Monday, July 16, 2018

Boswell Bugle-Milwaukeean Update: Tara Bogart, Ottessa Moshfegh, Richard Ratay, Thomas Frank, Tayari Jones, Anna-Lisa Cox, Dan Kaufman

Boswell Bugle-Milwaukeean Update: Tara Bogart, Ottessa Moshfegh, Richard Ratay, Thomas Frank, Tayari Jones, Anna-Lisa Cox, Dan Kaufman

Tuesday, July 17, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Tara Bogart, author of A Modern Hair Study

Photographer and Milwaukee native Tara Bogart, whose work was featured in May 2017 at Lawrence University’s Hoffmaster Gallery, visits Boswell with her book of portraits featuring young women photographed from behind that allow the viewer to contemplate details that make each woman an individual.

In 2011, during a visit to Paris' Bibliothèque nationale, Tara Bogart saw the photograph Marie Laurent (1865) by Nadar and was immediately intrigued. The photograph, taken from behind, was of a young woman whose hair was held up by an ornate clip. Bogart couldn’t stop thinking about what that image would look like today. Five months later, she began the series that became A Modern Hair Study.

"While certain ideals are often relevant to different generations,” Bogart says, “the ways in which women adorn and modify themselves often indicate the struggles of a young adult with their own ideology and individuality. After photographing these young women, I can imagine these struggles are timeless."

Tara Bogart has exhibited work at the The Portrait Society Gallery and The Charles Allis Art Museum in Milwaukee, and Hous Projects and Aperture in New York. Her work is in the J. Crew Art Collection and the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

Wedenesday, July 18, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Ottessa Moshfegh, author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Doug Gordon

Boswell and Wisconsin Public Radio present PEN/Hemingway Award winning author Ottessa Moshfegh in conversation with WPR’s Doug Gordon. Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, is the shocking, tender story of a woman’s efforts to sustain a state of deep hibernation over the course of a year on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Here's Chris Lee from Boswell with his recommendation of My Year of Rest and Relaxation: "A woman can give the whole world the finger just as well as any Angry Young Man™. Summer, 2000, NYC, a brand new century full of glossy optimism. On the Upper East Side, though, one woman wants nothing to do with it. Beautiful, blonde, educated, and rich with inheritance money, she's loathe to go outside and wants only to watch her Whoopie Goldberg tapes, self-medicate, and sleep. It's a book about detachment, alienation, grief, anger, heritage, and surviving by any means what should be a life of privilege and means. Oh, yeah, and it's amazing. Moshfegh's writing feels, to me, maybe a little reminiscent of the cool, detached ache of early Bret Easton Ellis, but that's just a touchstone - her voice is all her own, raw, flip, tender, cruel, and just barely a little, tiny bit hopeful all at once."

Walton Mayumba offers his take in the Los Angeles Times: "With our faces and fingers buried in screens, the narrator’s project would be harder to pull off in 2018. I suspect, however, that if I tuned out, logged off and spent more hours deeply asleep, I might gain renewed clarity, insights similar to the narrator’s unfussy, lucid realizations upon awakening from her final detoxifying rest. Moshfegh’s strange and captivating novel suggests that sleep may be the only thing we humans have for recharging our souls and reawakening our sensibilities in the discovery and creation of beauty."

Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the NBCC Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. She is also the author of Homesick for Another World and McGlue, a novella. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery Prize, and an NEA grant.

Thursday, July 19, 6:30 pm, at Shorewood Public Library, 3920 N Murray Ave:
Thomas Frank, author of Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society

Thomas Frank, the acclaimed political analyist, historian, journalist, and author of Listen, Liberal! and What’s the Matter with Kansas? offers this scathing collection of commentary on our cruel times. Cohosted by Shorewood Public Library and Boswell Book Company, who will be on hand to sell copies of Frank’s books.

What does a middle-class democracy look like when it comes apart? After forty years of economic triumph, are America’s winners convinced they owe nothing to the rest of the country? With his sharp eye for detail, Frank takes us on a wide-ranging tour through America, showing us a society in the late stages of disintegration and describing the worlds of both the winners and the losers, sprawling mansion districts juxtaposed against fast-food lives.

From the starred Publishers Weekly review: "He attacks many juicy targets, including the callous interpersonal psychology of rich people; the faux-folksiness of fast-food restaurants that pay starvation wages; journalism’s plunge, led by conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart, into fake news and mindless caricature; the defunding of the humanities at universities and academics’ defense of those fields as incubators of business acumen; reactions to Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln that lionized its depiction of political corruption as bipartisan 'compromise' to which real-life politicians should aspire; and the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s efforts to gloss over war, Hurricane Katrina, and economic collapse...'"

Thomas Frank is a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper's, the founding editor of The Baffler, and the author of Pity the Billionaire and The Wrecking Crew. He writes regularly for The Guardian.

