to Norway display. I think the bug in my head that started this one was their curling outfits at the Winter Olympics. Then I was looking through one of those anniversary websites, and saw that it was the 200th anniversary of Norway's constitution coming up.

So what did it turn out that we are reading that has Norway root? The most popular Norwegian author right now by far is Jo Nesbo, followed by another mystery writer, Karrin Fossum. Graywolf actually is pushing a new Norwegian novel called Before I Burn, which has a great recommendation from none other than Karin Fossum. Set in the 1970s, it's based on a true story of a town besieged by fire over one month.

Another novel, this one for young adults, that came out last year is Shadow on the Mountain, by Margi Preus. It's based on the Resistance movement went the Nazis invaded Norway, and the adventures of one real-life Norwegian spy. When You click on the title, you can see Pam's rec.

For now, we've got the spring is coming display moved to the front desk. That should be good for another week, though we'll probably give St. Patrick's Day the best table for at least a week. By March 18, we should have some new display ideas...I hope.