Friday, April 30, 2010

Wearable Art Show Today--Tell Mary Anne I Told You to Visit!

Note: Once again, I got my dates wrong. The wearable art show is Saturday, May 1st!

It feels like I've seen our good friend Mary Anne from the Shorewood Women's Club almost every day this week. We applauded Paul Salsini on Tuesday and cheered on Sue Miller on Wednesday. Well now it's Saturday, and it's time to go see Mary Anne.

She's helping with the Wearable Art Show at the Shorewood Village Center, downstairs from the Shorewood Public Library. That's 3920 N. Murray Avenue, just where we consponsored D.J. MacHale on Tuesday evening (also a fun event).

The show is being put on by the GFWC Shorewood Woman's Club in conjunction with the Shorewood Library Friends. Visit today, May 1st, from 9:30 to 4 PM.

More details below:

A Variety of Vendors, From Jewelry to Fashion,
Silk—Appliqued Clothing—Purses—Felt—
Shawls—Scarves—Fabric Art

Scholarship Benefit
Silent Auction—Prizes Every Half Hour—Coffee
and Bake Sale--$2 Admission

Questions? Call 414-964-2007 or 414-228-8199

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Urban Planner is a Good Career Choice--You Heard it Here First

The May issue of U.S. News and World Report features a short interview with Michael Bayer, who recently spoke at Boswell for the book Becoming an Urban Planner. It's part of the feature "Top Careers for the New Economy." Other good careers include plumber, curator and meterologist. Bookseller is not on the list.

The story isn't online, but it is available in the printed magazines, which is at bookstores like ours.

How Did Things Go This Week?

I'm a little too anxious today to come up with a cohesive post. We've got five offsites this week, and I've been at four of them. Find me tomorrow at the Women's Leadership Conference at the Pfister.

We've had a nice week wit The Tortoise and the Hare. I talked it up to two folks from the Jane Austen Society at the Library Literary Lunch, and today one of my favorite authors ordered a copy from us.

We had a mini-bookstore at the Wisconsin Club. In addition to the above-mentioned Tortoise, titles we sold in multiples included Yarn, Little Bee, and Murder on the Eiffel Tower. And Sue Miller hand-sold a few copies of Brian Morton's Starting Out in the Evening. I'm not sure why I brought that instead of Breakable You, but since it worked, I'm not questioning.

Miller's other recommendations:
The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee
Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro
Blame, by Michelle Huneven, which is hard to find in hardcover right now, and releases in paperback May 25th. (Editor's Note: and by this I mean that the book was out of stock at our nearby wholesalers).

Miller's talk on The Lake Shore Limited was very well received! Thanks to all involved.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's Going up with the Movie "City of Your Final Destination"? A Plug for the Book

One of my favorite books of the last ten years is Peter Cameron's City of Your Final Destination; I've linked to our website, but there's a caveat and I'll explain why shortly.

Peter Cameron's novel is a beautifully constructed story about a grad student who heads to South America to write the biography of a major writer, who, though deceased, lives on through his family. His brother, his wife, and his mistress all live together, and through them must unravel the real story of the author--and get permission to write the book, because his grant is only for an authorized biography. Hot on his pursuit is his Kansas girlfriend, a rather offputting type who is trying to get him to return home.

It's an academic comedy, a village comedy transplanted to Uruguay, a cross-cultural story that defies sterotype and is in fact about being a foreigner (the grad student is Omar Razaghi, the Urugayans are German), and a tale about writing stories, and specifically creating lives when you don't know the life you're writing about. There's this great reversal at the end, where the story changes course, and characters effectively change their role in the story. It's a twist that has stayed with me since I read the book in 2002.

The movie is now released, the first production of James Ivory after the passing of Ismail Merchant, and so far, I'm a little nervous to see the production. I talked to my local contact at the Oriental and he doesn't know of it being scheduled in Milwaukee.