Thursday, July 19, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Richard Ratay, author of Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

Richard Ratay road trips to Boswell from his home in Menomonee Falls to reminisce about the golden age of family road trips, a halcyon era that culminated in the latter part of the twentieth century, before portable DVD players, iPods, and Google Maps.

Part pop history and part whimsical memoir in the spirit of National Lampoon's Vacation, Don’t Make Me Pull Over! is a rousing ride-along through the days when families didn’t so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and destination lay thousands of miles and dozens of annoyances, and Ratay experienced them all, from noogie-happy older brothers and disappointing souvenir situations to dealing with a dad who didn’t believe in bathroom breaks.

Here's a recommendation of Don't Make Me Pull Over from Boswell's Kay Wosewick: "Unlike author Richard Ratay’s father, my dad was the quiet type. When my brother and I fought in the car, my dad would slam on the brakes and bring the car very quickly to a full stop no matter what kind of road we were on (often it was Route 66; since we never were rear-ended, I assume he checked the rear-view mirror first). Other than that, Ratay’s memories of his childhood vacations in large, lumbering automobiles align very closely with mine. If you traveled in cars for days, even weeks at a time with your family when you were young, this book is bound to bring back fond, funny, frustrating, and maybe even fearful-in-hindsight memories - it certainly did for me."

Richard Ratay was the last of four kids raised by two mostly attentive parents in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism and has worked as an award-winning advertising copywriter for twenty-five years. Ratay lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, with his wife, sons, and two excitable rescue dogs.

Friday, July 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage, in conversation with Jim Higgins, Book Editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Please register for this event here - we're near capacity.

Join us for an evening with bestselling author Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined.

From Tori Latham at The Atlantic: "It is this sort of intimacy that Tayari Jones so searchingly explores in her new novel, An American Marriage, which follows the wrongful imprisonment of a young black man named Roy, and its impact on him and on his new wife Celestial. Jones shifts from the first-person narration provided by these two protagonists to letters they send each other while Roy is in prison. She then returns to their firsthand accounts, adding in a third narrator - Andre, a childhood friend of Celestial’s and a college friend of Roy’s. The variation in these perspectives serves an important purpose: It offers up myriad means of understanding the novel’s complicated central relationship, and lets every character speak for themselves, giving each an opportunity to capture the reader’s allegiance."

This event is free and is likely to be at capacity. Please register at Attendees who register will get early entry if we reach or come close to capacity, priority on the signing line, and a 20% discount on An American Marriage on the night of the event.

Monday, July 23, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Anna-Lisa Cox, author of The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality

Anna-Lisa Cox appears at Boswell with her breakout history of the long-hidden stories of America's black pioneers, the frontier they settled, and their fight for the heart of the nation. This groundbreaking work reveals America's Northwest Territory - the wild region that would become present-day Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

When black settlers Keziah and Charles Grier started clearing their frontier land in 1818, they were just looking to build a better life, but soon the Griers became early Underground Railroad conductors, joining fellow pioneers to confront the growing tyranny of bondage and injustice. Cox tells the stories of the Griers and others like them: the lost history of the nation's first Great Migration.

Black pioneers made a stand for equality and freedom, and their success made them the targets of racist backlash. Political and armed battles ensued, tearing apart families and communities long before the Civil War. These settlers were inspired by the belief that all men are created equal and a brighter future was possible.

Anna-Lisa Cox is an award-winning historian and author of A Stronger Kinship: One Town's Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith. Currently a fellow at Harvard University's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, she helped create two exhibits based on original research at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, including one on black pioneers.

Tuesday, July 24, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Dan Kaufman, author of The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics

Wisconsin native Dan Kaufman chronicles one of the most dramatic political upheavals in the country. The Fall of Wisconsin is a searing account of how the state’s progressive tradition was undone and turned into a model for national conservatives.

For more than a century, Wisconsin has been known for its progressive ideas and government. It famously served as a "laboratory of democracy," a cradle of the labor and environmental movements, and birthplace of the Wisconsin Idea, championing expertise in service of the common good. But following a Republican sweep of the state’s government in 2010, the state went red for the first time in three decades in the 2016 presidential election.

Laws protecting voting rights, labor unions, the environment, and public education have been rapidly dismantled. The Fall of Wisconsin is a deeply reported, neither sentimental nor despairing, account of the remarkable efforts of citizens fighting to reclaim Wisconsin’s progressive legacy against tremendous odds.

Originally from Wisconsin, Dan Kaufman has written for The New York Times and The New Yorker. Can't make our event? Dan Kaufman will be at Books and Company in Oconomowoc on Wednesday, July 25, 2 pm. More here.

