Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Upcoming Events: Mike Edison on Thursday, Garrard Conley on Friday, David S. Pederson on Saturday, Paul Goldberg in conversation with Joel Berkowitz on Monday

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Thursday, June 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mike Edison, author of You Are a Complete Disappointment: a Triumphant Memoir of Failed Expectations.

The Mike Edison tour hit the East and West coasts and now it's storming the Midwest, with gigs in Chicago and Milwaukee. You know that's our tagline to publicists for pitching events: if you're planning another flyover book tour, why not stop refuel in Wisconsin? Edison's has had a unique mix of our favorite indies (Word in Brooklyn, Books Inc. in San Francisco), non-traditional stores (the fabulously targeted Quimby's in Chicago, the event store of the moment that is pretty much all second-hand Last Bookstore in Los Angeles), a Barnes and Noble (as the book was published by Sterling, their publishing company), and well, a few out-of the box venues like The Treehouse in New York. Here's the full schedule.

I've read a good amount of Edison's memoir and it's a father-son story about a kid who simply can't live up to his father's expectations. And we all know how that can be - I got a lot of grief for becoming a bookseller. And if you're wondering whether Edison's previous gigs at High Times and Hustler come into play, I can only imagine my parents' reaction to those jobs.

The book's been getting some great reviews too. Jacqueline Cutler writes in New Jersey Advance Publications (the Newark Star Ledger et al): "Edison knows what he's doing on the page, is skilled at engaging the reader and is a likeable guy as he lays bare his insecurities, pain and loves. Though the book comes in at a tidy 244 pages, it is not a fast read. That's mainly because the father/son relationship is so painful. I would close the book for a couple of days just because that sort of hate from a father toward a son is so hideous. Yet I returned. I needed to know if he found peace."

So if you:
--disappointed your father or
--grew up in New Jersey, especially but not exclusively in the 1970s, and did not necessarily disappoint your father or
--did not grow up in New Jersey and did not disappoint your father but want to know what that was like or
--want to laugh a bit or
--are very excited about Edison's musical combo

This is the event for you. here's the trailer.

Friday, June 3, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased: a Memoir.
This event is cosponsored by Milwaukee Pride and Diverse and Resilient.

There's been a lot of buzz about Garth Greenwell's memoir, What Belongs to You, and we just cosponsored a very nice event with Ryan Berg, author of No House to Call My Home. Well, alas, the first author isn't coming (yet) and the second has already been in town, but you still have the chance to see Garrard Conley, straight from Sofia, Bulgaria, where he is teaching at the American College and fighting for LGBTQ rights. But if you want to see Conley and Ryan Berg together they are having an event at Magers and Quinn this Thursday. Alas, you just missed Conley in conversation with Garth Greenwell, along with Elizabeth Kostova, at Malaprop's in Ashville.

Garrard grew up worlds away from Bulgaria, in small-town Arkansas, where his dad ran a cotton gin that was driven out of business by a competitor, and so moved onto a car dealership, but his dream was to be Baptist minister. So you can only imagine how happy his parents must have been with Conley's properly chaste relationship with his high school girlfriend. But then Conley broke up with her and went off to college, and there his secret troubles became a bit more open.

Let us continue with my recommendation for Boy Erased: "When Garrard Conley, who grew up Missionary Baptist in Arkansas, finally went off to college, he was touched by sin alright. In fact, he was sexually assaulted by it, a Pentacostal fellow student who then outed him to his parents. Being that his dad had pretty firm beliefs, being not just a car dealer manager but a minister in training, and Garrard himself was tortured by his own beliefs, the best optioned seemed to be a therapy program sponsored by Love in Action, a division of Exodus International. You know, the one that used Christian fundamentalism and a Twelve-Step AA structure to therapy the gay right out of you. Conley’s memoir juggles his time before the program with a reconstruction of his memories during the program itself, recreated because he wasn’t allowed to do any devilish journaling. While Conley’s story is not quite as frightening as some – he gets to go home to a Hampton Inn every night and you get the feeling that his mom might be as conflicted as he is about the treatment – it’s still a powerful story, eloquently told."

What a homecoming! Conley did his launch event at the Clinton Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bryan Borland interviewed for the Arkansas Times. Here he discusses growing up in The Bear State*: "My teen years were spent in Cherokee Village, home of several beautiful lakes, once referred to as the Mecca of the Ozarks. My parents owned a house on Lake Thunderbird, and on weekends my parents and I would board our pontoon boat and speed across the lake and relax in the sun. Afternoons after finishing homework, I would walk trails through the hills around our house, where I spent much of my time thinking about life and love and God and sexuality. I believe those moments on the trail could be considered a form of meditation, and this practice later helped me reach a kind of mental stability in the years after ex-gay therapy."