More than that, the book's availability is in limbo. The Plume paperback is out of print and the Picador movie tie in, though scheduled for May 11th, doesn't seem to be on order from Ingram. We haven't seen copies from Macmillan yet either, but it's scheduled for May 11th. I suspect that the quick sell-in is due to rights issues. The Picador is a effectively a reversion, as FSG (Macmillan owned) published the hardcover and sold paperback rights to Plume (Penguin owned). There is so little selling of paperback rights from one corporation to another of late that the parties involved had probably lost practice working out the deal.
However the movie is received and how well it does, to me, the most important thing is to get the word out on just how wonderful this book is. What excuse would I normally have to write about an eight-year-old book on my blog? I need none, actually. Have I mentioned how much I like The Tortoise and the Hare? We're chugging along, up to 16 sold.

Today's Schedule--Lunch with Sue Miller, Then Some Errands, and Cap it Off with a Florentine Evening

It's been a whirlwind of adventure at Boswell this week and continues today with the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch with Sue Miller at the Wisconsin Club. She'll be talking about her new novel, The Lake Shore Limited. I'll be in the book sales alcove--please say hi.

Tonightwe have the final Florentine Opera Insights preview, this time featuring the Florentine's production of "Rigoletto." I brought in the Hal Leonard full score for a little display. It's your last chance to hear and meet the talented singers from the Studio program for the 2009-2010 season.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Maryland Avenue Montessori Spring Art Show Going on Now

The Maryland Avenue Montessori's spring art show is now open. Thank you to MAM's art teacher Laura, and volunteer Julie, who did a great job putting it all together.

Folks are particularly entranced by the masking tape horses that have filled the space. Rats, one of our customers told me about an artist that the students evoked, but I forgot to write it down. You really must come in to get the full effect!

More and more artists are asking if we can show their work. (Things stepped up a bit during our wonderful exhibition of Gloria MaCoy's paintings). What I'm asking folks to do is send me a link to a web page with some work on it.

I expect to keep each artist (or school) up for two months or so; it's just too much work to change it more often. That means we can only have three or four artists per year exhibit, since we mix things up with student work. Oh, and I do show some favoritism to our regular customers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Milwaukee Poet Laureate's Book "Boomerang" is in Stock

Celebrate the appointing of Brenda Cárdenas as Milwaukee's newest poet laureate with a copy of her book Boomerang. Cárdenas, assistant professor at UW Milwaukee, has previously released chapbooks and recorded albums. Her work has been featured in numerous poetry journals and antholgies.

Enjoy the first stanza from "Blues Mama."

Gimme a Pig's Foot and a Bottle of Beer
bellows my mama
as she drifts about the house,
dancing with her dust mop,
wailing with her records--
Bessie and Billie, Louie and Duke,
B.B. and Nat King Cole,
The Count and Ray Charles.
I wait for each record to drop,
for Mama's voice to climb
into its grooves,
duet with Sarah Vaughn or Cleo Laine,
Mama's notes strong
and belonging on a black disk.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peter Pan Ballet, Peter Pan Book, Peter Pan Inspired Thumb Puppets

The Milwaukee Ballet is performing Peter Pan from May 13th through the 16th. Here's a link to their site for tickets. Having never read Barrie's original, I thought maybe that's the case for other folk. We brought in several copies of the Aladdin Classic edition, with a nice intro by Susan Cooper.

Because it's in public domain, there are a lot of reinterpretations of this book. I was just talking to an author (unnamed) who is hamstrung because he has a great idea for a reinterpretation of another classic (unnamed) but has trouble proceeding because that book was blocked from going into public domain by the change in copyright law. Oddly enough, he can probably publish it in most other countries.

Needless to say, I celebrate just about every event with the purchase of thumb puppets. I found a nice collection of pirate and alligator thumb puppets, just the thing with which to celebrate J. M. Barrie's classic.

Sayeth John Irving: "Daniel, meet Christopher"

Sharon knows that when she's buying second-hand books and finds something interesting inside one of them, I like to see what it is. It turned out the bookmark from Christopher's Books in a copy of John Irving's Trying to Save Piggy Sneed wasn't exactly a find.