Our most-updated events schedule is at

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 14, 2018

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 14, 2018

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Rip the Angels from Heaven V2, by David Krugler
2. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh (event Wed 7/18, 7 pm, at Boswell)
3. Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler (just in case you missed the Anne Tyler blog)
4. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
5. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
6. There, There, by Tommy Orange (register for event Tue 9/25, 7 pm, at Boswell here)
7. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (register for event Fri 7/20, 7 pm here)
8. The Seas, by Samantha Hunt
9. Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman
10. Island of the Mad, by Laurie R. King

It's not that our event schedule is more packed than normal, just that it includes such high-profile great writers. Tayari Jones is already at 269 people registered. If you're thinking about walking up that night, please consider registering, as we're probably going to be checking in folks. If there's room just before the event, we'll let standbys in until we hit room capacity. I should also note that while Ottessa Moshfegh is not registration, we're getting a lot of calls for this event, partly because of our underwriting on our Wisconsin Public Radio cosponsor, but also because this is a big deal.

But the truth is it's not all about events, though it can seem that way when the person in charge of the events is also writing the bestseller blog. Samantha Hunt is definitely not coming to Boswell (famous last words) for her beautiful reissued novel The Seas (after her second, The Invention of Everything Else, well, made waves. She recently recommended other books that include magical elements in The New York Times By the Book column: " I teach a ghost story course at Pratt Institute and recommend all its readings: Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder, Kelly Link’s The Summer People, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Cristina Rivera Garza, Amparo Dávila, Mary Shelley, Mariana Enriquez, George Saunders, and W. G. Sebald."

While the new edition is from Tin House, The Seas was first published by MacAdam/Cage in hardcover, with the paperback coming from Picador.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, by John Gurda
2. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman (event Tue 7/24, 7 pm, at Boswell)
3. City of Devils, by Paul French
4. Indianapolis, by Lynn Vincent
5. Calypso, by David Sedaris
6. Monarchy of Fear, by Martha C. Nussbaum
7. Rendezvous with Oblivion, by Thomas Frank (event Thu 7/19, 6:30 pm, at Shorewood Public Library)
8. Room to Dream, by David Lynch
9. The Perfectionists, by Simon Winchester
10. The Bone and Sinew of the Land, by Anna Lisa Cox (event Mon 7/23, 7 pm, at Boswell)

Three more upcoming events in this top ten, four if you include Gurda, who will be back at the Milwaukee Public Library on October 1. But let's focus on someone who's not visiting, Paul French, whose book City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai, came out July 3. I's getting a lot of reviews, such as Maura Elizabeth Cunningham's review in The Wall Street Journal: "Those nostalgic for the Shanghai of old depict it as a city of hot jazz and cold Champagne, swanky nightclubs and sleek autos. Author and longtime Shanghai resident Paul French shares this interest in the city’s historical glitter but is even more captivated by its grit." As Shanghai is one of the few international cities I have visited, and that visit included a walking tour of The Bund, how can I not single this book out?

Paperback Fiction:
1. Any Man, by Amber Tamblyn
2. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
3. Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (still coming! Wed Jul 18 with WPR's Doug Gordon)
4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
5. Girl Waits with Gun V1, by Amy Stewart (event Wed 8/22, 7pm, at Boswell - tickets include your choice of book)
6. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
7. Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
8. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney
9. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
10. Hope Never Dies, by Andrew Shaffer

Speaking of events, we're either hosting or hosted (in two cases for the hardcover edition) nine of the top ten here. Crazier still, I read eight of the nine--I'm afraid I left Any Man (signed copies available) to four other Boswellians to read and recommend. So am I saying here that we're selling what I read or I'm reading what I sell. I'd love to think the former but I know it's more of the latter. More notable is that it's true that in many cases, author appearances have a lingering effect on sales, long past the visit. Hoping some publishers read that!

But if I want to focus on something new, I should highlight Hope Never Dies, the first in a new series from Quirk by Andrew Shaffer. Here's the over-the-top premise from the publisher: "Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, 'Uncle Joe' re-teams with the only man he's ever fully trusted: the 44th president of the United States. Together they'll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America's opioid epidemic." The reviews are good!

Here's a snippet from Booklist: "Shaffer could have jumped on this opportunity to parody Biden and Obama, but, instead, he presents them as real people, pretty much the way we imagine them to be (allowing, of course, for literary license); and the mystery is genuinely suspenseful and satisfying, not merely a framework for a bunch of silliness. It should be noted, too, that the relationship between Biden and Obama is carefully and skillfully developed and has moments of genuine emotion. An ambitious and completely successful novel."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
2. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
5. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
6. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
7. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
8. Hunger, by Roxane Gay
9. Ancient World in Minutes, by Charles Phillips
10. Lost Milwaukee, by Carl Swanson

After five weeks of creeping along, The Ancient World in Minutes from Charles Phillips pops off our impulse table. There are no reviews or write ups of this book. It's just pure impulse. Here's the publisher's copy: "From the first cities of Sumeria and Babylon around 3500 BCE to the fall of the Rome and the bloody demise of the Aztecs, here--in 200 mini essays - are the critical leaders and wars; ideas and inventions; myths and religions, and art and architecture of the first 5000 years of recorded history." Over 400 pages for $12.95, a good deal! Speaking of impulse, I should call out another book that just missed the top ten that is being driven from our front table, a new edition of William Carlos Williams's The Red Wheelbarrow and Other Poems. See, it's not just cats.

