Three public events this week, plus a preview for next Monday!
Tuesday, April , 7 pm, at Boswell:
Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival.
Outside correspondent Peter Stark will take you on the adventure of a lifetime! Stark’s latest, Astoria, tells the story of America’s first colony on the West coast in what Kirkus calls “[a] fast-paced, riveting account of exploration and settlement, suffering, treachery, and death.”
One of the two huge expeditions to establish the first American colony on the Pacific Coast passed through Wisconsin on what was then (in 1810) one of the major river "highways" across the North American continent. This is up the Great Lakes, to Green Bay, up the Fox River, portage across a short swamp to the Wisconsin River at today's Portage, WI, and paddle down the Wisconsin river to St. Louis, then up the Missouri to the Rockies. The Wisconsin River link was a key piece of geography in crossing the continent. Astoria gives an intimate description of how important this link was, and also what's known as the "mid-Continental Divide" -- the watershed separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi (Brookfield WI sits atop it today). While John Jacob Astor's great plan for a West Coast trade empire failed, he soon established himself as a dominant commercial force in the Upper Midwest, including Wisconsin, with posts throughout the region, long before statehood. He also invested heavily in land in Green Bay, speculating that one day it would be a major city.
Peter Stark is a native of Wisconsin who grew up on Pine Lake, near Oconomowoc, to an adventurous and outdoorsy family and from his childhood in Wisconsin he gained both a love of the outdoors and of history. His father, the late William F. Stark, had a deep interest in history and wrote about local and regional history (Pine Lake, Wisconsin, River of History, and Ghost Towns of Wisconsin among other titles), while also serving on the board of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. He was also president of the family candy-manufacturing company, Stark Candy Co. of Pewaukee. Peter grew up with his grandfather and father taking canoe trips on the Wisconsin River, attended Dartmouth College, and received a master's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980, before moving to Montana to become an adventure and exploration writer. Peter's mentor at the UW School of Journalism (and later father-in-law) was the late Wilmott Ragsdale, whom last fall was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame. Peter's mother, Judith Stark, is a landscape architect who still lives on Pine Lake, and from her Peter received an understanding of Wisconsin's great wilderness philosophers, such as John Muir and Aldo Leopold, about whom he wrote in his previous book, The Last Empty Places.
Bonus blog fact: Stark Candy! Need I say more? You may not know their Stark wafers (much like NECCO wafers, from the company that bought Stark in 1988) but you must know Stark Sweethearts, the company that immortalized the candy heart.
Oh, and Mr. Stark and I discovered that we both went to Dartmouth, but we didn't overlap. Did I mention the time I hosted an author who reminded me that we took first year Russian together? I also once had lunch with Jean Hanff Korelitz, who volunteered with me at the college radio station. Our Friend of Boswell Pat came into the store very enthusiastic about her new novel, You Should Have Known. I think the cause of all this New Hampshire-izing is due to me currently reading a new bio of J.D. Salinger from Thomas Beller, coming in June.
Thursday, April 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Matthew Algeo, author of Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport, in conversation with Lake Effect’s Mitch Teich
From star athletes to endorsement deals and scandals, Pedestrianism tells the story of America’s most peculiar sport: walking. Author and All Things Considered contributor, Matthew Algeo, reveals the thrilling and unusual history of walking as a spectator sport in conversation with WUWM’s Mitch Teich.
It started with a friendly bet—if Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860, Edward Payson Weston would have to walk from the State House in Boston to the Capitol in Washington, a distance of some 478 miles over ten consecutive days, arriving in time for the inauguration. Though Weston was five hours late for the ceremony, his unprecedented journey propelled him into the limelight and paved the walkway for pedestrianism to become the next American pastime. Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport by Matthew Algeo explores the once popular sport of competitive walking and the little-known roots of modern spectator sports in the United States, explaining how walkers like Weston quickly rose to celebrity status on par with today’s household names like LeBron James and Tiger Woods.
Matthew Algeo’s stories and interviews have appeared on numerous national programs, including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and the Bob Edwards Show, and his books have been featured in renowned print publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Algeo is the author of Last Team Standing, The President is a Sick Man and Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip, which was named one of the Best Books of 2009 by The Washington Post.
Bonus blog fact!: Matthew Algeo and Mitch Teich met while both working at Minnesota Public Radio in Rochester.
Friday, April 11, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Patrick O’Keeffe, author of The Visitors in conversation with UWM’s Valerie Laken
Join us for an evening conversation between Story Prize–winning author of The Hill Road, Patrick O’Keeffe, and UWM Professor and author of Separate Kingdoms, Valerie Laken as they discuss O’Keeffe’s latest, The Visitors.
A lyrical novel set in America and Ireland, The Visitors moves back and forth in time and place to weave the story of two Irish families forever linked by love, secrets, and their heritage. James Dwyer was born in rural county Limerick before moving to Dublin as a teenager and ultimately settling in Ann Arbor. One night James’s past appears in the form of a down-and-out man named Walter, who issues an invitation for James to come to Upstate New York to visit his old childhood neighbor, Kevin Lyons. Although neither James nor Kevin particularly cares for each other, there’s no denying their complicated past. Kevin and James’s sister, Tess, were lovers while James fell hard for Kevin’s sister, Una. Illuminating the precarious balance of family intimacies and how stories can carry over from one generation to the next, O’Keeffe’s The Visitors further delivers on the elegant prose and plotting that earned him critical acclaim and the Story Prize for The Hill Road.
Patrick O’Keeffe was born in Ireland, but he has lived in the US for over twenty years. He received a BA in English at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and an MFA in fiction writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His collection of stories, The Hill Road, was a Barnes and Noble Discovery selection and received the The Story Prize for 2005. O'Keeffe received a Whiting Award for fiction writing and has taught at the University of Michigan, Colgate University, and the University of Cincinnati. He is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Ohio University.
This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Department of English Creative Writing Program. More about Patrick O'Keeffe's The Hill Road on the Boswell and Books blog.
Bonus blog fact: Valerie Laken and Patrick O'Keeffe were both at the University of Michigan together.
Monday, April 14, 6 pm, at the Franklin Public Library, 9151 W. Loomis Road:
A Franklin Public Library Event with Andy Griffiths, author of The 26-Story Treehouse.
Welcome back to the Treehouse! Presenting the sequel penned by hilarious Australian author Andy Griffiths that Publishers Weekly said “can't arrive soon enough.” Fun for ages 8 and up, The Treehouse series is about kids Andy and Terry, who live in a sprawling treehouse and write books. Packed with jokes and silly illustrations, The 26-Story Treehouse will take you on an unforgettable walk on the wild side.
Join Andy and Terry in their newly expanded treehouse, including a skate ramp, a mud-fighting arena, an anti-gravity chamber, an ice-cream parlour with 78 flavors run by an ice-cream serving robot called Edward Scooperhands and the Maze of Doom—a maze so complicated that nobody who has gone in has ever come out again… well, not yet, anyway. What are you waiting for? Come on up!
Andy Griffiths is one of Australia’s most popular and well-loved children’s authors. He has written more than 25 books, including short stories, comic novels, nonsense verse, picture books, plays and a creative writing guide for students and teachers. Andy is best known for the JUST! books and The Day My Butt Went Psycho. Over the last 20 years Andy’s books have been New York Times bestsellers, adapted for the stage and television, won more than 50 children’s choice awards and sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.
Bonus blog fact: This is our first event working with Sarah at the Franklin Public Library. I'll be there to lend a helping hand.
We'll also be selling books at Sayed Kashua's talk at UWM on April 9.