Friday, June 27, 2014

Books in the News, Milwaukee Edition--Journal Sentinel, Shepherd Express, Kathleen Dunn, Lake Effect.

I would be remiss if I didn't flag Mike Fischer's interview with Jonathan Lethem in the Journal Sentinel on Thursday. Tied in to Mr. Lethem's visit to Boswell on Monday, it is (and I'm not saying this simply because I know Mr. Fischer) one of the fascinating interviews I've read about not just Dissident Gardens, but Mr. Lethem's body of work in general, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say ever. I guess part of the problem is that in researching books, I read a lot of interviews, particularly for upcoming author visits but also for books we are promoting for book club discussion, and so many of them, so many of them, are just going through the motions with generic questions. In fact, there are a lot of columns out there that simply ask the same questions of every writer.

I love how Fischer connects Dissident Gardens to the rest of Lethem's body of work, and explains why Lethem (photo credit John Lucas) is such a great writer; every book is different but each speaks to the themes and philosophies that he wants to explore in his work. This is a little longer excerpt than my normal one paragraph rule. But after you read this, I know you're going to link to the whole interview.

Q. At another point in Dissident Gardens, you imagine a conversation between Rose and Archie Bunker, during which Rose imagines true solidarity between people as existing in "the space between one person and another, secret sympathies of the body." Does that idea of being both separate from but also trying to forge connections with others provide a more realistic — perhaps more humble — way to think about how we might make common political cause?

A. Negotiating that space between bodies has been my subject, again and again, in my work. A friend of mine has suggested that utopia doesn't mean thinking you're going to live forever; it means you go to go the gym anyway. It entails an active critique of institutions of power — even though, as I said in "The Fortress of Solitude," it can seem like "utopia (is) the show which always closes on opening night."

My work is filled with images of such unsustainable but still meaningful utopian moments. A black and a white boy playing together on the street before being told they cannot be friends. A band's rock album; it's not great, but the album happened. A science fiction convention, bringing together misfits who take over a hotel for a weekend and live within the golden image of their obsession and their vision of alternative worlds, before returning home to their daily lives and jobs on Sunday.

The Occupy (Wall Street) movement is similar. However much some people might want to declare it a loser, it represented an awakening, in which semiautonomous "cells of one" made contact and imagined other possibilities. It happened. It's like Cicero says to Rose, when she is lamenting her failure to change the world: "You did OK, Rose. You existed awhile. It's in the record books."

In the Shepherd Express, this week's Book Preview was Patricia Skalka's Death Stalks Door County. Alas, the event was Thursday (yesterday), but it's still worth knowing about the book. David Luhrssen writes that Skulka "is a Chicago native who owns a cottage in Door County. As for the psychological territory, she creates a believable portrait of a reluctant detective, a sullen, troubled man who can’t seem to escape murder." And from Publishers Weekly: "Skalka matches the untamed nature of the peninsula to the roughness of its inhabitants rather than contrasting its natural beauty to human violence." On their review page, Luhrssen appreciates the telling details in The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945, from Richard Overy and notes that in The Essential Ellen Willis, the topics are now sometimes date, the writer was always sometimes wrong, but the writing remains consistently provocative.

Here are some interesting books on Kathleen Dunn's show this week on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Matt Grossman discusses Artists of the Possible: Governing Networks and American Policy Change Since 1945. This new book from  academic trade. Our wholesaler (where we get the books quickly) prices the book at net, so if you wanted it quickly, it would be above the suggested price. It's possible we'd be able to buy the book directly from Oxford and be able to sell it at the list price, but it would take longer. So if it's short discount, why is the publisher having the author do interviews?

This is a perfect example where the publisher (Oxford) could care less about bookstores carrying the book and expects the lion's share of sale to be through our online competitor or for course adoption. Here's the rub--rumor has it that our competitor is putting pressure on university presses too, not to increase the discount (as that would increase competition), but to increase the coop (kickback). It's not that we don't get coop too, but we don't get it from Oxford. The word is "monopsony", my friends. Read the interview here.

Jeffrey Arnett discusses the phenomenon of Boomerang Kids, based on a New York Times article. But Arnett is also the author of the new release, Getting to 30: A Parent's Guide to the 20-Something Years and 2013's When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult . We actually talked to Workman in a very preliminary fashion about doing an event with the author on the subject (that would be something like 18 months ago), but I couldn't figure out how to find the audience. If you were a member of the organization that would have helped me promote this book, feel free to email me now and say "Next time, Daniel, next time."

Dr. Arnett reinforces the idea that while things are bad for college grads right now, they are even worse for kids who haven't attended college. And honestly, many times, a kid moving back after college isn't really the problem the article tried to indicate. Listen to the article here.

Noted intellectual conservative Yuval Levin discusses The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, a subject that Dunn can really sink her teeth into. from the publisher: "Levin masterfully shows how Burke's and Paine's differing views, a reforming conservatism and a restoring progressivism, continue to shape our current political discourse--on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond." The book is published by Basic, one of the imprints of Perseus that is moving to Hachette. Long-time followers of publishing will note that Frank Pearl bought the Basic division from HarperCollins. Didn't you think it was odd that when they discussed Perseus's publishing successes, at least two (Gödel, Escher, Bach and Friday Night Lights), were not published by Perseus but were acquired when they bought other publishers (Basic for the former and Addison Wesley trade for the latter).

The Wall Street Journal reviewed The Great Debate and wrote "It is clear, and not in the least surprising, that Mr. Levin's own sympathies lie firmly with Burke, but he is fair to Paine's side of the argument. He shows that the clash between the two reflects the tension in the very origins of the Republic, which was (mainly) founded by transplanted Britons bearing the constitutional and intellectual baggage of the mother country, convinced all the same, as Paine put it, that Americans had it in their 'power to begin the world all over again.'"For some reason, it's always tricky to figure out who wrote the reivew in that paper, at least online. In this case, it's credited to Mr. Simms.

Here are some of the interviews on Lake Effect.

--Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life
--Jaleigh Johnson, author of  The Mark of the Dragonfly.

--Kseniya Melnik, author of Snow in May. Just to mix things up, since leaving Magdan, Russia, the author has lived in Alaska, New York, and now, El Paso, Texas. Sometimes its just easier to write about someplace after you've left it, which is the upside of being married to the military.

--Barbara Manger, author of Riding through Grief.

--Sandy Brehl, author of Odin's Promise.

That's a lot of book info to digest. Hope you find something delicious.

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