Monday, November 30, 2009

The Week Ahead--Just About Everyone is Reading Something, including Students from St. Robert and Maryland Avenue Montessouri

Here's what's going on this week:
Monday, November 30th, 7 PM
Steve Basson talks about Kurt Oppens: An Aspen Legacy.

Tuesday, December 1st, 7 PM
Larry Baker talks about and reads from A Good Man.

Baker is putting together a video diary of his book tour, he is hoping to turn into a documentary. I will be very embarrassed if we have a poor turnout. Show your support and come out for this event.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 7 PM
Alia Malek talks about and reads from A Country Called Amreeka.
While trying to look for reviews, I kept coming across a movie called "Amreeka" that has so far played at film festivals. Nice review in the New York Times!

Meanwhile that same evening, we're selling books for Thomas Keller at Lake Park Bistro (appetizers + book = $85, 414-962-6300) and Bacchus (dinner-sold out). We'll be spending Monday and Tuesday taking the plastic wrap off copies of Ad Hoc at Home. Want a signed copy? We'll have extras. Call us (414-332-1181).

Thursday, December 3rd, 7 PM
Carol Sklenicka on Raymond Carver, talk and reading.
Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry to Sklenicka and the Scribner team for my email gaffe last Friday. Twice I referred to the book as Raymond Chandler. That would also make a fine biography, but it's Raymond Carver we're talking about. My excuse is brain freeze over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Here's Geeta Sharma Jensen's interview in the Journal Sentinel.

Friday, December 4th, 5-8 PM
Our second Farmers and Artisans Market. The first one turned out to be a big hit. We've got more vendors, as we're not competing with as many craft fairs.

Also on Friday, 5-8
Festive Friday on Downer Avenue. Alas, we're not roasting chestnuts, per the Downer brochures. That was last year. But Santa Claus is appearing at Boutique Bebe.

Also on Friday, 7 PM
Eric Dregni talks, reads, and shows slides from Never Trust a Thin Cook
By "meat samples", we were referring to prosciutto and other artisan dry-cured meats from Bolzano. Someone at the Downer Avenue Merchants Association hates me because I haven't been showing up regularly at meetings. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

Saturday, December 5th, 10:30 AM
Students of St. Robert of Shorewood Dramatic Reading
Choosing something they wrote or reciting a favorite author, this program has outgrown its space in the the school.

From 9 AM to 1 PM, 10% of your purchase will go towards the school fund for this program, if you so designate. (Note: these purchases accrue to the school instead of counting towards your 5% Boswell Benefits rebate).

Also on Saturday 12/5, 2 PM
Reading from the Wisconsin Poets Calendar.

Sunday, 12/6, 4-8 PM
Join the Maryland Avenue Montessouri School for a series of dramatic readings. All designated purchases accrue a donation to the school. You've seen and loved the artwork in the store. Look for a complete post on the program later this week.


Rebecca Schlei raves about the new John Irving, Last Night in Twisted River, in the Shepherd Express.

Note that we are neither hosting him for an event, nor does she know him from a writing program. There is no logrolling going on here. (And yes, Irving does show up in the Raymond Carver bio)

I've been warned to leave enough time (by attendee Caroline) to finish this month's in-store lit book club selection, The Hakawati. Rabih, Rabih, why do I pick 500-page books for our club!
Here's an review in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

We meet on Monday, December 7th, at 7 PM.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roll Call: Bakopoulos, McInerney, Carver, Dregni

These would be Tweets, but I feel bad about abbreviating...

He was once Wisconsin's, but Iowa has him now. Dean Bakopoulos picks his musical faves in The New York Times Paper Cuts blog.
I can't wait to read his new novel, My American Unhappiness, still now in the Ingram database, but sure to show up very soon...I can feel it!
What is in the database from Dean? A novel called Harmony, with a pub date of September 2009 and one copy on order. I think this might be an old incarnation of MAU.


Booksellers recently got a note from Jay McInerney about the 25th anniversary edition of Vintage Contemporaries and Bright Lights, Bit City, the breakout book from the launch that brought "second person" to the masses.
Since one of Raymond Carver's collections was also among the launch titles, it of course comes up in Carol Sklenicka's new biography (Thursday, 7 PM). Do you know how acquiring editor Gary Fisketjon come across McInerney's work?


I'm finally breaking down and buying the store a projection screen. We had one at one point at Schwartz, but alas, it disappeared. We'll need it for Friday, when Eric Dregni shows slides of his Italian adventure for Never Trust a Thin Cook. I can't remember how we handled his Norwegian slides for In Cod We Trust. I think we made him bring his own.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

There are Not Many Places to Buy the new Kurt Oppens: An Aspen Legacy Book, but We've Got it Because of Our Event This Monday

Being that one thing I haven't done a good job with yet is getting our web site fulfillment in order, it's a bit surprising that we just took a phone order for the new book, Kurt Oppens: An Aspen Legacy from New Mexico, edited by Nancy G. Thomas and Jane Vial Jaffe.

