Monday, March 15, 2021

This week - Kazuo Ishiguro conversation with Ron Charles, plus Jackie Polzin in conversation with Jane Hamilton - and we're cosponsoring Hena Khan for Amina's Song

Here's the Boswell virtual event roundup for the week of March 15, 2021.

Tuesday, March 16, 6 pm (note the time)
Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Klara and the Sun
In conversation with Ron Charles
$28 tickets for this event available here - includes the book - shipping is extra

I begin this last-minute promotion of Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun by recalling my very memorable fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Rosenberg. My teacher had a running feud with administration, arguing that bird walks were an acceptable substitution for gym class. Every Friday afternoon was opera time, where we'd listen to a classic opera in full. And yes, we went to a rehearsal of Carmen by the Metropolitan Opera. And then there were the school plays. For the fall production, we did Iphigenia in Aulis, where I had the part of soldier #2. Apparently, because I did a good job, because in our spring production of RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karyl Capek, I got the coveted role of Alquist, the works chief. I can still recall Mrs. Rosenberg frustrated because I could not get the intonation right for my big line, "Go Adam! Go Eve!" It was supposed do be something like Eeeeeeeve with a bit of a quiver.

I mention this because Ron Charles noted that this play is said to be where the word robot was coined. And he mentioned that in the context of reviewing Klara and the Sun, a story about the products of a different robot factory, now called AFs or artificial friends. He writes, "Leave it to Kazuo Ishiguro to articulate our inchoate anxieties about the future we’re building. Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 2017, is a delicate, haunting story, steeped in sorrow and hope. Readers still reeling from his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go will find here a gentler exploration of the price children pay for modern advancements. But if the weird complications of technology frame the plot, the real subject, as always in Ishiguro’s dusk-lit fiction, is the moral quandary of the human heart."

And while I'm at it, let me go full on DC and quote another capital-area critic, Maureen Corrigan, whose Fresh Air review is one continuous pull quote: "Without question, Klara certainly seems capable of loving. In the unbearable sections of this novel I referenced earlier, Josie grows weaker and Klara, who's herself solar-powered, beseeches the 'kindly' Sun for 'special nourishment' for Josie and, then, bravely sets out to make an offering to the Sun. Klara's misperception of the Sun as a caring deity calls to question our own limited human understanding of, well, everything. Like Klara, who sees the world through grids that sometimes go haywire, we humans only see through a glass, darkly."

Our event on March 16 is in partnership with Left Bank Books of St. Louis and Anderson's Bookshops of Naperville and Downer's Grove. Ron Charles and Kazuo Ishiguro will talk about, well, whatever they want, as our guidelines are pretty loose. But I'm guessing there will be a lot of talk about Klara and the Sun. Here's Ron Charles reviewing TC Boyle's Outside Looking In for Totally Hip Book Review.

By the way, I think Mrs. Rosenberg would have liked Klara and the Sun - a great book for storytime.

Thursday, March 18, 7 pm
Jackie Polzin, author of Brood
in conversation with Jane Hamilton
Register for this event here

As can be the case for many of our Inklink events, Kayleen read Brood first. And then Jane Hamilton read it. And they got me to read it. And then we wrote our proposal for an Ink/Well event, the virtual collaboration between InkLink of East Troy and Boswell. It's a first-person introspective narrative about a woman who is struggling with loss and the anxiety which comes with change. And she tells her story through the raising of four chickens.

Elizabeth McCracken reviewed the book for The New York Times, noting that this was (or might be) her last book review: "Brood is the sort of book that is inevitably called quiet. For me the book feels accurate. There are anecdotes here that illustrate life but have no effect on events. We live in a golden age of accurate fiction. Not realism - this could happen - but accuracy - it probably did happen. I don’t mean to suggest anything at all about the author and the inspiration for the book, only that the focus on the quotidian feels exceptionally lifelike to me. I don’t dismiss accuracy in fiction. Many people love it."

Jennifer Reese in The Washington Post says "The narrator has abundant experience with dead animals by the end of this beguiling book. 'The more I care for them, the less I know,' she says of her beloved chickens. But she knows more than she might think she does, if not about chickens then about everything else. Her observation of the fragility and loveliness of daily life is so sharp and her commentary so droll, trenchant and precise that the modest world she describes becomes almost numinous."

Lynne Feeley in the Los Angeles Review of Books: "The novel is nearly silent about the narrator’s loss, perhaps because the narrator herself does not talk much about her loss or her grief. Rather, she conducts her grief through the care of her chickens. There are terms for this in psychoanalysis: displacement, when a person shifts feelings about one thing onto another, or cathexis, when a person attaches emotional significance to an object and becomes, in turn, deeply invested in it. But because the hen project seems just a couple of steps adjacent to the processes of pregnancy and motherhood (to the narrator, in any case), the connection between them is more specific, and more aching. The chickens are, it seems, a way for the narrator to try again at keeping a much-loved being alive, and to test out what it takes to do so."

And here's a recommendation from Boswellian Tim McCarthy: "Give it some time. That’s my advice about Brood. Let the book peck at you for a while and you’ll be rewarded. I didn’t know that I completely loved it until the last three pages. Then I suddenly knew. Completely. This book is all of life told in the story of four backyard chickens. Our narrator’s voice comes straight at us - a bit sassy, sly, mostly sure-minded - even as she maintains a subtle neighborhood diplomacy. The contrast is wonderful. Chickens help her tell us boldly about loss and the inescapable hardships of living, but she’s not bitter. She sees the beautiful workings of her simple birds, and of people: her chicken-hesitant friend Helen, her staunchly independent mother, her very reasonable husband Percy, the awkward neighbors, and how all of life creates dust. Mix in Minnesota’s climate extremes and a changing neighborhood. You’ll get a growing sense that you’re reading something very special, richly human. Let Brood peck at you. There’s nothing quite like it."

Sunday, March 21, 3 pm
Cosponsorship – Hena Khan, author of Amina’s Song
Click this link for this event

Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition presents a virtual event for Amina's Song with Hena Khan, which continues the story of Amina's Voice, which features a girl who uses her voice to bridge the places, people, and communities she loves across continents. Cosponsored by Boswell Book Company. The MMWC is dedicated to promoting an accurate understanding of Islam and Muslim women. This event will be broadcast via Facebook Live - click here to visit the MMWC Facebook page to view the event live.

It’s the last few days of vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family, all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. But when she returns to Wisconsin and decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen? School Library Journal proclaimed Amina's Song to be "a beautiful story for middle graders discovering who they are. A wonderful addition to all collections."

More on the Boswell upcoming event page.

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