For one thing, there are no personal notes, nothing dated, no phone numbers of memos to buy a card for Johnny to send with the book.

For another, the bookstore is, wonderfully enough, still in business. It's on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. I'm a little embarrassed because I've never been there. Their website is static, but it's very smart to at least have something of a placeholder, with your phone number, email, and hours. If ever I feel exhausted over our website, this is what I would move to.

Here's a nice listing of San Francisco Bookstores from NCIBA. I'm studying it, for when I come across future bookmarks.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Was it the Mennonite or the Student Ghost Wearing the Little Black Dress?

We had a great read in hardcover for Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. And admittedly, we had a not-so-great one. It's the story of an urban gal who returns home to her colorful family after her life goes off kilter. Holt is riding the wave of books coming out quickly in paperback with a six month cloth-to-paper transition.

I didn't even know this Laurie Notaro was coming. It's tough not being the buyer and even tougher when you don't keep up with catalogs, virtual or hard copy. Here's the annotation on Spooky Little Girl:

"When Lucy Fisher returns home from vacation, she's shocked to see how much her life has changed: her fianc has left her, her boss has fired her, and she's dead. To make things worse, she's going back to school--ghost school."

These are not too books where I'd expect confusion. But these covers are so close, that I can imagine customers picking up the wrong one, particularly in stores like ours where they got (inadvertently or perhaps diabolically--doesn't Carl look like he would enjoy the confusion?) placed next to each other on our paperback table.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Countdown to Sue Miller at the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch

What a great review by Michiko Kakutani in today's New York Times for The Lake Shore Limited! I'm not linking to our website because instead of buying the book, you should email or call the friends for your ticket to the luncheon...if they are not sold out!

For ticket information, please contact the Library Foundation at
414-286-8720 or email

Here's a link to a pdf of the new Milwaukee Public Library Reader with more on the lunch and Sue Miller. There's also a great story on Milwaukee's new poet laureate, Brenda Cardenas. My apologies that I still don't know how to do accents on Blogger. Note that we have more copies of Cardenas' most recent collection, Boomerang, directly from Bilingual Press. They should be here by Friday!

More on Miller. I asked her publicist Sara if Miller could recommend a few of her favorite titles. I said we'd post them on our blog (here they are) and feature them at our event.

Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro

The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee
Here's the New York Times review if you missed it. And Los Angeles Times. And New Yorker (with Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic).

Blame, by Michelle Huneven. Sigh. Actually, triple sigh. I've heard great things about the new Dee, and I kick myself that I haven't yet read the Munro.

Plus I also asked for an underrated author that she'd love to promote, and she touted Brian Morton. If you haven't read one of his novels, most recently Starting Out in the Evening, you're missing a treat. Everyone I know that has read this has said it's one of the most underrated novels of the past few years. Read more in The New York Times.

Two of a Kind Part One: Romance is Camel Colored

Maybe you don't see it. But we had these two books next to each other on Boswell's Best this week and to me, they look like two volumes of the same series. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a modern twist on the English village novel--the English gentleman is in love with a Pakistani shopkeeper. The book's been selling well at lots of bookstores; at Boswell, Bev's been leading the charge.

The Lotus Eaters has little in common, except that there is a romance at its heart. A female combat photographer in the Vietnam War is torn between two admirers. I don't know too much about it, except that the advance reviews from Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly were all very good.

Here's just a snippet from LJ: "Like Marianne Wiggins's Eveless Eden and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried before it, Soli's poignant work will grab the attention of most readers. A powerful new writer to watch."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Did The Lonely Polygamist Go on a Diet?

So our copies of The Lonely Polygamist come in. I've been very excited to get Brady Udall's book. I go to the look at the books and something's wrong. Where is the big fat book that I expected? The book, while quite heavy, was positively compact.

Had the book been shortened? No, it's still 600 pages. The paper, while very pleasant to the touch, is so thin. I'm petrified to tear the pages. What happened? Just to put this in perspective, here is a shot of Udall's advance copy versus the finished book.