But the caller told us the book is very hard to find. In fact, based the web searches that come up, you'd think we're the only store in the country promoting it.

This is all do to Steve Basson, retired principal bassoonist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He came to me and asked if we'd put together an event, with him talking about this wonderful new book about Oppens, inspiration for classical musicians and fans alike.

These are some of the smartest essays on classical music you'll read. The writing is (to quote the editors) "Learned, for sure, but unstuffy--at times deeply serious and challenging or wryly humorous and disarming. His notes are rich with metaphor, as when he refers to the 'newness' of Mozart and Beethoven as 'the eighth day of Creation' or speculates that the muse at Brahm's cradle 'must have sung to him in sonata form.'"

We're doing our best to build up a program that celebrates the performing arts, whether with our Florentine Opera previews, our talk with Norman Gilliland for Scores to Settle, or our tango concert last summer.

This should be a very interesting event. Or call us for a copy at (414) 332-1181. You're not likely to find a copy in too many other places.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Farmers and Artisans Market Tomorrow, next Friday, and Sunday, 12/13

Angela is a long-time customer (Schwartz and now us) who is full of ideas. Having a previous life as a foodservice rep, she now sells plants and soap and other goodies at farmer's markets. To me, she's like Milwaukee's own Maryjane Butters (alas, I show a picture of the jacket of the Maryjane book for reference, but we don't have a copy in stock).

Though I passed for this year on selling books at one of the local farmer's markets, her thought to bring a market to our store seemed to interesting to pass up.

With the local market season coming to an end, there were a lot of vendors who had no place to sell their wares. And from selling at Zeidler Square, Brookfield, and other markets, Angela had the contacts to put this together.

We've got maple syrup, mittens, jewelry, handmade cards and more. Ela Orchards will be set up outside in our vestibule. All vendors have their market certifications and permits, and use to-code coolers when necessary.

Not every vendor could do every market, so for example, Scott Buer of Bolzano Artisan Meats will only be at Friday's market, sampling Speck prosciutto and other dry-cured meats, in conjunction with our talk/slideshow from Eric Dregni, based on his book Never Trust a Thin Cook.
Oh, and here's another thing. Like the Dwellephant program last spring, we're not charging booth space or taking a percentage of gross. Not that I don't need the revenue, but so do these folks, and I'm taking the chance that this will build traffic, community, and relationships. And hey, we've got the space. We'll see if it works!

If you're thinking of making a day of it, you might want to go to the world-famous Art Vs. Craft program at the Humphrey Rites Masonic Center on Van Buren Street, on the northeast corner of downtown. Faythe Levine, the organizer, is force behind the documentary Handmade Nation. Hey, we've even still got a few signed copies of her book.

And if you're going to Art Vs. Craft from out of town, we're pretty much a straight shot northeast along Prospect, a little over 2 miles away. Back when I lived on Juneau and Van Buren, I used to walk to Downer Avenue pretty regularly. It's about 45 minutes. Obviously, it depends on the weather. We're also on the same bus line, the 30. But it's only door to door if you take the "Downer" 30. The "Maryland" 30 (they alternate) means a 5 minute walk east on Webster Avenue (where you'd get off, it's the stop after Bradford. Ask the driver.)

Just to sum things up, here's when we're hosting the vendors:

Saturday, November 28th, 11 AM-4 PM

Friday, December 4th, 5 PM-8 PM

Sunday, December 13th, 12 Noon-4 PM.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Post--Food, Family, Books, Thankfulness

I've been trying to think of a good Thanksgiving post. The store is closed for the day, but my family gets together these days outside of Phoenix, and I just don't feel comfortable being away for the weekend. That said, hi Merrill, Gus, Claudia, Les, Adam, Jocelyn, Chris, Mom, and several of Merrill's friends. My sister Merrill is currently reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided that I sent her as a gift, and liking it. She's not a fake positivity kind of person, so this is just another example of matching the right person with the right book. We still have some signed copies for the realistic people on your gift list.


My friend Linda at Galaxy Books in Hardwick, Vermont recently sent me a nice email about how things have been going. (If you linked, notice we use the same template for our web site, but hers is in a soothing royal blue. She helped start a community restaurant in Hardwick, which is just part of the community's focus on local agriculture. In a holiday that is a celebration of food and bounty, it seemed like folks would like to see this piece from Dan Rather reports, which was originally shown on HDNet. Please consider watching this--it's very inspiring.

Broken record time. I was thinking of my favorite book that puts me in the Thanksgiving spirit and that is Michelle Huneven's Jamesland. It was out of stock for a while, but they must have done a reprint to take advantage of the publication of Blame. I was happy yesterday to talk to my friend Christy, and it's one of the few novels she's read this fall. We did a little sigh about the talents of Michelle Huneven and then moved on to talk about civic activism and the differences between being a volunteer and working for an organization. Jobs are jobs, and even with good ones in great fields, you get bogged down in the drudgery and the politics and the turf wars.

