Monday, March 6, 2017

Event splash: Will Schwalbe, Nickolas Butler, Jerome F. Buting, Margaret George, Dan Egan

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

Monday, March 6, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Will Schwalbe, author of Books for Living.

Why you should go: Though I've never met Mr. Schwalbe, it turns out that everybody loves him. His events proven popular (we book lovers love nothing more than fellow voracious readers) and it turns out that several of my favorite people from life have turned out to be friends with him. Why does reading bring out memories that television and film do not? In that way, it is more like music, as it's possible to take little breaks to think about the exposed Madeleine moments, to reference Proust, which by the way, I have never read.

What are people saying about the book? Here's Kelly Konrad in Chicago Now: "And as soon as I finished Books for Living I pestered a local library to help set up an interview, because after all, Will Schwalbe is my brother from another mother. I love Schwalbe's outlook and this book about books for so many reasons, but mostly because I felt as if someone had put into words the feelings I have about books and the reason I write this very blog. His introduction, and discovering we share similar thoughts on travesties such as airplane travel without a suitable read, or that every book has something to say to someone, as enough for me to know he gets me."

And here's Kevin Nancy in USA Today: "Instead of trying to dust off some forgotten tome and convince us of its value, he focuses on its pressing relevance at some critical juncture in his life. He isn’t arguing — and certainly not shilling — on behalf of a book or author; he’s passing on his own experience and leaving us to identify with it or not. Of course we do identify with it, typically, in large part because Schwalbe presents himself so convincingly as an Everyman. He doesn’t pretend, or even aspire, to the scholarly expertise of Denby and Dirda, or to Gottlieb’s breezy insider status. He conveys this humility with his easygoing, egalitarian tone and his high-low eclecticism, which ranges from Homer’s Odyssey and Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener to E.B. White’s Stuart Little and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train."

Why else should you go?: "I know the event is going to be great, but if you want a taste, Mr. Schwalbe and I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio's The Kathleen Dunn Show on Monday (today) at 2 pm, with guest host Kate Archer Kent. We both have some great recommendations and we of course urge you to call in with suggestions or questions for your online avid reading team.

Tuesday, March 7, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Nickolas Butler, author of The Hearts of Men.

Why you should go: Nick Butler, as anyone who attended either our first event for Shotgun Lovesongs or the paperback Shorewood Reads event, is a really great guy who can speak eloquently about his works, which are super Wisconsin-y. While Butler does not have Milwaukee ties, he did live for a number of years in Madison, where he helped authors can to their talks and interviews. The author escort is a noble job and the alums have a secret handshake.

What are people thinking of the book? From Laura Patten's review in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The book is so much more than a story about scouting and coming of age. It’s about men and women who are guided by a moral compass and possess enough courage to fight the bad guys — not the bad guys defined by others, but the characters in our day-to-day lives who erode decency and trust."

Where do the men in the book come from? He talks to Publishers Weekly's Mike Harvkey about the answer: "I’d been reflecting about my parents’ divorce, spending a lot of time trying to forgive my dad for some of what he’d done, and thinking about how frequently divorce happens. If you’re married, you’ve made a promise to another person and to a community—and you break that promise. What does that mean? Am I just a grown-up Boy Scout for believing that promises matter? My great grandfather died in a coal-mining accident when my grandpa was just a baby, so he grew up without a father. And my grandfather spent most of his time away from home; he was an engineer on merchant marine ships. So my dad’s dad wasn’t around a lot. And my dad used to say to me, 'We’re trying to do better, every generation.' He used to say, 'You’ll be better than I ever was, and maybe your son will be better than you.' Even though my dad was a deeply flawed guy, that stuck with me. We’re all just trying to be better."

Why else should you go?: I have been thinking about how to celebrate the release of Nickolas Butler's The Hearts of Men. For Shotgun Lovesongs, we offered pickled eggs from Bay View Packing, a bar snack that plays an important plot point in the book. I decided that for The Hearts of Men, we would serve some sort of variation on s'mores, but how to do this without a kitchen. I came up with a very odd solution that sort of reminds me of the old Top Chef challenge where they had to use food from vending machines. I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 8, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Jerome F. Buting, author of Illusion of Justice: Inside Making a Murderer and America’s Broken System in conversation with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.