*There is no LGBTQ reference here. Arkansas had a large population of black bears in its early years of statehood.

Saturday, June 4, 7 pm, at Boswell:
David S. Pederson, author of Death Comes Darkly

Set in 1940s Milwaukee and Lake Geneva, Detective Heath Barrington and Officer Alan Keyes team up to solve the mystery of an eccentric millionaire. Their search for clues uncovers long-buried secrets of the weekend guests, all the while keeping secrets of their own, including a mutual attraction.

The story begins with Barrington getting a call from his mother. She worries about him keeping his job as a detective, even though the war is over, and Heath no longer has to worry about his flat feet getting in the way of a career. She asks why he’s not married at the ripe old age of 32, and why he’s dining with Aunt Verbina, having tea at the Pfister, no less. But Barrington can’t visit his parents that coming weekend, because he’s gotten an odd invitation to spend the weekend in Lake Geneva from one Dexter Darkly, with that offer extended to his wife or companion. Darkly read about Barrington’s work in solving a previous case, and would like nothing more than to meet. But the weekend won’t go well for Darkly, and there is no shortage of suspects.

I was speaking to one of our Friends of Boswell who was so excited that Pederson had written a book, and though he'd known him a long time, had no idea he'd grown up in Leadville, Colorado (where his dad was a miner, no less). Oddly enough, I had just learned a lot about Leadville myself, while working at the Main Street Now Conference, where I met not one but two folks involved in Leadville's urban planning and preservation programs. It''s one of the few towns in that part of Colorado that has held onto its authentic history and not been remade into a resort.

We haven't worked too much with Bold Strokes Books but they are a small press that specializes in LGBGTQ fiction for about adults and teens. It reminds me a bit of the old Alyson Publications, While print on demand technology has really changed the model, the covers look the same. Right, John?

And for next week...

Monday, June 6, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Goldberg, author of The Yid
This event is cosponsored by the UWM Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies.

So here's the scoop on this one. I've been a big fan of The Yid since publication and when Mr. Goldberg, whose day job is publishing a cancer newsletter, headed to Chicago for a conference, his publicist suggested us. We've got a lot on the line here, but I really think that if you liked either of the events we hosted with Stuart Rojstaczer or David Bozmozgis, both of whom went on to win National Jewish Book Awards (for The Mathematician's Shiva and The Betrayers) or if you can reach back a bit, Joseph Skibbell's A Curable Romantic, but really Michael Chabon, that kind of thing.

The recommendation from Daniel: "When an ominous police vehicle arrives late at night at the door of Solomon Levinson, erstwhile star of Moscow Yiddish Theater, he figures he is doomed to prison or worse. What has he got to lose? Three dead bodies later, a plan is hatched with the help of a doctor, a black engineer (nicknamed Paul Robeson, at least when the locals are being polite), and a mysterious woman. The task? Prevent the ultimate pogrom, a plan to wipe out the Jews of the Soviet Union. Jumping back and forth in time, Paul Goldberg blends history and imagination to tell a story that’s equal parts violence and slapstick. The narrative periodically veers into dramatic staging, showing how the artificial outrageousness of the story is not much more dramatic than the absurd contradictions of the Soviet totalitarian regime – Stalin’s purge was inspired by his contention that Soviet doctors were part of a cabal that was surreptitiously killing political leaders. The Yid is a skillful mashup of Michael Chabon and Quentin Tarantino, with enough factual details to even appeal to history buffs. On finishing the story, I immediately thought of a half dozen people who’d love it, and isn’t that the mark of a great read?"

Goldberg's book is based on stories from his grandfather. Paul Goldberg first heard a Moscow myth about Jews using blood for religious rituals when he was 10, in 1969. By the time he emigrated to the US in 1973, he had collected the Moscow stories which underpin The Yid. As a reporter, Goldberg has written two books about the Soviet human rights movement and co-authored (with Otis Brawley) the book How We Do Harm. He is editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter, a publication focused on the business and politics of cancer. He lives in Washington, DC.

We have a special format for this one. Joel Berkowitz of the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies will be in conversation with Goldberg, and if you'll notice, our in-store lit group is meeting at 6. Goldberg will come by at 6:30 or so for some spoiler questions. Please don't come to the book club discussion unless you've read the book because we'll be giving it all away, and there are a lot of twists.

Visit our upcoming events page for more event info.

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