Monday, March 14, 2016

Boswell Events: Amber Tamblyn, John Koethe, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Three Iraq War Veterans Reading Together - Brian Castner, Matthew Hefti, and Ross Ritchell.

Tuesday, March 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Amber Tamblyn, author of Dark Sparkler.

Actress and writer Amber Tamblyn has published three books, studying under masters such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Her acting work has been rewarded with nominations for a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and an Independent Spirit Award.

So I was putting together the blog post for this week's events and noticed that Carly Lenz's review is featured on the HarperCollins website. How cool is that? Carly has recently taken a job as an archivist at Harley Davidson, working out of the museum, but she'll be back to work tomorrow's event.

Here's her recommendation: "A highly original and creative collection of poetry by award-winning actress and poet Amber Tamblyn, Dark Sparkler exists as both artwork and resource, spotlighting a variety of talented women over time whose lives and careers are explored, lamented, and beautifully recognized through Tamblyn's poetic voice. The poems are simultaneously dark and enlightening, provocative and subtle, eulogistic and memorial, all showcasing Tamblyn's talent as a writer and her intimate understanding of the perseverance these women experienced in the throes of Hollywood. Dark Sparkler will educate and astonish you." — Carly Lenz, Boswell Book Company

Here's what a few other notables had to say about the collection.

“Amber Tamblyn’s Dark Sparkler is an elegy, a eulogy, a rhapsody, a rage. In these astonishing poems inspired by dead actresses, Tamblyn fiercely examines the spectacle of the actress as she lives and dies and how our hands and hearts linger on their lives.” —Roxane Gay, who has a memoir called Hunger, coming out in June. Why not preorder a copy from us now?

With a drummer’s approach to wording and a coroner’s attention to bodily detail, Amber Tamblyn’s tragicomic dead girl poems are a thoughtful, ghoulish kick.” — Sarah Vowell, whose most recent work is Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, of course.

As you may know, Tamblyn is in town as she is traveling with her husband, who is doing a show at the Pabst. How cool is that. And I should also note a signing restriction: You must purchase or have purchased a copy of Dark Sparkler to get on the signing line.

Friday, March 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Koethe, author of The Swimmer.  (Photo credit Kevin Miyosaki)

This is John Koethe's tenth collection of poems and his first for FSG. Koethe's previous collections have won the Frank O'Hara Award for Poetry, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He has received a lifetime achievement award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and was the first Milwaukee Poet Laureate. Here's a short excerpt from the review from Jim Higgins in the Journal Sentinel. "In 'Idiot Wind' (which shares a title with one of Dylan's bitterest songs), former Milwaukee poet laureate John Koethe questions the enterprise of making poems, judging his own performance short of ideal...Far be it from me to argue with a guy who can quote Wittgenstein, but in the case of The Swimmer, his 10th collection of poetry, Koethe is protesting too much."

Steve Donoghue in Open Letters Monthly notes that many poems in The Swimmer navigate the territory of aging. He writes: The particular awareness of 70 is thorny enough even for ordinary folk; the enfencing limitations, the private announcements of wear, the sure, unwanted knowledge that each remaining year will be thinner than the one before – the consignment of heartiness to special occasions, long of both anticipation and recovery. For the keener heart of a poet, the cold certainty that life’s summer is over and won’t come again is a steeper thing, usually provoking either “late style” lunacy or the peremptory abandonment of the Muse. Koethe is stout enough to look at it straight on, despite “this terrifying feeling of contingency” that fans open and closed in virtually every poem in The Swimmer."

 One thing you may not know (but you will not find surprising) is that Koethe also has a wonderful eye for art. This year's National Book Awards ceremony program featured a work from John Ashberry called The Painter, which came from Koethe's collection.

 Another National Book Awards connection is that one of the judges, G. Neri, is in town to visit schools for part of Middle Grade Mania. We were not able to schedule a public event, but I'd like to give a shout out for his new novel, Tru and Nelle, a middle-grade novel about the friendship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote. We should have signed copies after the school visits on Wednesday. 

Saturday, March 19, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Brian Castner, Ross Ritchell, Matthew Hefti, three writers and Iraq War Veterans

Brian Castner, author of All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for His Killer.
In his latest book, Brian Castner focuses on the tight-knit EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) community. One of their own is hurt, an alarm goes out. When Brian Castner, an Iraq War vet, learns that his friend and EOD brother Matt has been killed by an IED in Afghanistan, he goes to console Matt’s widow, but he also begins a personal investigation. Is the bomb maker who killed Matt the same man American forces have been hunting since Iraq, known as the Engineer? In All the Ways We Kill and Die, Brian Castner’s investigation reveals how warfare has changed since Iraq, becoming personal even as it has become hi-tech, with our drones, bomb disposal robots, and CSI-like techniques.  Castner is a Marquette graduate whose work has been featured in The New York TimesOutside, and NPR. He is also the author of The Long Walk, a memoir.

Ross Ritchell, author of The Knife. (Photo credit Greg Baier)
The Knife is a debut novel, now in paperback. As scenes of horseshoes and horseplay cut to dim Ambien-soaked trips in helicopters and beyond, his story takes us deep beneath the testosterone-laced patter into the lonelier, more ambivalent world of military life in the Middle East. Brian Turner wrote in The Washington Post: "On its surface, The Knife, by former Army Ranger Ross Ritchell, is a debut novel filled with enough adrenaline-fueled combat to satisfy any Hollywood producer. But while the book admirably focuses on the sights and sounds of a soldier’s life, a closer reading reveals a deeply elegiac story." Ross Ritchell is a former soldier in a United States Special Operations Command direct-action team conducting classified operations in the Middle East. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at Northwestern University, where he earned an MFA. He lives with his family in Illinois.

Matthew Hefti, author of A Hard and Heavy Thing.
Contemplating suicide after nearly a decade at war, Levi sits down to write a note to his best friend Nick, explaining why things have to come to this inevitable end. Years earlier, Levi—a sergeant in the army—made a tragic choice that led his team into ambush, leaving three soldiers dead and two badly injured. During the attack, Levi risked death to save a badly burned and disfigured Nick. His actions won him the Silver Star for gallantry, but nothing could alleviate the guilt he carried after that fateful day. He may have saved Nick in Iraq, but when Levi returns home and spirals out of control, it is Nick’s turn to play the savior, urging Levi to write. Madison writer Hefti spent 12 years as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He earned his BA and MFA while enlisted, and now is pursuing his Juris Doctor and UW Law School.

All three writers will talk and read and then take questions together.

Sunday, March 20, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Two If By Sea. (Photo credit Janet Kay.)
Welcome back Jacquelyn Mitchard, long-time Wisconsin favorite!

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child's life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank's own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian's gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

Jodi Picoult writes: "Mitchard's latest novel explores the fascinating question of those who have extraordinary gifts, what responsibility comes with those gifts, and where the line of morality falls between those poles. A thoughtful, sweeping read."

Need to see further out into our schedule? Check our upcoming events page.

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