Why you should go: Jerome Buting, 2016 recipient of the Fierce Advocate Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, talks about being one of the defense attorneys for Steven Avery and what it says about our justice system. Illusion of Justice came out last week (he launched in New York) and this is his first event in the Milwaukee area.

What are people thinking about the book: Doug Schneider in the Green Bay Press Gazette writes: "Illusion of Justice is one of a number of books written about the Halbach slaying and related issues. But unlike those from Michael Griesbach and former Avery prosecutor Ken Kratz, it tells the story from the perspective of the defendants. Buting says Halbach was a victim, but he argues that Avery and Dassey also are victims because they were convicted of a murder despite what Buting insists was a lack of proof."

Jerome Buting, a partner in the Brookfield, Wisconsin, law firm of Buting, Williams and Stilling, is quoted by Chris Harris in People Magazine: "'Making a Murderer was a wake-up call for people about what happens in their courts, but it shouldn’t be taken as an isolated example,' Buting says. 'Not every single case do you see that sort of thing, but there are too many where you do see the same flaws. If documentaries came about other these other cases, people would be outraged. We need to take back your justice system, but it will have to come from the ground up if there will ever be reforms in our justice system. People will have to say "We expect more and we need it to change."'"

There is nothing like trying to edit a quote within a quote within a quote!

Why else should you go?: Who doesn't love our events with Mitch Teich? The executive producer of WUWM's Lake Effect always does a top rate shop. We are so grateful for his participation. The program will be taped and edited to be used on Lake Effect in the future.

Thursday, March 9, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Margaret George, author of The Confessions of Young Nero, in conversation with Elfrieda Abbe.

Why you should go: Beloved historical novelist Margaret George is the author of Mary, Called Magdalene, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. This is her first visit to Boswell, having appeared at several other bookstores over the years.

What are people saying about the new book? From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel: "While she doesn't whitewash Nero, she presents him sympathetically as a character who had little chance to avoid the family business, a la Michael Corleone. Unlike some of his predecessors, Nero had an aversion to war and preferred diplomatic solutions. Failing to pay the proper courtesies to the military was a factor in his downfall, and succeeding emperors did not make his mistake, George said."

Diana Gabaldon in The Washington Post offers this fascinating review that looks at how Nero's legacy was destroyed (I learned the same about Cleopatra after reading Stacy Schiff's biography) and how George's novel attempts to redeem it: "Politics being what they are, smear jobs, whitewashing, character assassination and real assassination have been around as long as people have. History is not what happened; it’s what someone chose to write down, and — I hope I don’t disillusion anyone by mentioning this — the motives of historians are not necessarily pure."

Why else should you go: Margaret George will be in conversation with nationally published writer, editor, and critic Elfrieda Abbe. I was looking to find a suitable conversation partner for this event, and in chatting with Abbe, I learned that she had interviewed her for one of her previous novels, not on the stage ("stage" being a little dramatic to describe Boswell's speaking area, but it will do, particularly to make the rhyme work) but on the page.

Friday, March 10, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

Why you should go: Dan Egan is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. You live near Lake Michigan and every issue that he brings up in his new book impacts you. The Great Lakes hold 20% of the world's supply of surface fresh water and that percentage could rise higher if we do to other bodies what was done to the Aral Sea, which was once half the size of England and is now dried up.

What are folks saying about the book, which comes out tomorrow:

Dan Egan talked to WUWM's Lake Effect about the book.

Egan's book was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Award given to a work in progress. You can read more about the award here. And Lekelia Danielle Jenkins in the journal Science says the book lives up to its hype: "Living up to this early acclaim, it is easy to read, offering well-paced, intellectually stimulating arguments, bolstered by well-researched and captivating narratives."

Note that if you can't make our event, Egan will also be at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center on March 22. That event is free with Schlitz Audubon admission or membership.

Why else should you go: Egan has won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, John B. Oakes Award, and the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award. And please note the format change Mr. Egan is now in conversation with me. As the author and I discussed, a lay reader like myself might help put the issues in more easily undestood terms. And I am about as lay as it gets when it comes to this issue.

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