So is that the case owning the bookstore? Honestly, 14 hour days fly by, and not in a bad way. As you know, I am almost always tense and worried about something. What's the new competition going to do to my business? Why aren't businesses opening on our block? What are we going to run out of? Can we pay all our bills? (note to creditors, yes because we are still being very cautious), but thankfully, that doesn't get in the way of me loving every minute.

Thank you for helping make our first 237 days a wonderful experience. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carver, Carver, Carver! Carol Sklenicka Appears for the new Raymond Carver Bio on December 3rd

A surprising amount of visitors to Boswell have books coming out. Sometimes I hear from them closer to pub date and sometimes I don't. Last summer, Carol Sklenicka stopped by to say that she had written a book on Raymond Carver that would be coming out at the end of the year. She had some connections to Milwaukee and might I be interested in doing an event?

So now we have an event scheduled, and what a coup this is. For Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life, just got a glowing front page New York Times Book Review write up. You can read it here.

I am not one to read too many 500+ page books (and I am teased about this by Jason), but I read every word of this. Carver's life was the stuff of novels--hardscrabble, hard-drinking, lots of moving and job changes and family troubles and a tough marriage, albeit one clearly filled with love. Sklenicka connects these details with his stories and poetry and it made me want to go back and read Carver again, which I guess is the goal of any good literary biography.

But in this case, I want to read him twice, with and without the Gordon Lish edits. We've got Carver backlist in stock, newly jacketed no less.

The event is Thursday, December 3rd, 7 PM.

There's some Milwaukee connections in the story as well. Carver did spend at least some time as an artist-in-residence at UWM, and local writer C.J. Hribal got one of Carver's last blurbs for his novel Matty's Heart. That book's unavailable right now, but we sell his current novel, The Company Car. Oh, and I'm selling it at Sugar Maple on Monday, December 14th, at Sugar Maple for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. That starts at 6:30 PM.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bocuse d'Or Competition on "Top Chef" is the Perfect Opportunity to Discuss the New Book Knives at Dawn.

Do you watch "Top Chef" regularly? I've been a bit bored this season because it seemed obvious by the 2nd episode who the top four would be. And only one tie-in challenge to the new Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook? Don't they want to sell books? I certainly heard more about the Glad family of products.

But I'd been holding out for last week's episode. It was the competition where they held a mini Bocuse d'Or. I've been waiting for the episode all season, as it was mentioned in the new book, Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse D'Or Competion, by Andrew Friedman.

The Bocuse d'Or is an international culinary competition where chefs representing countries battle it out to see who can do the best job creating two specialized platters, one of meat and the other of fish. The terms of the competition are very French, which may be the reason why the French do well every year. On the other hand, the French don't compete in the International Culinary Olympics, because one year they did very poorly. Or so I'm told. Seems like sour crepes to me.

So last year, the Americans made a concerted attempt to do better, recruiting Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud to the board. This is the story of that year of training, filled with insider stories, gossip, strategies. It's foodie porn to the max. Of course, if you heard about the competition (or perhaps saw it on cable), you already know how it turned out, but half the fun is getting there.

I won't spoil last week's "Top Chef" episode, where the prize included a place at the 2010 competition tryouts. (Reading this book, I learned that season 3 winner Hong tried out in 2009.) But I will say that the results were far from the elaborate platters described in the Knives at Dawn.


Speaking of Keller, to my knowledge, there are still tickets available to the hors d'oeuvres reception at Lake Park Bistro on Wednesday, December 2nd, at 4:30. Tickets are $85 and include a copy of the book. Call (414) 962-6300. The dinner at Bacchus is sold out, alas. It's also not too late to get a copy of the $50 Ad Hoc at Home signed by the chef/author--for that you contact us at (414) 332-1181. I don't think Keller will sign Knives at Dawn, though fans of his will certainly enjoy reading it. On second thought, who knows?

Monday, November 23, 2009

I, Expert of Nothing, Weigh in on SuperFreakonomics

I was and am a big fan of Freakonomics, except for the interludes that came out of the New York Times Magazine article. It's one field where I was glad other folks rushed to market with me-to product. I read much of that and liked it too.

Well, there actually was one book that I thought was pretty junky. In it, folks would write in problems and the book would have answers that used economic theory to answer them.

Problem 1--These answers were not based on studies but on personal reasoning. I can come up with answers too, but if I don't come up with proof that the answers are correct, than who cares?

Problem 2--The answers were not written by the author, but by the author's students. He just edited them.

Honestly, how was this book reviewed seriously? How did it get a follow up? Blame my cowardice on not listing the title or author.

So now Superfreakonomics is in. Authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner ofter lots of juicy material on finding terrorists and alternatives to dominant theory on global warming effects and cures. Fascinating tidbits on Sudhir Venkatesh's new work on the economics of prostitution. Interesting studies on altruism, and am a big fan of cheap and simple fixes. I did enjoy reading it. Was amused that both Levitt/Dubner and Malcolm Gladwell were chasing the same research of one particular scientist.


