Monday, November 9, 2020

Boswell events this week - Elizabeth Berg's caregiving memoir, Adrienne Raphel on crossword puzzles, DeWitt Clinton's Kenneth Rexroth inspiration, Shirley Ann Higuchi on Japanese incarceration, Anthony Horowitz's latest mystery, and Kiese Laymon's revised collection of essays

Monday, November 9, 7 pm
Elizabeth Berg, author of I’ll Be Seeing You: A Memoir
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a Virtual Readings from Oconomowaukee Event 
Click here to register for this virtual event.

The November installment of our Readings from Oconomowaukee Virtual Event Series features Elizabeth Berg (Night of Miracles, Talk Before Sleep, Durable Goods, The Story of Arthur Truluv, we could go on) talking about her very first memoir, though you'll learn that there have been autobiographical elements to her novels. She’ll chat with Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company and I about  caring for her parents in their final years.

From my staff rec: As a bookseller, I see a lot of memoirs about caregiving, from established authors to folks who have chosen contact publishing. And why not? Caregiving is an almost universal experience and one that generates a lot of memories and moments. It is hard not to see ourselves in the folks we care for, leading to more than one bout of philosophical musing. 

But not every writer can get at those small moments like Elizabeth Berg. Her father was a military man, while her mother seemed to accept her role to serve him, as long as she got time for little pleasures, like shopping with her sisters at Herberger’s. But with Art in decline, Jeanne chafes at his constant presence and rebels at leaving her longtime house in St. Paul for assisted living. 

The story has a diary structure, offering immediacy to the story, and showing Berg’s skill at quickly bringing to life family, friends, and even incidental characters. But most importantly, I’ll Be Seeing You succeeds at what it set out to do, sharing that story that so many of us must face, with all the drama and insight of one of her novels.

Lisa and I are excited to talk about Berg. As you know, Berg is a great friend of Boswell and Books & Company. We've had her do just about every every event format, special lunch, and program that we have. We've share some of her favorite authors in the Writing Matters series. But neither of us have never sat down with her and had this kind of conversation. The time has come. 

Tuesday, November 10, 7 pm
Adrienne Raphel, author of Thinking Inside the Box: Adventures with Crosswords and the Puzzling People Who Can't Live Without Them
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin for a Virtual Event 

Sometimes you read a book and think, I love it, but it's going to be tough to find an audience. But that's not the case with Thinking Inside the Box, which is a delightful look inside the world of crossword puzzling. I read the book long before COVID, and never expected that the publisher would send Raphel to Milwaukee, but being that I saw Thinking Inside the Box as a great holiday gift, why not call attention to its charms with a virtual event? So here we are.

From my staff rec: From its beginnings as a 1920s fad whose detractors sounded much like today’s video game vigilantes, crosswords were the bones of one major publisher (Simon & Schuster) and even developed an English accent, with British cryptic crosswords more focused on clue wordplay than the American counterparts. Puzzle creation etiquette was soon standardized under Margaret Farrar, with two sea changes to follow – the triumph of the pop culture guard over traditionalists (so OREO could now be a cookie instead of a mountain prefix) and the rise of crossword creation software, which has coincidentally led to a decline in the percentage of women constructors. 

Blending first-person reporting from the world of crosswords with a delightful telling of its rich literary history, Raphel dives into the secrets of this classic pastime. Raphel visits the annual Stamford tournament and goes on an ocean-crossing crossword cruise. She looks at the clue-driven connections to mysteries and notes the puzzle’s place in culture, from Vladimir Nabokov to Sex and the City. And she looks at how technology has changed the avocation, from construction programs to user apps. As a person who is attracted to puzzles but struggles with solving them, 

Aboard a crossword-themed cruise, she picks the brains of the enthusiasts whose idea of a good time is a week on the high seas with nothing but crosswords to do, and, visiting the home and office of Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor, she goes behind the scenes to see for herself how America’s gold standard of puzzles is made. As ingenious as it is fun, Thinking Inside the Box is a love letter not just to the abiding power of the crossword but to the infinite joys and playful possibilities of language itself. 

Raphel is also a poet. Which transitions to event #3.

Wednesday, November 11, 7:30 pm
DeWitt Clinton, author of By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters
in Conversation with Sylvia Cavanaugh for a Virtual Event 

Join us for a virtual conversation and poetry reading from Shorewood poet DeWitt Clinton, Professor Emeritus of English at the UW Whitewater. and author of At the End of the War, The Conquistador Dog Texts, and other collections. Clinton will read poems from By a Lake Near a Moon and chat about them with Sylvia Cavanaugh, English language editor for Poetry Hall: A Chinese and English Bilingual Journal. Cavanaugh is the author of Icarus: Anthropology of Addiction. 

Clinton’s new collection of 114 poems are variations based on Kenneth Rexroth’s translation, 100 Poems from the Chinese which place the poems in the landscape of contemporary Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With lyrical scenes of the changing seasons, the Lake Michigan beach front, and roads and highways of the nearby countryside, Clinton explores the themes of the classical Chinese poets such as Tu Fu, Meo Yao Ch’en, and Hsu Chao, and his adaptations bring life and energy from Classical China to the modern-day world.

