It's so exciting to be finally celebrating Riverhead weekend! I say that because two of our four events in the next two days come from that esteemed division of Penguin Random House. And please note that I'm not sure that "division" is the proper term, so apologies in advance.
First up is Sarah Vowell, author of the just-released Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, at the Milwaukee Public Library Centennial Hall, tonight (October 31) at 7 pm. It's so exciting to be hosting Vowell again. Last time we ticketed in store, but this time we have a special Halloween treat - the event is free. We've been offering preorder signing priority to folks who bought the book up front from us, but starting when doors open (around 6 pm, if not a bit before), we'll be giving out line letters to anyone who wants a signing, and we're pretty certain that some of the signing will take place before the event.
If you haven't read Vowell before, think of it as a cross between David McCullough and Bill Bryson, with a little Dorothy Parker (I'm referring to a wee bit of irreverent wit, plus I wanted at least one female comparison) rolled in for good measure. All of Vowell's books are a combination of history with travelogue, and her newest, about Marquis de Lafayette, is no exception. There are Lafayette memorials all over the place, said the person who just got off at the Broadway-Lafayette subway station when he was in New York, and we completely take them for granted. I think that's why folks so often say "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive" instead of King Drive, the way we normally would say for a memorial. They don't want to forget exactly what they are commemorating.
So am I advocating that every Lafayette Park, Square, and shopping mall (I think there is one in Indianapolis) be renamed "Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Dog Park," for example? No, but once you read Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, you might be tempted. Lafayette was once the most beloved and least polarizing figure in the American Revolution, unlike George Washington, whom is now universally beloved, at least according to grade school textbooks. It was certainly not the case at the time.
The other thing you take away from Vowell's newest is that the polarization of the country, or at least the profound inability to agree about anything, is hardly a contemporary issue. It's been the case since the country started.
Also in the Loos Room will be our American Revolution costume contest. It is Halloween, after all. We'll be giving out up to three Boswell gift cards to the winners. The winner will get $50, and if we think there are honorable mentions, we'll have gift cards for $30 and $20 to second and third place.
One thing to be aware of is that aside from the Loos Room before the event, there are no photos or video during Vowell's talk or signing, much like a David Sedaris event. Please respect this request. We're happy to take a picture of you with a book and a reenactor or someone in costume. We've even got extra tricorner hats for guests to wear.
The second event I want to mention is Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings. Our event with Mr. James is Sunday at 3 pm. The interesting story about that is that our original event was set for October 13, but he had to postpone because that was the night of the Man Booker Prize ceremony.
And he won the award, so it's a good thing he showed up.
A Brief History of Seven Killings was one of the best reviewed books of 2014, and there any number of sources I can link to for reviews. But I'm going to go with Boswellian Eric's write up, partly because he told me it was the best book he read in twenty years (that's a quote!), and partly because he's leaving us for the nonprofit world, where he'll be working with male prisoners. Before Boswell, one of Eric's gigs was as the Milwaukee County Jail librarian. Alas, that position was cut.
Eric Beaumont's recommendation for A Brief History of Seven Killings: "The years 1976 through 1991 saw a horrific surge in violence in Kingston, Jamaica, a surge that spread throughout the Western hemisphere with the introduction of crack cocaine. Jamaica-born-and-educated author Marlon James takes you to zinc-fence shanty towns and opulent mansions, telling pieces of a bitter and rarely glorious story, in the distinct, often musical voices of 13 different narrators. The focal point of the novel is mentioned by name exactly once in almost 700 pages. Heavy use of Jamaican patois and slang. The greatest novel I've read in 20 years."
As part of his celebration of our event, Eric, who is also the musician Eric Blowtorch, will be spinning Jamaican music in the hour or so before our event starts. How cool is that?
And finally, there is a third, non Riverhead event I should remind you about. Rob Reischel will be at Zablocki Library, 3501 W. Oklahoma Ave. to talk about his book, Leaders of the Pack: Starr, Favre, Rodgers and Why Green Bay's Quarterback Trio Is the Best in NFL History. The talk is tomorrow, November 1, 2 pm (note time) at the library (Update: this event was cancelled, due to a family emergency). I don't know if you are aware of this but Zablocki is one of two branch libraries (aside from Central) that is open on Sundays during the school year. The other one is Capitol.
We have the following signed books available from this past week's events.:
--Bream Gives Me Hiccups, by Jesse Eisenberg
--Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
--Cooking Like a Master Chef, by Graham Elliot
--Binge, by Tyler Oakley
You can call or order on our website. While supplies last!
Hope to be back on track with our event blog on Monday. These past few week's have been a little overwhelming!
Teen Thursday: March 23
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