Caveat 1--I understand hiding footnotes in the back, but I wish the author's had more often at least cited the scientists involved in the studies. There's an implication that more work is Levitt's than is actually the case.

Caveat 2--At 200 pages, this was way too short! Especially if you are exploring other folks work, why can't we have more? I was left very hungry for another chapter or two.

Caveat 3--Come speak at Milwaukee (2 hours north, maybe 2.5 if you live by the University of Chicago) and let me sell books. I am hungry for a big event and have no pride about begging.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Could "The Most Beautiful Book in the World" be the Book we Rec to Folks Who Loved "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"? I Finally Read it to Find Out

Yes, I heard that my friend Lanora at Next Chapter Bookstore in Mequon was very hot on The Most Beautiful Book in the World. No sordid secrets here, as she told me directly. As the pile of books is always very tall, I did what I normally do and started telling folks about the good rec from another bookseller.

It's a lovely surreal jacket, and it's from Europa, so it has the lovely French flaps and paper that is much thicker than newsprint. It has an Indie Next rec so you know at least some other indie booksellers have been behind it.

I bought my copy at Harvard Bookstore on one of my trips to Mom. I often try to buy books when I visit other bookstores. I think its important for booksellers to keep it real when thinking about how much the books cost and what it takes to shell out cash for a place you like. And I like Harvard Bookstore, so that wasn't difficult. I also bought some postcards. I wish I had a postcard rack, but the best ones are Nouvelles Images at Beans and Barley and I'd rather send folks down there for a nice meal and postcard experience (Note to Lynn: why not a combo package? Buy a meal and postcard and get the stamp free. Just kidding).

Oh, am I writing a blog about Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's The Most Beautiful Book in the World? And have I been writing his 2nd name with only one M? I have. Sorry.
But what I'm really looking for is my next Elegance of the Hedgehog. Do I have it here?

"Wanda Winnipeg" is about a woman who has everything who catches a glimpse of her old crush from her childhood years, a struggling artist with pretty much nothing. "A Fine Rainy Day" follows a woman whose practical negativism is subsumed when she meets a plain but upbeat suitor (don't read this to Barbara Ehrenreich at bedtime!) And the protagonist of "The Intruder" is surprised by an old woman sneaking into her house, and not just once.

So anyway, this collection has been a big hit in Europe. One of the stories, "Odette Toulemonde", was a film in 2007. Now it appears that the story did not become the film. Instead, it was inspired when Schmitt was directing a film. His contract forbade him to ski, and it was suggested that he do no other writing during the tenure of his project. As it was only suggested, he ignored that advice and adapted the film he was directing into a story, and wrote others as well.

These are almost fables in their conception. They are stories with twists, of folks who find happiness or peace or truth after long journeys in the wrong direction. The author himself spells it out in one story, by describing a book of people who follow the route of other people's happiness instead of their own. Oh, and by that, I don't mean making other people happy, but the tried and true routes (money, fame, beauty) to personal contentment. I'm not giving anything away here to tell you that the author thinks there are some flaws in that strategy.

So here's the thing. This is the classic case where you shouldn't listen to my personal taste. I love nostalgia and pathos and twists, but Schmitt's stories provide a very high dosage of each, a bit more than my taste. Barbery sort of skirted the edges, pulling me back when I felt I was falling into a pit of emotion. Some Schmitt's stories I did enjoy quite a bit. But will it work for folks who liked Elegance of the Hedgehog? My unequivocal answer: yes, for some of them.
Oh, and perhaps the style is the author's, but if the writing reminds you a touch of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it might be because Alison Anderson is the translator of both. Here's a list of Schmitt's other books in France.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Roundabout Way of Talking of Love, Memories, and Happiness--Reading Simon Van Booy

I recently completed the short story collection Love Begins in Winter. It was first recommended to me by my Boston library friends Michael and Scot. Then we did a popular display featuring the Perennial series where classic stories included a new author's work at the end, one of them was Simon Van Booy's.

Then a few good customer's read the book and recommended it to me.

Then it won the Frank O'Connor award for best short story collection. Compared to all the other short story collection awards (and there are others), it is said to be relatively lucrative, at least in the press release.

So I finally read it. This isn't helping anybody! Publishers want me to read books that haven't come out yet. This book has been out since May and I can't even say "Oh well, I'm preparing for the paperback release." It was a paperback original.

The title story is about a cellist in Quebec whose encounter with a shopkeeper unlocks some powerful memories. It's very impressionistic, and I admit, in my simple way, that I didn't quite understand the details.

"Tiger, Tiger" was next, and its a more straightforward construction of a young woman who meets her boyfriend's mother as his father walks out on the family, and well, there's a connection to a family friend, a pediatrician who had an affair with the mother, and winds up having an influence on the narrator. After a few more, I'm convinced to go back and read the first story. I understand it a bit better. Yes, that's the beauty of stories, they are compact enough to read twice, and often there are often rewards for the effort.

