Hard Choices (Simon and Schuster), at a New York bookstore pre-pub. The book officially comes out today (June 10) and per the New York Daily News, the author is going on what is said to be a massive book tour, perhaps hoping to duplicate the synergy that helped Barack Obama. We are not on Ms. Clinton's author tour schedule, but of course you never know. Last week we were offered a celebrity with three week's notice, but between both Boswell and the Milwaukee Public Library being booked, the event being too big for our suburban library partners, and most of our other venues needing to be somehow ticketed, we had to pass. We suggested several other options to the publisher--we'll see what happens. Right now, I can only find the Barnes and Noble New York event is listed, for today.
Mel and I were doing some marketing-y things and she came to me and Brian Benson's Going Somewhere is Eat, Pray, Love-slash-Wild on a bicycle, but with a guy at the center. That's good for us to know as we prepare for our July 24 event (7 pm), but for now, I'm thinking that Novella Carpenter's Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad through the Wild (Penguin Press) is Eat, Pray, Love-slash-Wild on horseback. The author of Farm City (which I read and enjoyed) finds out her back-to-the-land homesteading father has gone missing. A Korean war vet whose spent much of his life battling inner demons, he hasn't been much in Carpenter's life to date, but when he's ultimately found, she realizes that the job isn't over yet; she has one mess of a relationship to try to reconstruct. Gilbert herself (who I should note is at Boswell on July 9, 7 pm) wrote "I'm so glad Novella Carpenter has written this book... The resulting journey is both brave and honest."
The truth is that Harvard University Press, or at least their Belknap imprint, did not cancel all other books while they tried to get a ahead of Thomas Picketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Out this month is The Novel: A Biography, by Michael Schmidt, an 1100+ page, 700-year odyssey, meandering through a sea of characters, and a world of plots. Michael Deresiewicz, in The Atlantic, writes "The Novel isn’t just a marvelous account of what the form can do; it is also a record, in the figure who appears in its pages, of what it can do to us." You can also read an interesting interview with Michael Schmidt in Canadian Notes and Queries. It's a very Candian take on the subject, I should note.
If I were browsing around a bookstore and came across Martin Windrow's The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl (FSG), I'd definitely take a second look. Windrow is a war historian who adopted a pet owl named Mumble. Folks are comparing the memoir to J.R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip. Publishers Weekly called it " a heartfelt and heartbreaking testament to humans’ love for their animal companions and the ways they enrich our lives." Speaking of animal companions, did I mention that we booked Jennifer "Uncommon Friends" Holland for this fall. She's visiting Boswell on Sunday, October 12, 3 pm, in a visit co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Humane Society. Mark you calendars--I know a lot of you are fans. But back to Mr. Windrow. Usually a sleeper like this doesn't get the two-days-before-on-sale writeup in a major paper but I found this review by Jay Strafford in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who writes that "with a keen eye for the telling detail, Windrow has written an informative, tender and, yes, wise memoir on the blessed ties that bind people and their pets — one that should find a permanent perch on your shelf.." It only reinforces, by the way, that those Folkmanis puppets look so much like the real thing, no?
Another entry in the quirky memoir department is Ari Goldman's The Late Starters Orchestra (Algonquin), which is also on the June Indie Next List. Goldman decides to take up the cello again after a 25-year hiatus, first starting with his 11-year-old son's youth orchestra and then moving up to the actual Late Starters Orchestra, a New York based orchestra for beginning or recently returning adult players. It makes me nostalgic for my time playing the flute in the All-Queens Orchestra. I'm not sure how I made the cut, as I wasn't very good, but I suppose the competition wasn't fierce for flautists. Sudip Bose in The Washington Post complains a bit, but notes that "the book has its charms, and Goldman’s endeavor is nothing if not noble. The Late Starters Orchestra is an anthem for the amateur, and if more people to took up an instrument with Goldman’s level of commitment, our classical music culture would surely improve." If only I could dig out my instrument; I could play a mean version of "Theme from Mission Impossible."
And finally, mashing together the history of novels and the quirky memoir, one gets Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year, the story of a young woman (well, Rakoff) who takes a job as an assistant to Salinger's agent. Her job? To do the various office correspondence on the IBM Selectric, which is of course what every office had in the 1980s. My way of breaking the rules was to get to a typewriter supply store and buy typewriter balls with crazy typefaces on them. Rakoff breaks rank and starts answering Salinger's never-replied-to fan mail. Suzanne Berne in The New York Times loved the tales of the almost-extinct office, but thought the Williamsburg boyfriend got the short end of the stick.