Monday, May 31, 2021

Events - Steven Rowley with Christina Clancy, Jordan Ellenberg with John Urschel, Elizabeth Hinton with Robin DG Kelly

Tuesday June 1, 7 pm
Steven Rowley, author of The Guncle
in conversation with Christina Clancy for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Christina Clancy, the author of The Second Home and the forthcoming Shoulder Season,(preorder your signed copy - ask for personalization) and I were talking about books. She's such a good reader and such a good conversation partner that I suggested maybe she had someone she'd love to talk to. Especially for virtual events, we sometimes find the conversation partner first, and then ask them for suggestions. These are sometimes our best events!

Christi (I've known her for years - I think I can be informal here) has been recommending books to me for years. Last fall we hosted Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts at here suggestion (read it and liked it) and recently she also suggested I read The Salt Fields, by Stacy D Flood (bought it, haven't read it yet). She immediately mentioned Steven Rowley, the author of Lily and the Octopus* (here's a story about the book's backstory when the film rights were sold - thanks, Hollywood Reporter) and The Editor, a novel that features no less than Jacqueline Le Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (I put in all her names just in case you thought I was talking about someone else), who was an editor at Doubleday (and with Martha Levin, shepherded the Naguhib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy to American publication and convinced her neighbor Dorothy West to finish The Wedding, per Wikipedia.

After getting a printed out advance copy (sorry, still not able to get through the electronic advance copies that publishers, most notably PRH, prefer), I devoured it! Here's my rec, that also gives you an idea of what the book's about: "Patrick O’Hara, Golden Globe winner of the iconic television comedy The People Upstairs, has been holed up in Palm Springs after the cancellation of his show and the death of his partner. When his college buddy turned sister-in-law also dies, and his brother confronts his addictions by heading to rehab, Patrick agrees to take in his niblings Grant and Maisie for the summer. As Patrick’s disagreeable sister Clara notes, Patrick is no Rosalind Russell, but that doesn’t stop The Guncle from calling to mind Auntie Mame, notably when the ready-made family has a Christmas-in-July party. I’m well aware that quirky children are a shortcut to sympathy – ask any screenwriter – but Maisie and Grant (or Grantelope, nicknames don’t become Maisie) do a particularly good job of forcing Patrick to overcome his grief-fueled-malaise. And like Rowley’s novel, they are also charming and funny."

It's Bojack Horseman with humans and a happy ending. And a different kind of funny. Giddier. Gayer.

I even wound up reading Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame, which was a huge bestseller and became a play, a film, a musical, and another film, but this one, based on the musical and starring Lucille Ball, is probably best not talked about. Dennis wrote a number of bestsellers, but blew through his money (he was married with children, but lived a gay life on the side) and ended his career working as a butler. 

I asked Christi if she had an interesting story about The Guncle and she did! Rowley's now husband Byron Lane is the author of a 2020 debut novel A Star Is Bored, a roman a clef about working for the late Carrie Fisher. In the acknowledgements, Lane proposed to Rowley. While they are already married, Rowley noted in The Guncle acknowledgments that he accepted, just in case you read both books and both sets of acknowledgements but didn't use social media or a key word search to find out how things went. How could these vows not have been in The New York Times?

I really like The Guncle cover, which was both illustrated and designed by Tal Goretsky (All the Light We Cannot See and so many others). It's a book that reflects on the outside the happiness you'll feel when you read the inside. I also pay special attention to books edited by Sally Kim. We have two more Sally Kim projects on the books this summer - forthcoming novels from Nickolas Butler and Meghan Abbott.

Wednesday, June 2, 7 pm
Jordan Ellenberg, author of Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
in conversation with John Urschel for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

I went on and on about Shape last week, and we had a fabulous first week of sales. Here's the post. 

I don't think I referenced Parul Sehgal's wonderful review in The New York Times: "A moment of appreciation for the popular math writer who must operate with the same stealth, balletic improvisation and indomitable self-belief as someone trying to corner a particularly skittish and paranoid cat into the pet carrier. No sudden moves! Approach carefully; compliment liberally — precious reader, brilliant reader. Offer bribe and blandishment. Assure us it won’t hurt. Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is rather spectacular at this sort of thing."