At the end of the collection is Harper's PS section. I'm not a fan of the book group Q&A's at the end of paperbacks. I've yet to find a question I can use in our own in-store lit group (we're reading The Hakawati on Monday, December 7th, 7 PM). However, the source material and interviews in the PS section are often quite enlightening and at least from books I've read, rarely talk down to the reader.

Once your read the books and read that Van Booy's inspiration for stories is place, everything falls into place. He goes somewhere (the expense bill is, I guess, a bit higher than for most story writers) and finds inspiration. What would be the image that would unlock a memory? How would the past play with the present?

I think my favorite story in the collection was The Missing Statues, about a diplomat who encounters a priest in Rome and is reminded of the story of woman's ill-fated trip to Las Vegas with her son and lover (note: it's not his son).

Long reviews are not my specialty--I mostly do 30-second soundbites for presentations and staf rec cards and I usually borrow ideas from other people. Like an aggregator. But I don't think I heard this one before. The experience of reading Love Begins in Winter is much more akin to going to an art museum and studying paintings, probably in the impressionism wing. You step forward, step back, figure out what everyone is looking at, spot images, connections. What do the eyes say? Who seems connected, who is lonely?

I wound up liking the book, and was only sad because my appreciation seemed more often intellectual than emotional. That happense to me in art museums a lot of times too. I'm always jealous of others, who look at a painting and start crying.

It looks like Harper is going to rerelease Van Booy's first collection from Turtle Point Press next year. So then I'll be reading an even older book, and not for in-store book club. What is the world coming to?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oops, Missed a Post. Here's a little Catchup--Woman's Club and Bradley Center

Yes, after 6 months or so, I missed a day. Emotionally I can only pretend that nothing happened and shoulder on.
1. Lanora from Next Chapter and I did a presentation at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin. This presentation has been done for a number of years by Schwartz folk (not me) and we had big shoes to fill. Lanora presented kids titles and I did the adult ones. You will not be surprised that many of the titles I've written about in our blog and email newsletter were ones I featured, but I also tried to feature titles I thought would be of interest to the group. I made sure to include a mystery, in this case Louise Penny's The Brutal Telling, and a poetry anthology, in this case the beautiful Bright Wings, which we've been featuring on our bird display.

I probably should have featured a couple more cookbooks, and another mystery. One of my more popular titles was Sock Monkey, which was our inspiration for our sock monkey table. I won't mention Lanora's books, as it seems fair for her to use them in her own email newsletter or blog. If you want to attend this presentation (yes, we are already booked for next year), you have to join the Woman's Club of Wisconsin.

2. Stacie and I sold books at the Bruce Springsteen concert. It was for Clarence Clemons' memoir Big Man. We had to check in a 2 PM and stick around until almost 2 AM. Since we don't have the concession, we actually didn't touch books or money. We gave the books over to a tee shirt booth and just hawk them outside. It turns out we sold about average, halfway between the lowest and highest number we were quoted as selling elsewhere, even though we had signed bookplates. It probably would have been better if we had been positioned closer to the stand.

It was more of an investment in time than anything. Folks were pretty cordial all around and I got to read my 500 page Raymond Carver biography. But no, we didn't meet Clemons of course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We are Decorated-ish For the Holidays

Some lights, some snowflakes, and putting our Christmas books up at the front of the store be just what we need to make the store feel a bit more festive. Thanks to Jocelyn for hanging them around the store.

I didn't buy too much holiday-themed merchandise; the rewards can be high, but there's a lot of marking down involved. I couldn't resist the South African candles that we used in our Africa display, but this time with red-and-green Christmas or blue-and-white winter colors (suitable for Hanukkah celebrations).

While restocking the resin birds that have been such a big hit, we also brought in some tin ornaments, which not surprisingingly, match the candles. The red and green ornaments, which come in bird, star, tree and heart, are $2.95 while the 3D snowflakes are $4.95.

On the book front, here's the recent Journal Sentinel Christmas book roundup. Jason said we've gotten a fast start on Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin'. Alas, I don't read many Christmas novellas so I can't tell which ones are best.
And continuing our snowflake them (the third mention), Stacie and Jocelyn are very hot on Snowflakes: Creative Paper Cutouts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Miss a Swell Event with the AV Club, but I Can Still Read the Inscriptions on the Signed Copies

If you've gone to a lot of our events lately, you'll notice that I'm no longer doing every single one of them. Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about that. But my bookseller Stacie simply does a great job, and why not take advantage of that?

So last week I put the AV Club's Inventory event in her hands, and now I'm regretting that I missed it. Not that I had much choice; the email newsletter had to get out the next day and at 7 PM, it was hardly half done. We wound up having close to 50 people, and I heard it was great fun.