Books for Kids:
1. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
2. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
3. Life on Mars, by Jon Agee
4. Grumpy Monkey, by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang
5. The Lost Continent V11, by Tui T. Sutherland
6. Kids First Big Book of Things That Go, by National Geographic
7. A Torch Against the Night V2, by Sabaa Tahir
8. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (a Great American Read book)
9. Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor
10. Royal Wedding: Harry and Meghan Paper Dolls, no author or illustrator cited, though props for the unicorn onesies

Whereas adult paperback fiction takes off in the summer, our kids bestsellers grow a little quiet. It seems like children's book publishing is even more seasonal than adult, with lots of books in fall and spring, and much less in summer (and to a less extent, winter). One guesses its mirroring the school year. One picture book that's finding an audience at Boswell is Grumpy Monkey, written and illustrated by Suzanne and Max Lang. From the Publishers Weekly review: "After Jim Panzee wakes up on the wrong side of the tree, nothing seems right: 'The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and the bananas were too sweet.'" Norman tries to cheer him up, to no avail, but eventually, well, a lesson is learned.

Journal Sentinel book page recap
1) Steph Cha on The Banker's Wife, the new thriller from Christina Alger: "Alger delivers an addictive dose of suspense and intrigue with a surprisingly believable plot. And all power to the bad girls, the gone girls, the difficult female characters — but it’s nice to remember that women don’t have to be unlikable to be nuanced, or to take down villainous men."

2) Steph Cha on Any Man, the #1 paperback fiction title this week - she didn't like it, saying that Tamblyn favored style over substance. We had three great reads of the book at Boswell. I'm not sure what the fourth person thought.

3) Brian Truitt on four new YA titles:
--The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, by David Arnold
--Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl
--Furyborn, by Claire Legrand
--Undead Girl Gang, by Lily Anderson

All are originally published in USA Today.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Anne Tyler's new novel The Clock Dance, Anne Tyler's reissued backlist, Anne Tyler's display, Anne Tyler musings

On the occasion of Anne Tyler's 22nd novel, Vintage has repackaged 19 of her 21 paperback titles (everything but Vinegar Girl and A Spool of Blue Thread) with uniform editions. And celebrating that, we have a display up. And to commemorate that, being that I have read 21 of the 22 novels (the only novel I haven't read is Noah's Compass, which came out just as we were opening Boswell), I have gone back through my files and found some of my old reviews that I wrote up. I started keeping track of the books I read when I started my first publishing job in 1982, but I did not start taking notes until 1986

If Morning Ever Comes (1964)
The Tin Can Tree (1965)
A Slipping Down Life (1969)

The Clock Winder (1972)
While I read all the Tyler's for the sake of completeness, I would say that The Clock Winder was the first of her books that seems to me to be vintage. I mean, you can see that the writer of A Slipping Down Life is Anne Tyler, but Evie still feels like a young character written by a young writer, like it could have been a very, very very good YA novel. And her later young characters don't feel like that.

Celestial Navigation (1974)
When Warner bought Popular Library (I think a consent degree forced them not to include it in the Fawcett sale to Random House/Ballantine), we got the rights to Celestial Navigation and Earthly Posessions for maybe a year until the rights wound up moving to Berkley. This was back in the day when paperback houses bought rights and didn't reprint the titles from their sister hardcover divisions. And now it's usually not even a separate division. I had already read them by then, but I did wind up reading a whole bunch of P.D. James this way.

Searching for Caleb (1975)
Searching for Caleb is the first Anne Tyler book I read. It was recommended to me by a college friend named Miriam who is also forever remembered because she shared department store memories of growing up in Berkeley, California, where the family shopped at Hinks. What I love about old department stores is that they did not worry about goofy names. If Bamberger is a good enough name for our family, it's good enough for Newark.

Earthly Possessions (1977)
Several times in Anne Tyler's early works, she did what I now called the Springfield Shuffle, which I have named after the Simpsons practice of creating a first act that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Earthly Possessions did it best. If you want a nice surprise, don't read the copy.

Morgan's Passing (1980)
I read all the above titles in little mass market paperbacks in Fawcett Crest, Popular Library, Berkley, and Playboy mass market paperbacks. I found a number at this bookstore in Fresh Meadows, Queens, that lived in the shadow of Bloomingdale's. When the Bloomingdale's announced their closing, I think this store closed an hour later. In addition to this Playboy edition, I also owned a copy of Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus, which I was convinced the publisher bought because of the vaguely erotic-sounding title.

Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant (1982)
This is the first Anne Tyler I read relatively close to pub date, when it came out in paperback. Later I read how few copies you had to sell in those days at that time of year to hit the hardcover fiction list and I was kind of shocked.

