Elinor Lipman is returning to Milwaukee for her newest book, On Turpentine Lane. Here's my recommendation: "When I first moved to Milwaukee, I learned after signing my lease that the previous tenant had died in the bathtub. So I was particularly amused by the setup of Elinor Lipman’s newest novel, wherein one Faith Frankel purchases a fixer upper and learns that something fishy was going on in the house previous to her tenancy. Faith’s engaged, but her fiancé Stuart is on a spiritual journey while she stays behind in small-town Massachusetts, writing thank-you notes for a small private school’s development fund. Filled with the familial complications we come to expect, I’m not giving anything away by calling On Turpentine Lane a romantic comedy of the highest order, with the delight not just in the classic joy of seeing the two people meant for each other get it right, but in the myriad ways that other couples can get it completely, hilariously wrong."
Oue ticketed event is Sunday, February 19, 2 pm, at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Lipman is in conversation with Lake Effect's Bonnie North.
On Turpentine Lane is a love story, and naturally it comes out on Valentine's Day. But this post is about another longstanding love story, between Milwaukee booksellers and Elinor Lipman. So gather round, my young'uns while I tell you a story.
Way back in the days before the internet, when you liked an author's book and you wanted to tell them, you sent them a letter or postcard. Back in the day, I did this a number of times, sending to the publisher, with the hopes that they'd get forwarded on. Being that I had once worked at a publisher, I knew that this was general procedure, but might sometimes not happen.
I'm pretty sure that is how I first made contact with Elinor Lipman after reading her first novel, Then She Found Me. I know we mailed at least a few times, because I sent her a flier where I recommended her book and she mailed it off to Wally Lamb, whose She's Come Undone was also recommended (well in advance of Oprah, I might note) and he sent me a note back, and I think the whole thing took six months. Remember when we had patience?
But it turns out that one of my coworkers had a way to cut to the chase, and no, she didn't find her phone number and call her. Jeanne, another huge fan of Then She Found Me, was listening to a talk show (I think it was on Chicago's WGN) and Lipman was the guest. So she called on the show and got through. Apparently not that many callers knew who Lipman was so this gushing fan really stood out.
I think it was for the second novel, The Way Men Act, that I got to meet Ms. Lipman. It was at a lunch for Pocket Books duriung the ABA convention (now Book Expo), where a publicist brought us together. The Way Men Act is her Northampton novel, a comic story of a love triangle, but what I remember most is that it was an interracial love story, and the matter-of-fact way that she treated the differences was groundbreaking. Now I can't remember whether Ms. Lipman came to Milwaukee for The Way Men Act or not? I seem to remember that her first visit had a free day where I drove her around Milwaukee.
And then there was Isabel's Bed, the story of the woman who leaves her bagel kingpin cad of a boyfriend to take on ghostwriting the story of a glamorous but somewhat difficult actress. I was just talking to a fan who said this novel is her favorite. Where was this event held? I have no idea! But for some reason, I think we had a dinner at Maders with other booksellers. And that's why I think this was our second event, because I don't think I would have set up a bookseller dinner the first time around. (Addendum from Ms. Lipman--Isabel's Bed was the first Schwartz event and yes there was a bookseller dinner).
For The Inn at Lake Devine, I actually know the details. We hosted Lipman on June 16, 1996, along with Anita Shreve, because Shreve had to cancel her original event in May because of something else, maybe the Oprah Book Club taping. We had a dinner at Bartolotta's in Wauwatosa. What a wonderful evening!
For The Ladies Man, which I call a classic cad novel, and reminded me a bit of The Nest, Ms. Lipman returned to Shorewood on June 21. So nice that I found this file of old print newsletters. Did I mention that Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney will be doing her book talk at Schwartz as part of the Jane-and-Daniel book club show on April 15 for the paperback? I had not remembered that Ms. Lipman had released novels in two successive years. I don't think that happened again. I seem to remember her telling me that her publisher thought it might help her break out.
For The Dearly Departed (that's the one about the golfer who returns back to her hometown for a funeral), we decided to host two events, adding a 2 pm event in Brookfield to our 7 pm Mequon event. I guess it must have worked because we did it again in 2003 for The Pursuit of Alice Thrift on June 25, hosting a 2 pm event at Shorewood and a 7 pm in Brookfield. Alice was the medical resident who needs a bit of a makeover, but while Alice could use a little love, maybe Ray the fudge salesman isn't the perfect match.
2006 brought us My Latest Grievance, the story of a young girl brought up in a student residence where her parents are faculty advisors, only to have her father's old flame move into the dorm next door. I remember this one well, as we did a reading at Mequon on April 27 and had a luncheon the next day at Bachhus.
And that brings us to 2009, when Ms. Lipman was one of Boswell's grand opening guests for The Family Man, along with Anita Shreve and Mameve Medwed, followed by her stint as featured speaker at the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch for The View from Penthouse B. with a special guest appearance from Lipman's essay collection, I Can't Complain. One more aside--so excited about 2017s guest speaker at the lunch, on May 5. Elizabeth Strout!
So why did I go through all these materials, looking for all our events in the past? For one thing, it was a lot of fun. I love minitiae. For another, it shows how much we loved hosting Ms. Lipman in Milwaukee over the years. Lipman is one of the warmest, engaging speakers I've ever worked with. And she's even a good reader, which isn't always the case. And the books are so fun! I'm also listing all these events because most of them were put together by Schwartz's marketing director Nancy Quinn, and this year's event is at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, where we're once again working with Nancy.
Tickets are $26, and include admission, all taxes and fees, and a copy of On Turpentine Lane. We're excited to have Bonnie North from WUWM's Lake Effect in converseation with Lipman. $5 from every ticket will go to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. And yes, an $18 Boswell gift card is available in lieu of the book, on the day of the event only. Can't attend? We'll hold your book at Boswell for up to 6 months.
And if you want to read more about Lipman's novels, or preorder her backlist titles, you can do so here. And if you want to see how we found out the exact date of Elinor Lipman's first visit to Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee, you can find that here.