Praise from John Koethe, “DeWitt Clinton’s marvelous adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s Chinese translations are remarkable. They preserve the serenity, lucidity and directness of great Chinese poetry while transforming its setting into the environs of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and even Europe. The speaking voice feels like that of the originals, while making its surroundings feel remade.”

Thursday, November 12, 7 pm
Shirley Ann Higuchi, author of Setsuko's Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration
in conversation with Kathy Saito Yuille and Doug Nelson for a Virtual Event 
Shirley Ann Higuchi discusses her story and the legacy of Japanese American incarceration that is at the heart of Setsuko's Secret. She'll be in conversation with Kathy Saito Yuille, Setsuko's younger sister, and Doug Nelson of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Shirley Ann Higuchi is Chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and the daughter of former incarcerees. 

As a child, Higuchi knew Heart Mountain only as the place her parents met in rural Wyoming. As she grew older, they would come to recognize the name as a source of great sadness and shame for their older family members, part of the generation of Japanese Americans forced into the hastily built concentration. After her mother’s death, Shirley skeptically accepted an invitation to visit the site, a journey that would forever change her life and introduce her to a part of her family she never knew.

Navigating the complicated terrain of the Japanese American experience, Shirley patched together Setsuko's story and came to understand the forces and generational trauma that shaped her own life. Moving seamlessly between family and communal history, Setsuko's Secret offers a clear window into the "camp life" that was rarely revealed to the children of the incarcerated. This volume powerfully insists that we reckon with the pain in our collective American past.

From Meg Nola of Foreward Reviews: "Setsuko’s Secret details Shirley Ann Higuchi’s Heart Mountain work. It balances a complex cultural history with the individual perspectives of Japanese American families. Higuchi shows that the resilience and sense of community that developed in the camps was remarkable, despite harsh extremes in climate and a demeaning lack of privacy and resources." 

Friday, November 13, 2 pm
Anthony Horowitz, author of Moonflower Murders
A Virtual Literary Tea in Support of the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library 
in Conversation with Tessa Bartels

The Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library and Boswell present an afternoon with Anthony Horowitz, the author of Moriarty (an official Sherlock Holmes novel), The Sentence Is Death, and the Alex Rider novels for young readers. He’ll be discussing his  Moonflower Murders, a follow-up to his nationally bestselling novel, The Magpie Murders.  

Tickets for this event are $45 and include a copy of Moonflower Murders and admission for one device to the virtual event. $20 from each ticket will be donated to the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library fund, which supports library book purchases. Books can be picked up at Boswell via the sidewalk pickup option, or shipped in the continental US via USPS media mail for an additional $4. Tickets available now at

Readers, booksellers, librarians, and critics alike loved Horowitz’s award-winning book, The Magpie Murders, chosen as a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Esquire, the Washington Post, and many more. Now, in a new novel featuring his famous literary detective, Horowitz echoes Agatha Christie in his newest complex literary thriller.

Retired book editor Susan Ryeland is vacationing on a Greek Island, where she learns from the visiting Trehearne family of an unsolved murder in Suffolk, and Ryeland realizes this murder might be connected to the third Atticus Pund mystery by the late Alan Conway. AJ Finn, author of The Woman in the Window, says, “Moonflower Murders showcases Horowitz’s full battalion of strengths: the whiplash plotting, the leather-smooth prose, the bold energy… and above all, the bright spark of joy that ignites the best fiction - the joy of a storyteller finding brave new ways to dazzle his audience. Sophisticated, literate novels aren’t supposed to be so much fun.” And Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal called Moonflower Murders "a welcome sequel."

And don't forget next week Monday, November 16, 7 pm 
in Conversation with Amina Wilson for a Virtual Event 
Click here to register for this virtual event 

Kiese Laymon, the Hubert H McAlexander Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi and author of the memoir Heavy, visits for a conversation about the new, revised edition of his collection of thirteen essays. Laymon is author of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and NPR Best Book of the Year, Heavy. Cosponsored by America's Black Holocaust Museum. Laymon's doing a wide-ranging bookstore tour for his new collection, and we're thrilled to be part. Both Chris at Boswell and Cydney Key of our cosponsor America's Black Holocaust Museum, loved this book in its first incarnation and are excited about the new essays.

With subjects that range from an interview with his mother to reflections on Ole Miss football, Outkast, and the labor of Black women, these thirteen insightful essays highlight Laymon’s profound love of language and his artful rendering of experience, trumpeting why he is, according to New York magazine, “simply one of the most talented writers in America.” 

Roxane Gay says, "I first encountered Kiese Laymon's writing when I read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I was stunned into stillness." Brilliant and uncompromising, piercing and funny, this is essential reading. This new edition of award-winning author Laymon’s first work of nonfiction looks inward, drawing heavily on the author and his family’s experiences, while simultaneously examining the world - Mississippi, the South, the United States - that has shaped their lives. 

It looks like his current publisher Scribner will be also be releasing a new edition of Laymon's novel, Long Division, being that the Agate version is no longer available and this essay collection also came from this independent Chicago-area publisher.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page

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