The Accidental Tourist (1985)
I was doing a mix of work reading - Andrew Greeley's The Angels of September, Jayne Krentz's Sweet Starfire, and not one but two Karen Robards titles, Dark Torment and Wild Orchids, while also devouring Song of Solomon and Less Than Zero. I can only imagine someone looking at this list and saying, "Who is this crazed person? This is the only Anne Tyler book where the film has burrowed into my consciousness such that it's hard for me to remember the novel without thinking of William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Geena Davis. And yet, only one other film and two other television adaptations.

Breathing Lessons (1988)
This was my #1 book of October 1988, out of ten books read. My #2 was Walking Distance, by Marian Thurm. I wrote: One long day in the life of Maggie and Iran Moran of Baltimore. Married for many years, they still continue to confound each other. On their way to a friend's funeral, they make many side trips with Maggie even trying to reunite her son with his ex-wife. I have read every Tyler and am still happily surprised with how she can grow with each book. I appreciate the wonderful cover and the sea green top stain." And of course it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Saint Maybe (1991)
Saint Maybe came in at #2 for the month of December 1991, but #1 was Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres. The notes: "Another Baltimore eccentric family! This time, Ian Bedloe reacts to life's unmanageable ironies (he feels responsible for the death of his brother) by raising his brother's kids and joining The Church of the Second Chance, a combination parody of splinter churches and a wonderful covenant of Tylerisms. I guess the whole thing is a meditation on guilt and redemption, told in classic style."

Ladder of Years (1995)
The book came out in May, but Ladder of Years was my #1 book of March, out of 7 total. #2 was Alice Mattison's Hilda and Pearl. Writing then: "As my coworker Elly said, 'Ladder of Years is for all those times that you looked at the complication in your life and said, "I could just get in my car and keep going."' Celia Grinstead has come to exactly that point...I love the way Tyler can show the odd sides of the most commonplace situations and people." I now avoid writing quotes within quotes within quotes, but I was younger then.

A Patchwork Planet (1998)
Tyler had a lot of competition in April 1998, with novels from Jane Hamilton, Anita Brookner, Kay Gibbons, Dorothy Allison, and David Leavitt fighting for reading supremacy. How exhausting - so glad I don't rate books anymore. I guess I didn't really take to the plot of Barnaby the hero choosing between the organized, down-to-earth Sophia or a chaotic, antic alternative.

Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
"Anne Tyler revisits the themes of earlier novels in this tale of a young woman (Beck) who marries into a family of eccentrics, the proprietors of The Open Arms, a party planning business." And that family of party planners is anything but jovial." As Beck gets more and more wrapped up in the family, she questions whether this is the life she was meant to have.

The Amateur Marriage (2004)
"The Amateur Marriage changes course to bring Tyler’s characters to life in a slightly new setting. For one thing, there is a historical sweep to this novel, or as close as you are going to get to one. The story starts in the 1940’s and continues on for fifty-odd years. I love the way Tyler tells the story in episodic bursts, jumping years and leaving the reader to fill in the details."

Digging to America (2006)
"Tyler has a very powerful voice, and for some, that make the stories begin to run together. But in Digging to America, she now brings in a bit of multiculturalism, by including an Iranian family in the mix, which she did not attempt to do while her late Iranian husband was alive." I'm glad she was able to do this!

Noah's Compass (2009)
The Beginner's Goodbye (2012)
I want back and read this after the triumphant return of A Spool of Blue Thread. I don't have strong feelings. Here's an interesting aside - because Penguin Random House does not allocate ISBNs by division, Tyler's backlist was able to move from Ballantine to Vintage without changing ISBNs. I've seen that happen within divisions, with Fawcett titles migrating to Ballantine, or Three Rivers titles becoming Broadway, but never between divisions. If this has been done before, let me know as you know I love trivia like this.

A Spool of Blue Thread (2015)
It was like the British finally looked at Tyler's work and said, "Hey, this is pretty good," and that led to the Man Booker nom, and that led to more publicity, and boy, this book sold much better than her last few.

Vinegar Girl (2016)
I liked the story, but maybe not as much as my former colleague Sharon. I do love that Anne Tyler said that she hated Shakespeare and that's why she wanted to rewrite The Taming of the Shrew. Here's more from Ron Charles in The Washington Post. And then you have to watch the Ron Charles hilarious video!

Clock Dance (2018)
"When Willa Drake, living in a Tucson golf community with her husband, gets a call to take care of her son’s girlfriend’s daughter while the girlfriend is treated for a gunshot wound, she jumps into action. Now, one should note that this is not her granddaughter, her son is not involved with the girlfriend anymore, and she doesn’t even know any of the people involved. How did she get to this place? Clock Dance has a ready, set, go type of structure where three pivotal moments in Willa’s life point her towards Tylertown (it's a neighborhood in Baltimore, full of quirky characters and piquant observations). If you read a lot of Anne Tyler novels (and if you don’t, you should), you’ll notice some recurring motifs, like a woman wandering into a family life that isn’t hers, a couple crossing the country to save a child, or the recognition that the family you’re dealt isn’t always the family you want. And if you haven’t read her before, this wonderful novel is a great place to start."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What did the Books and Beer Book Club think of Ben H. Winters's "Underground Airlines"?