In fact, I sort of read about it. The AV folks signed some of our books for stock, and I wound up reading all the inscriptions because they were all different. I've taken some photos of them. There are only five so one would say they are limited editions.

And just to tempt you further, here's the top 5 from their fitting list of "Rare Reads: 17 Books we wish were still in print."

1. The Phantom Blooper, by Gustav Hasford (1990). This was a novel that followed the characters from the story Full Metal Jacket.

2. Icons, by James Park (1992). A British collection of clever biographical sketches, that lost its snappy illustrations in later printings.

3. Survivor, by Octavia Butler (1978). A "thinly-veiled Star Trek novel" that Butler disowned, but since her death in 2006, that would normally not be a hinderance (see the publication of Vladimir Nabokov's The Original of Laura, due out today).

4. The Secret Life of Algernon Pendleon, by Russell H. Greenan (1973). A little-known writer whose It Happened in Boston was released as a 20th century rediscovery at the behest of Jonathan Safran Foer. With NYRB Classics, Dalkey Archive and other small presses chasing after this kind of novel, it's sort of shocking that it hasn't seen the light of day.

5. Man in Black: His Own Story in His Own Words (1976). It's supposedly more raw than Cash in the writing style, perhaps more about his relationship with God.

6. American Mythologies, by Marshall Blonsky (1992). An American take on Roland Barthes' Mythologies, breaking open the floodgates for the genre of popular semiotic analysis.

There are 11 more. Of them all, the only book I used to really sell well at Schwartz was Danny Peary's Cult Movie series. I remember when one of them went out of print and we were all a bit shocked, based on how we sold them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's Happening this Week? Carole Barrowman and Forrest Gregg

Wednesday, October 18th is the day for our visit from Carole E. Barrowman, Alverno professor and Journal Sentinel mystery columnist. That would be a good event in itself (and maybe someday we'll host that), but for this event, she's going to talk about the second volume of her brother John's memoirs, I Am What I Am, which she cowrote. John Barrowman is well known as Captain Jack from Dr. Who and Torchwood. I'm sure they'll be some good stories.

Thursday, October 19th marks Forrest Gregg's appearance for Winning in the Trenches. This is our fourth attempt at a football event, which have been rollercoasterish in their outcomes. Phil Hanrahan (Life After Favre) and Bob McGinn (Ultimate Super Bowl Book) were nicely attended and had good sales as well. That was certainly helped by local connections. Our event with John Eisenberg (That First Year) was not as successful; I read the book, enjoyed it, and hoped we'd be able to get more of a crowd. I called it a baseball-style book about football. But maybe local readers had their fill with David Marannis's take. Or maybe I didn't reach the target audience and so...

We're doing some spot ads for this one on Sportsradio 1250, a first for us. Spots air today through Wednesday, as a little 10-second bumper. I figure this might be a way for us to reach some folks who don't get our newsletters, read the Journal Sentinel, or well, this blog. The gracious Matt of McLean and Eakin in Petoskey mentioned trying this. Thanks, Matt. This is one of those things, however, that might not work if the author isn't a celebrity. We'll see. Howard of the publisher Clerisy (or late of Clerisy, he's moving on) said he's a very nice guy, but be warned. He only signs copies of Winning in the Trenches. No memorabilia. There are other events for that kind of thing and you generally have to pay for it.

Both events are at 7 PM. If you want a signed copy of Gregg, please call us at (414) 332-1181. We'll hold if you just want his signature, but have a credit card for personalized copies because they are prepay only. There's no extra charge for his signature; it's just the cost of the book.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book + Plush = Smile Window!

The robot window wound up selling a decent amount of stuff, at least once the construction was done. We followed that up with a book plus plush display. Jocelyn put it together and I think it looks very nice.

What's come in of late:

1. The dog from Go Dog Go

2. The bird from Are You my Mother

3. A Skippyjon Jones hand puppet

4. The llama from Llama Llama Red Pajama, wearing red pajamas

5. A Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet

6. The Raymond Briggs' Snowman

and maybe the Grinches that I inadvertently brought in last May will finally sell.


Tonight Stacie and I are selling books at the Bruce Springsteen concert for Clarence Clemons' new book Big World. Wish us luck. After getting our instructions from Clemons' manager, I fear we will surely be eaten alive.


Here's my guess for who will show at Bryant Park for the current Project Runway--Shirin, Epperson, and Gordana. I'm just saying.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hey, We Got an Award--and the Picture Not Professional Enough for Our Email Newsletter

So it was time for the Shepherd Express Reader's Choice Awards to be announced. I didn't go this year because I worked an event on Monday night, a signing for Joe Dungan's L. A. Nuts. Joe and I had a discussion about this book and an event when we set up the event--it was his contention that the midwest hates L. A. and would get into an L. A. bashing book. It was my feeling that the midwest ignores L. A. Interest in L. A. and Southern California travel guides train New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D. C., New Orleans, Seattle, and Boston.