From a Kate Tuttle profile in The Boston Globe wrote: "Some of those ideas seem simple but lead to vexing questions; one example in the book asks readers how many holes are in a straw. 'Part of the reason that question is hard to answer is that there’s not really a definition of what counts as a hole,' Ellenberg said. 'I think some people think mathematics is about knowing what the exact definition of everything is: what is a hole, what is a circle. No, in mathematics we choose our definitions.'"

More about John Urschel on this recent (December 2020, close enough) Penn Live/Patriot-News story about getting kids interested in math: "Urschel recently drew 700 participants worldwide for an event staged by the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) called Bending the Arc. Urschel is a member of the board of trustees at MoMath and serves as the organization’s ambassador by extolling the virtues of the subject to children of all backgrounds, particularly African-Americans."

We also have two upcoming cosponsored events. In the case of Elizabeth Hinton, the event is being run by Source Booksellers of Detroit. In the case of Sebastian Junger, the lead is Left Bank Books of St. Louis. Hinton is free, the Junger requires a $5 ticket or upgrade to a book. You don't have to buy $5 and a book - I've recently done a couple of refunds for folks who double ordered.

Thursday, June 3, 6 pm
Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire: The Untold Story of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s
in conversation with Robin DG Kelly for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Boswell cohosts an evening featuring Elizabeth Hinton, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Yale University and a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She will discuss her new book with Robin DG Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Of Hinton's book, Kelley says, "If you want to understand the massive antiracist protests of 2020, put down the navel-gazing books about racial healing and read America on Fire."

This event is also cohosted by Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville and Downer's Grove, Left Bank Books of St Louis, and Moon Palace Books of Minneapolis.

Elizabeth Hinton is also author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, co-winner of the Thomas J Wilson Memorial Prize and a New York Times notable book of the year. Robin DG Kelley is also the author of  Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Kelley is the Gary B Nash Endowed Chair in US History at UCLA.

From Peniel E Joseph in The New York Times: "America on Fire is more than a brilliant guided tour through our nation’s morally ruinous past. It reveals the deep roots of the current movement to reject a system of law enforcement that defines as the problem the very people who continue to seek to liberate themselves from racial oppression. In undertaking this work, Hinton achieves something rare. She deploys scholarly erudition in the service of policy transformation, propelled by Black voices whose hitherto untold stories of protest add much-needed sustenance to America’s collective imagination."

And next Monday
Monday, June 7, 7 PM
Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom
in conversation with Sarah Chayes for a virtual event
$5 Tickets for this event here.

This event is cohosted by Left Bank Books of St Louis, Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville and Downer's Grove, and McLean & Eakin Booksellers of Petoskey.

For much of a year, acclaimed author Sebastian Junger and three friends - a conflict photographer and two Afghan War vets - walked the railroad lines of the East Coast. It was an experiment in personal autonomy, but also in interdependence. Dodging railroad cops, sleeping under bridges, cooking over fires, and drinking from creeks and rivers, the four men forged a unique reliance on one another.

From Seth Combs in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "While the book is, on its surface, an account of a nearly yearlong trek on foot across the northeastern United States, its essence is its exploration of humanity’s conceptualizations of independence, liberty and self-determination. Mixing history, memoir and philosophy, Junger actually never intended to write about the 400-mile trip at all. 'I was thinking to myself, how am I going to write a book about freedom without it being this unbearable philosophical tract,' says Junger, who spent nearly a year walking from Washington, D.C., to western Pennsylvania almost a decade ago. 'So inevitably I thought, What’s the freest I’ve ever been? Of course, it depends on how you define it, but by the definition I use in the book - that for miles we were the only people who knew where we were every night - that’s not a bad definition of freedom.'"

If you upgrade to a book, we suggest media mail for local shipments and priority for anything out of state.

Sebastian Junger is the author of Tribe, War, and The Perfect Storm, and co-director of the documentary Restrepo, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He is also the winner of a Peabody Award and the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Sarah Chayes is author of On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake.

*Referencing Lily and the Octopus, it's Marley and Me crossed with The Art of Racing in the Rain - and an octopus.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page. Apologies - it's Memorial Day (Boswell open 10 to 5) and so we have nobody to proofread this. Apologies for the typos. 

Photo credits:
--Steven Rowley by Byron Lane
--Christina Clancy by James Bartelt
--Jordan Ellenberg by Mats Rudels
--Elizabeth Hinton by Emily Schiffer
--Sebastian Junger by Peter Foley

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