Surprise, Daniel attends another book club! As we're jump-starting the Books and Beer Book Club, I thought it would be fun to attend some meetings where I'm not in charge. And when Jen picked Underground Airlines from Ben H. Winters as her second selection, I was excited to read and talk about the book. And it's fun to meet at Cafe Hollander. We didn't expect a crowd indoors, as usually folks cluster outside on the patio. But the weather was inclement and it took us a bit of time to get a table. But we got one.

I've wanted to read it since editor Josh Kendall told Boswell's buyer Jason and I about it one Book Expo in 2016. The Last Policeman trilogy was a triumph of genre smashing, speculative novels told with the structure of a crime novel, with each entry in the trilogy bringing the Earth closer to destruction. Underground Airlines similarly dove deep into alternative history (the Civil War is averted when Lincoln is assassinated before the war starts, leading the South to rethink secession and come up with a compromise), told as a classic chase thriller.

Victor is effectively a bounty hunter, hunting down black people who have escaped from the Hard Four states where slavery is still illegal. And of course Victor is black himself and has struck this devil's bargain so that he himself isn't sent back to slavery. He finds himself in Indianapolis, where his target, having escaped from a textile conglomerate in Alabama, was last seen.

I particularly love Winters's world building. What would a world be like in this alternative universe? And how much would it still be like our own, for better or worse. I love how there's not a lot of detailed explanation of what has happened, but instead, Winters throws in little details, often with a wink. The Gulf War? That refers to the Gulf of Mexico. Martin Luther King's assassination? He was fighting to turn Tennessee into a free state. Our friends? Why South Africa of course. Without pressure from the United States, Apartheid did not end, and they are one of our few allies. And Southern manufactures are the ultimate sweatshops, with such low costs that they supply Asia with clothing, one of the few regions that is not boycotting American products.

At the In-Store Lit Group, we start off with a brief statement from each attendee giving their thoughts on the book. The upside of that is that everyone gets to speak. The downside is that we've already set the tone for the like-don't like divide. At Books and Beer, Jen provides a series of questions to spur conversation, and we wait till the end to rate the book. On a one to five scale, it was close to a four, and that's with one of our attendees being a self-proclaimed hard grader.

After reading Underground Airlines, my hunch that Winters's novel would be interesting to read in tandem with Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, either in successive months or with one as extra credit supplemental reading. And fans of Ben H. Winters should be thrilled to learn that his next novel, Golden State, is releasing in early 2019. It's set in a society that, in reaction to the erosion of truth in governance, values truth above all else. What could possibly go wrong?

Still wondering whether to attend the Books and Beer Book Club? Why not join us? Have a beer and some frites. Here's our upcoming schedule. All discussions at Cafe Hollander.

Books and Beer Book Club
Monday, July 16, 7 pm: Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero
Monday, August 20, 7 pm: Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose
Monday, September 17, 7 pm: Bannerless, by Carrie Vaughn
Monday, October 15, 7 pm: Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rakulak. Coincidentally, Rakulak is thanked in Underground Airlines acknowledgments.

Mystery Book Club - Fourth Monday of the month, at Boswell
Monday, July 23, 7 pm: Open Grave, by Kjell Eriksson
Monday, August 27 pm: Death on Nantucket, by Francine Mathews
Monday, September 24, 7 pm: The Dry, by Jane Harper
Monday, October 22 pm: Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke
Please note we switched our September and October selections

In-Store Lit Group - Generally on the first Monday, with exceptions
Monday, August 6, 7 pm: Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
Monday, August 27, 7 pm: Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (moved from Labor Day)
--Tuesday, October 2, 7 pm: The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry (moved from October 1)

Sci Fi Book Club - Second Monday of the month, at Boswell:
Monday, August 13, 7 pm: Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar
Monday, September 10, 7 pm: The Space Between the Stars, by Anne Korlett
Monday, October 8, 7 pm: An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

Our comprehensive Boswell-run book club list.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Events this week: David Krugler, Great American Read, Amber Tamblyn

Tuesday, July 10, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
David Krugler, author of Rip the Angels from Heaven

Cosponsored by Crimespree Magazine, David Krugler, Professor of History at UW-Platteville, brings to Boswell Rip the Angels from Heaven, his novel of American and Soviet espionage at the end of World War II. In this thrilling sequel to The Dead Don’t Bleed, intelligence officer Ellis Voigt fights to prevent the Soviets from infiltrating the Manhattan Project while running from enemies on both sides.

