Monday, February 10, 2014

Sue Monk Kidd Tonight at a Free Unticketed Event at Centennial Hall! Erika Janik on Strange Medical Originson Tuesday! Len Vlahos on Thursday!

Between a few folks rescheduled for evening shift and a bit of illness, we're a little short-handed this morning, and since I didn't do what I should have done and written this on Sunday, I'm sticking with our standard press release format (with a few asides) for this week's event.

Monday, February 10, 7 pm, at Centennial Hall, 733 N. Eighth Street, 53233:
The Milwaukee Public Library and 89.7 WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio presents a free event with Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Invention of Wings and The Secret Life of Bees.

The next official selection of the Oprah Book Club 2.0, The Invention of Wings is the story of Hetty "Handful" Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston who yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd's sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other's destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

Bonnie North of WUWM’s Lake Effect will moderate the Q and A portion of this special event.

Sue Monk Kidd is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Bees which spent more than two and a half years on The New York Times bestseller list, was adapted into an award-winning movie, and translated into thirty-six languages—and The Mermaid Chair. She is also the author of a collection of writings on spirituality, Firstlight, and several memoirs, including the New York Times bestselling Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor.

I am a particular fan of the drop-caps edition of The Secret Life of Bees, which is among the backlist we'll be stocking for sale tonight. And don't forget that the Milwaukee Public Library has arranged a special $5 rate at the surface lot across the street from Wisconsin Avenue. For more about the book, read Carole E. Barrowman's review/profile in Sunday's Journal Sentinel.

Tuesday, February 11, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Erika Janik, author of Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine.

Despite rampant scientific innovation in nineteenth-century America, traditional medicine still adhered to ancient healing methods such as induced vomiting and bleeding, blistering, and sweating patients. Facing such horrors, many patients ran with open arms to burgeoning practices promising new ways to cure their ills: Hydropaths promised cures using "healing tubs." Franz Anton Mesmer applied magnets to a patient's body, while Daniel David Palmer restored a man's hearing by knocking on his vertebrae. Phrenologists emerged, claiming the topography of one's skull could reveal the intricacies of one's character.

Bizarre as these methods may seem, many are the predecessors of today's notions of health. We have the nineteenth-century practice of "medical gymnastics" to thank for today's emphasis on daily exercise, and hydropathy’s various water cures gave us the notion of showers and the mantra of "eight glasses of water a day." These early medical “deviants,” including women who had been barred from the patriarchy of “legitimate doctoring,” raised questions and posed challenges to established ideas, and though the fads faded and many were discredited by the scientific revolution, some ideas behind the quackery are staples in today's health industry. Janik tells the colorful stories of these "quacks," whose shams, foils, or genuine wish to heal helped shape and influence modern medicine.

Originally from Washington, Erika Janik has lovingly embraced Wisconsin as home, as evidenced by her books, A Short History of Wisconsin and Odd Wisconsin. Her work has also appeared in Midwest Living, Wisconsin Trails, and The Onion. Janik’s non-Wisconsin work includes a short history of apples and pieces in Smithsonian and Mental Floss. When she’s not writing, she is producer, editor, and consulting historian for the Wisconsin Public Radio series, Wisconsin Life.

“A must-read for medical history buffs, whether mainstream or maverick.”—Publishers Weekly 

This Salon essay is a taste of Erika Janik's medicine!

Thursday, February 13, 7 pm, at Boswell:
WMSE 91.7 presents Len Vlahos, author of The Scar Boys

The first defining moment of Harbinger (Harry) Jones’ life: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance.

Harry writes about these moments in his college application essay, which goes beyond the requested 250 words and becomes the novel which we are reading. In a voice both humorous and heart-wrenching, he describes how he came to learn about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit into the world.

Hannah calls The Scar Boys a cross between John Green'a work and Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. How's that for a hook?

Len Vlahos is a book industry executive and now a debut novelist. He was the guitarist in a punk rock band in the mid-1980s, The Woofing Cookies, and was an on-air personality for a commercial radio station in Atlantic City.

Yes, it's the Woofing Cookies video, of the song produced by Peter Buck. If you didn't see it before, here's another chance. It was that or Scott Nafz (another fellow who is still in the American Booksellers Association) singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane."  You can find that one yourself.

Hope to see you at one of this week's events.

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