Alas, I would have liked to have been wrong, but I was correct. We didn't have anyone at the event. Joe took a lot of photos so I assumed there's a blog posting somewhere, but I can't find one. I did have a very interesting conversation with his host, who teaches history at the Milwaukee High School for the Arts, and might have taken issue had we hosted a Boston bashing book. Au contraire, we know a lot of Red Sox fans and my mother lives in Brookline very happily. No bashing for us.

So anyway, our Rebecca was able to attend, but it was Lanora at Next Chapter who called us to tell us we won what we thought was "Best New Bookstore."

It turns out the next day, we won "Best Bookstore--New", which is a grammatically* superior award. But there are still a lot of things we need to do better--I'm certainly not resting on any laurel-like things. And I love my friends at Next Chapter and I'm glad they were second--I'm sure it was a very close race, and we were probably helped by the fact that more of our customers are core Shepherd Express readers than are theirs in Ozaukee County.

(Note: we know that we're really talking about semantics and not grammar, but Amie and I were not sure if "semantically" was a word. I had a very angry comment a few weeks ago because I called my posting about Barbara Ehrenreich a "press release", even though it was not only released to the press. It was so impersonal that I decided to not post it at the time, but the person of course was correct so I hereby acknowledge that I took some license with the term.)

Here's Bridgette at the Shepherd Express presenting our award.

Thanks to everyone again.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Visitor to Boswell Shows up in the Acknowledgements Page of Jennifer Chiaverini's New Book

So our first Herta Mueller books came in, a reprint of The Land of Green Plums from Northwestern University Press. We kept a list of interested parties and one of them was our good friend Brian, ex-Brookfield Schwartz bookseller, and now of Half-Price Books.

The funny thing for me was that we have another customer that shares Brian's last name and I thought it was for him. For some reason, it's a source of continual amusement for me. If only I could have have more customers named Mary Smith, it would give me no end of pleasure.

You may have heard that Half Price is moving across the street into the old Schwartz space on Bluemound sometime in 2010. Here's the story.

While we were chatting, Brian was admiring our table of holiday novels. Among them was a pile of Jennifer Chiaverini's A Quilter's Holiday, the newest in her series of quilt-related novels. Chiaverini, a Madison author, was a big fan of the Brookfield Schwartz and spoke at the store wake, held shortly before closing. She was also a big fan of Brian--he's thanked in the acknowledgements. How swell is that?

We're still unsure of what kind of crafting business we have at Boswell. We certainly carry substantially more books than we did at1Schwartz on Downer, but mostly we've increased our knitting titles. I've been remiss in doing serious category analysis. An embarrassing flaw.

So far, Chiaverini has been doing events at Next Chapter in Mequon and Books and Company in Oconomowoc. I don't know if we could equal their audiences, but I like the author so much I'd want to someday try. So to the author, if you're doing a Google Alert (and every author should, it's what we have instead of clipping services), here's a heads up--lets do something creative together someday.

Except don't ask me to make something. I'm very clumsy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There was a 4th Rep Night at Next Chapter

The Boswell and Next Chapter folk gathered together at Mequon for rep night number 4.

Food was from Hong Anh Palace, where I have been eating for many years. It was very good. I just learned from their web site that they are closed on many major holidays, and honestly, I was a bit surprised!

Lanora presented the kids' titles from Penguin Group, because it turned out that Alex was travelling with Patricia Polacco (and she made a stop at Boswell, and we had a wonderful event that brought several attendees to tears). For me, the highlight was Loren Long's Otis, a wonderful story with illustrations that are an homage to classic illustrators like Virginia Lee Burton and Munro Leaf. I'm pretty sure ex-Boswellian Sarah would have loved it. Must check her blog to find out.

Cathy Schornstein presented titles from HarperCollins and Hyperion. She had so many wonderful books that I can't list them all here. In particular, she was enthusiastic about Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which turned out to be a much more attractive and more urban-friendly book that anyone would have thought. Here's the blog that led to the book contract.

And Joe Cain had a few gems from Penguin. He gave us another chance to read Juliet Naked, and highlighted several sleepers from Tarcher. The one that caught my eye was The Power of Kindness, which Common Good Books in St. Paul has done very well with over the last year.

Thank you to all the reps who participated in this year's program. It was really great to continue a tradition that went on for so long at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, starting at David's Schwartz's home, and then, as we grew, expanding into the stores. There's no question that rep nights have made successes of books in our stores or at least cemented our commitment, most recently The Uncommon Reader and The Elegance of the Hedgehog. What success will come from this year, I'm not sure of yet. I can only hope for something big.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CIROBE Bargain Book Show in Chicago Offers...Bargains

Last weekend was CIROBE, a bargain book show in Chicago. Jason went down for a couple of days to refill our bargain book tables. I went along for the train ride, as who can pass up a reason to get up at 4:30?