Washington, DC, 1945. Lieutenant Ellis Voigt of the Office of Naval Intelligence is desperate to keep his secrets and escape a web of double-agents and undercover spies who follow his every move. The FBI suspects he is the communist who murdered a Naval officer in a Washington back alley. The Soviets believe he’s holding back information from their contacts, and they’re willing to use any means necessary to extract it.

Voigt is sent to New Mexico on a mission to identify a Soviet spy, tailed by the FBI and the Russians, and he’s running out of people he can trust. As the team at Los Alamos prepares to test an atomic bomb in the desert, Voigt faces the dilemma he’d been trying to avoid: he can keep the bomb out of Soviet hands, or he can save himself, but he might not be able to do both.

Wednesday, July 11, 2:00 pm, at Boswell:
The Great American Read, with Daniel Goldin in conversation with PBS's Bethan Latham by Skype

Boswell goes behind the scenes of The Great American Read, an eight-part PBS series exploring the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels. The event features a conversation between Boswell’s Daniel Goldin and a Milwaukee PBS representative about the program and how the country’s favorite books were chosen. Light refreshments will be served.

Please register to attend this event at The first 40 people to register and attend will receive a $5 gift card to use on a Great American Read book.

The Great American Read investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. With entertaining and informative documentary segments, and compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans, and book lovers across the country, the series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.

As the Project Director for PBS’s The Great American Read, Bethany Latham interfaces with internal and external stakeholders to create a cohesive multi-platform media initiative. Prior to joining PBS, Latham held programming & production positions at the Travel Channel as well as communications and partnership development positions at a variety of non-profits including the Ocean Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She holds a master’s degree in producing for film and video from American University and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and journalism from Towson University. A bookworm from an early age, she is thrilled to share her passion and love for the written word with others through The Great American Read.

Friday, July 13, 6:00 pm, at Boswell:
Amber Tamblyn, author of Any Man, with opening reader Bianca Brummell

Multitalented actor, poet, and now novelist Amber Tamblyn visits Boswell with her debut novel, the blazingly original Any Man, which brings to startling life a specter of sexual violence in the shadowy form of Maude, a serial female rapist who preys on men. Please note this event’s earlier-than-usual start time, scheduled for those who also wish to attend David Cross’s 8:00 pm performance at the Pabst Theater.

This event is free, but registration is required to attend. Please register at Attendees must purchase a copy of Tamblyn's novel Any Man to join the signing line.

In this electric and provocative debut novel, Tamblyn blends poetry, prose, and suspense, mapping the destructive ways society perpetuates rape culture. A violent serial rapist hunts for men at bars, online, at home. Her victims suffer doubt from the police, feelings of shame and alienation, and the haunting of a horrible woman who becomes the phantom on which society projects its greatest fears, fascinations, and even misogyny. All the while the police are without leads and the media hounds the victims, publicly dissecting the details of their attack. As years pass these men learn to heal, by banding together and finding a space to raise their voices.

Here's a recommendation of Any Man from Boswell's Chris Lee: Tamblyn's tale of a hideous woman sexually assaulting men is a surefire conversation-starter. Told through journal entries, letters to the editor, radio transcripts, OKCupid messages, drawings, and tweets, the book captures the nightmarish swirl of media and gossip, blame and doubt that spins around assault. The book has earned praise for the way it confronts rape culture in America, and rightfully so, but perhaps most impressive to me is the way this novel understands and presents each survivors' detachment after their attack - their detachment from language and meaning, from their physicality, from the space they occupy in the world. For these survivors, the facts of their body have been violently rearranged. Any Man packs an intense emotional punch that lingers long enough to change the way you think.

Amber Tamblyn, author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Dark Sparkler, has been nominated for Emmy, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit awards. She has published two additional books of poetry, Free Stallion, which won the Borders Book Choice Award for Breakout Writing, and Bang Ditto. Tamblyn is poet in residence at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and a contributing writer for The New York Times.

Keep up with our complete upcoming events schedule.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Oh, to be a paperback in summer! And other bestseller observations for the week ending July 7, 2018

Oh, to be a paperback in summer! And other bestseller observations for the week ending July 7, 2018

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
2. The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
3. The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
4. All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin
5. Noir, by Christopher Moore
6. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (event 7/20, register at
7. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
8. Circe, by Madeline Miller
9. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
10. A Place for Us, by Fatima Faheen Mirza

