Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The evolution of Milwaukee's love affair with Adriana Trigiani (who will be at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on July 12, 7 pm)

Boswellian Jane Glaser and I have shared a lot over the years. We first started working together when I was the manager of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Mequon. But one thing we've never really shared was an event with Adriana Trigiani. She may have come when I was working at Schwartz, but back then I was buying, and didn't attend as many events, particularly the ones in Mequon and Brookfield, being that they pretty much required a car.

Jane first read about Trigiani in 2001, where she was featured in a St. Mary's College of Notre Dame alumni magazine, where '81 Trigiani offered to talk to reading groups about Big Stone Gap (published in 2000) and Big Cherry Holler (from 2001). Through the Saint Mary's College office, Jane (I'm sure you've figured out that she's also an alum) wrote and told her about the active Schwartz Bookshop book club program that she ran.

And she responded. I'm not really sure, but I'm guessing this was by traditional letter. I remember doing this myself with several authors. If you were lucky, you'd get a postcard back about six months later.

Adriana (I'm using her first name here because she and Jane have a longstanding bookseller-author friendship) first came to Milwaukee in 2003 for the novel Lucia Lucia. It started with a group of 30 people and grew to over 150 in 2009. That was for the novel Very Valentine. Her note to Jane: "We're planning the tour now and how could I ever skip my beloved Harry's." In the book, she mentioned Mequon's Picardy Shoe Parlor. Jane tells me it's on page 123.

Jane noted that in 2005, Trigiani was interviewed by Bill Goldstein* in Publishers Weekly. You can read the whole interview here. The focus is on the rise of book clubs at bookstores. They were working on the publication of the novel Rococo. You'll definitely want to go back and read this article. In addition to the Adriana love, Glaser tells the now legendary story about how her store went on to sell a ton of copies of Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden.

Her last visit to Milwaukee was at Mequon's Next Chapter Bookshop on April 24, 2012. The featured title was The Shoemaker's Wife. As Adriana and Jane were planning this event, Jane wrote and told Trigiani that one of her favorite sales was to a retiree who bought The Shoemaker's Wife, Lucia Lucia, Rococo, and Queen of the Big Time to give to former patients, loving how Trigiani's characters "persevere to work out their lives with steadfastness and a good outlook."

Rudy Cotolo profiled Trigiani in 2013 for The Supreme Macaroni Company in Publishers Weekly. We both love this excerpt: "On tour, Trigiani has developed an act that she says is closer to stand-up comedy than to straightforward reading. 'I’m here to serve my readers; I’m not in this for any other reason.' She describes herself as overly optimistic. 'I don’t like any art form barraged in violence or hurt,' she says. And she’s 'crazy' about her readers, most of whom are female. 'I see them in their complexities, these women; I see how a book from me is an escape, and my role as a storyteller is to lift these readers out of something sometimes, or to turn the mirror on them.' She wants her readers to 'have fun, connect, laugh, and cry together,' she says."

And now it's 2017 and time for her Boswell debut. This joint event from Boswell Book Company and Oconomowoc's Books and Company on July 12 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts will be her sixth visit to the Milwaukee area. Tickets are $32 and include a copy of Kiss Carlo.

Here's what Jane says about Trigiani's newest, Kiss Carlo: "Set against the post-World-War-II streets of South Philadelphia, a mountaintop village in Italy and the golden age of New York television, this is a story that celebrates the expansive life of one Italian-American family. As branches of the Palazzini family are involved in a decades old feud over their cab driving business, ironically it is the orphaned cousin Nicky Castone who brings about a reconciliation. While he drives a cab by day, Nicky begins to fulfill his dream of becoming an actor by volunteering at the struggling Borelli Theatre in the evening and there he meets the love of his life. From page one, readers will engage in this vibrantly drawn heartwarming epic story of family and friendship, love and forgiveness and ultimately dreams fulfilled. Perfect choice for summer reading!"

I also read Trigiani, but it was my very first time. I was a little daunted by the 500+ pages (Jane noted that this is a little longer than the average Adriana novel) but the story truly rushed by. Trigiani brings such joy to the Italian American experience. Even if the family's are fighting, they do so with gusto. I'm sure we all wish we had a Nicky who could bring everybody together. Here's another link to tickets.

*Coincidentally, Bill Goldstein is coming to Boswell for his first work of nonfiction, The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature.

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