We almost immediately ran into CIROBE confounder Marshall Smith, who shared some good stories about selling to A. David Schwartz, my longtime boss/mentor at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, a man who was absolutely obsessed by bargain books. One time Marshall came to sell him and he was out with a back injury. No problem! Marshall just held the jackets over David's head so he could complete his buys.

Alas, I've never been able to be quite as passionate as David, but I'm getting better. We'll have an expanded selection of great bargain books for the holidays. Oh, and I think David would have really loved buying second-hand; I wonder why he never got into it.

I continued my quest to fill in some sections with nicely priced academic books (several vendors let us order in ones) and I went to another vendor to bring in some reasaonably-priced sidelines. This is a good way for us to try magnets, for example. Now I just have to find something metal to put them on. Hmmm...cookie sheets are aluminum, so that won't work...

Of course the highlight of the show was having lunch with Arsen Kashkashian of Boulder Bookstore. First I got to introduce him to fellow blogger John Mesjak (I use their last names because they both publish) on the show floor. They'd previously only Twittered each other.

Arsen's blog is Kash's Book Corner. I really love Arsen's new post about interviewing his new buyer Martina.

John's blog is My 3 Books.

We had lunch at Chutney Joe's Indian Diner, which was only a few blocks from the Hilton on South State Street. It was pretty good, and indeed fast.


This post turned out to be a tribute to Marshall Smith. He passed away shortly after the show's end, on his way home to Florida.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Would Karel Capek Think?

Remember when I was blogging about our robot window and I mentioned that I was featured in my fifth grade production of RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots)? And why should you?

Well, Donald Ruehl, a local used-and-rare buyer/seller/appraiser, came in with a copy of the book to show me. It's a first edition from the 1920's, published by Doubleday, Page, and Company.

I'm so sad that it's just about time for the window to come down, partly because it's my favorite window since we've opened, and partly because due the sidewalk construction, not as many folks got to see it as I'd hoped. We sold a decent amount of things out of it too, including Crobot, a book on knitting cute robots.

I should also warn you that if you love our bendable wooden robots, they are now out of stock at the distributor. We're hoping on getting more before Christmas, but who knows? We still have about 20 left in the mini size, plus about 4 of the larger ones. Did I mention they are going to stop making the gray minis? Though the least popular color, they are very nice to have in threes, one each of red, blue and gray. At least that's what I bought for myself.

Alas, the "book and plush" signs are at the printer (or at least I think they are, I had better recheck) and it's time to move our futuristic friends to a nice table.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's Going on This Week at Boswell?

Here's what's going on in the store this week. We're pretty busy!

Monday, November 9th (tonight!), 7 PM.
Joe Dungan, discussing his book L. A. Nuts. We use the Ingram web site so the link will indicate the book is not available. It will work to order the book if you pick it up in store. Yes, we still have work to do on our web site.

Whether you love or hate L. A., Joe's columns might make you chortle. Here's Joe's web site.

Tuesday, November 10th, 7 PM.
The A.V. Club, with their new collection Inventory.

I can't print Joel McHale's recommendation because it's too cussy, but here's what David Cross had to say:

"In a culture that worships the disposable, lazy lists obligatorily put together by self-serving editorial staffs at the likes of Barely Information Magazine, The A.V. Club has decided to embrace what it parodies until it meets itself just outside of heaven and shakes its own hand while flipping itself, and you and me, off. Kudos A.V. Club!” – David Cross, of Mr. Show and Arrested Development"

Rescheduled due to a death in the family and a case of the flu (there are several folks involved in this), here's a link to their link to us!

Wednesday, November 11th, 7 PM.
Bob McGinn, discussing The Ultimate Super Bowl Book: A Complete Reference to the STATS, Stars, and Stories Behind Football's Biggest Game-And Why the Best Team Won.

This is the perfect book for the sports-obessed, detail obsessed, numbers-obsessed kind of person. McGinn writes for the Journal Sentinel, but out of Green Bay, so even his coworkers hardly see him. Why not visit him this Wednesday?

Here's the Journal Sentinel Packers page. You're bound to see some of McGinn's work here, but I believe some of it is available by subscription only.

Thursday, November 12th, 7 PM.
Lorrie Moore, reading from and taking questions about A Gate at the Stairs

1. Get here early.
2. Have us get a book signed for you.
3. Read this fabulous review from the Guardian, who has called Moore the finest short story writer in America today.

Friday, November 13th, 7 PM.
Nona Willis Aronowitz, discussing Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism.

Here's one of their info-blogs about the Girldrive adventure (yes, there are more than one).

I just learned that Aronowitz is a reporter and editor for a hyperlocal Chicago Tribune venture called Triblocal. I have just begun to explore this site, but it seems very "future of journalism."

This event has a shout-out in today's "Flash Forward to the week ahead" section in the Journal Sentinel.


Here's a Journal Sentinel link to today's story on Milwaukee's bookstore wars from Cary Spivak. I thought it was fair. If it makes me sound a little whiny, I am a little whiny. It could be worse. This deserves a whole post and perhaps I'll soon do one.