Can you believe it was just Giffin's last book where she visited Boswell and her Wisconsin-based sister and her friends visited and she wondered whether Olivia S. would do her whole tour to take photos? Good times! Her latest, All We Ever Wanted, has this writeup from Good Housekeeping: “This thought-provoking novel follows two Nashville families as they struggle with the fallout from a horrible incident. Their wealthy community quickly becomes divided, with people eager to assign blame and take sides as the families struggle with loyalty and staying true to their values. It’s one of Giffin’s most topical, gripping books yet.” That said, I linked to the article and it turns out to be a click me roundup with links to buy on Amazon. Similarly, Entertainment Weekly is preview excerpt and then an interview also with buy-me links. So I'm not linking to either.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, by John Gurda (see Jim Higgins profile below)
2. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
3. Calypso, by David Sedaris
4. You Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth (Ginsburg), edited by Mary Zaia
5. Young Washington, by Peter Stark
6. The World As It Is, by Ben Rhodes
7. Educated, by Tara Westover
8. I'll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara
9. Rendezvous with Oblivion, by Thomas Frank (event at Shorewood Library 7/19, more here)
10. Pops, by Michael Chabon

In a way, summer is like the mirror of Christmas in a bookstore. It's only like that sales-wise if you are lucky to be located in a high-volume tourist area. We do get some tourism business, believe it or not, but that's not really my comparison. No, it's that publishers really pull back on their release schedule, such that the books with word-of-mouth momentum really get a chance to breathe, like Tara Westover's Educated. Our sales rep noted early on that this was the main nonfiction push for spring of the Random House division (of Penguin Random House) and you can definitely say they've succeeded. Another feather in its cap was a pick of the PBS Newshour-New York Times book club. Hey reading groups, here are discussion questions.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
3. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
4. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
5. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
6. My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent
7. Any Man, by Amber Tamblyn (register here for 7/13 event, 6 pm)
8. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult (ticketed event 10/21, 3 pm-purchase tickets here)
9. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
10. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

One of the most polarizing novels of last year, My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, has a pop in paperback this week. It showed up on a number of best-of lists, including Stephen King's and our buyer Jason's, but I'm guessing it was also on some flip-side lists. It was on this best-of-the-month roundup from Harper's Bazaar, but once again, I wasn't really sure whether the collaborator read all 7 books, and if this is the best of the month, didn't she have to read more to judge? Plus it links to Amazon with their selling price, so the whole thing winds up being an ad for our competitor. Lauren Christensen wrote " Turtle's physical anguish to the smells and sensations of the lush California wilderness around her leap off the page—this is one of the most important books you'll pick up this decade," but then the book did not make their top 20 for the year. So I ain't linking.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
2. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
3. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. Vacationland, by John Hodgman
6. Radium Girls, by Kate Moore
7. Gulf, by Jack E. Davis
8. Hunger, by Roxane Gay
9. Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston
10. Hard to Do, by Kelli María Korducki (event at Boswell Mon Jul 30, 7 pm - no registration necessary)

The Radium Girls was just named the #1 pick for Summer 2018 Indie Next List for Reading Groups, compiled by the American Booksellers Association. From Genevieve Valentine at the NPR website: "The fact that the radium girls faced the same battles as their Victorian predecessors is less surprising when you consider how many of those battles are still happening: Adequate health care, adequate compensation, and - crucially - effective worker protections through a legal system designed to favor corporations. Radium killed these young women, but Moore leaves no room for misunderstanding: The companies murdered them."

Books for Kids:
1. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
2. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
3. Stick Cat V1 A Tail of Two Kitties, by Tom Watson
4. Stick Cat V2 Cats in the City, by Tom Watson
5. Stick Cat V3 To Catch a Thief
6. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade (event at Boswell Fri 8/1, 7 pm)
7. Stick Dog Crashes a Party V8, by Tom Watson
8. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls V2, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
9. The Book of Dust V1 La Bell Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
10. The Burning Maze V3 The Trials of Apollo, by Rick Riordan

I'm not sure how the Jimmy Fallon book club works. What I know is there were five semifinalists and I thought they'd be reading all of them, but the audience (or well, people who vote) picked and the selection is Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. The club is called Tonight Show Summer Reads. Shockingly enough, the website didn't just link to Amazon, but also to Barnes and Noble and the Indie Bound site. I could just cry. From The Tonight Show: "Follow Jimmy’s Instagram and The Tonight Show on Facebook for updates throughout July, using #Tonightshowsummerreads. Jimmy and the show will be checking in to give feedback on the book, answer questions and hear what you have to say about it!"

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins writes a feature on John Gurda's latest, Milwaukee: A City Built on Water. He writes: "Gurda’s history has not only flow but also a pleasing dynamic balance between humans and geology, the lives of regular people and the doings of muckety- mucks. An unabashed lake and river lover, he celebrates Milwaukee’s 21st-century reembrace of water love but reminds readers of the need for vigilance: 'The recovery is fragile and, in a world of competing demands, the danger of relapse is ever present.'"

Patty Rhule reviews Allison Pearson's How Hard Can It Be? It is the follow-up to Pearson's novel of 2002, I Don't Know How She Does It. Rhule writes: "Pearson is fiercely funny and keenly observant. But it is her poignant and powerful statements about serious topics like aging, the invisibility of older women and the impact a paycheck has on a woman’s psyche that make this novel a must-read." Originally from USA Today.