What's going on here? Are Udall book buyers being short shrifted? I shoot off an email to our rep Johanna. She sends back a note (pre-coffee, mind you) that W. W. Norton's production is second to none. There's probably an interesting story here. She'll get to the bottom of this. As an aside, I trust her judgment on everything.

So I think, is this a Norton thing? I grab a copy of Jeff Shesol's Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court from double W. While this book is 100 pages less, it bulks out more (at left). So it's something special for The Lonely Polygamist. While this history book looks very interesting, I can really only tackle one history book at a time (or in a year) and my priority is going to be Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent.

An email comes back, from Bill Rusin, Norton's director of sales and marketing. Because so few bookstore blogs don't talk enough about paper quality (or at all!), I thought this would kind of be fascinating. I have to do some research on what ground wood paper is!

"We decided to use a paper that bulks less than the bound galley (ground wood) paper. Actually it’s a more expensive paper than what is used on most books. The general rule of thumb is the thinner, more opaque the paper, and the less the bulk the more expensive it is. Most publishers including us are switching to ground wood, check out the paper on The Big Short.

"The question everyone is concerned with is how much to bulk up a book, the general feeling is if a book bulks too much it can seem too intimidating a read. We decided to make it less bulky on the first printing but if and when we go back to press we’re switching to a paper that will bulk to 1 ½ to 1 ¾ inches.

"If you want to see an example of one of the most expensive papers around, take a look at any of the Norton would be cheaper to print the books on gold foil. Tell Daniel to get ready for this fall for the 1100+ page novels…I can hear the forests being cleared now."

My take away:

1. More expensive paper, not less.

2. Less intimidating. I actually disagree with this a bit. I think there's a big market for customers who want to read a big fat book over the summer, but if other pipeline pundits think otherwise, it doesn't hurt us for the book to not look big. I can still tell people it's 600 pages.

3. More books can fit on a faceout. This is very important in a lot of stores. For The Lonely Polygamist, that could be five instead of four.

Boswellian Conrad is reading it now. He loves it too. Here's the Huffington Posts' guest column from Udall, "Why Polygamy?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Attention Bookstore Bloggers

Alas, several of the folks I know have lost some interest in blogging for their bookstore. I need to refresh!

If you are a general bookstore with an active blog, please consider sending a comment with a link. I will post the comment, and add your blog to my links.

If you have a website that is a good place to meet foreign women, please know that I review my comments before posting them.

Did I mention that Day for Night arrived? I bought my copy (the galley is lost in the bookseller borrowing mist) and I have one to go out to a friend in California who prepaid for a copy.

Why You Shouldn't Put Off Buying Postmistress

Recent printings of The Postmistress have dropped the rough-cut edging. Jason and I have talking about watching books in later printings drop in quality. In this case, it's an aesthetic choice. Sometimes it's about thinner paper. That said, you can still find some nice copies of the book around, and that includes Boswell.

In the picture at left, the top book is an earlier printing and the bottom is more recent.

Hey, one way to fight ebooks is with the quality of the book, right? I'm paying attention.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why You Should Come to See Howard Frank Mosher on Wednesday, April 21st, 7 PM (Or Somewhere Else on Another Date)

If you haven't met Howard Frank Mosher on one of his previous trips to Milwaukee, you're missing a wonderful author. He's been chronicling the Kinneson family over a number of books, jumping through history to cover their place in the Lewis and Clark expedition (The True Account) or to dramatize how the highways displaced people during the roadbuilding of the early 20th century (On Kingdom Mountain).

Mosher is able to pen a wide variety of novels using his constraints. They generally relate to Kingdom Mountain, Vermont and touch on a Kinneson. Within that he's been able to write a baseball novel (Waiting for Teddy Williams) and a contemporary drama about racial issues (A Stranger in the Kingdom). Though I read the latter a long time ago, I can still recommend it as a Northern New England To Kill a Mockingbird-esque tale. (Don't like how I use the easy comparison shortcut? Life as a bookseller is filled with compromise!)

His new novel, Walking to Gatlinburg, is a Civil War drama, which Mosher considers his first historical thriller. One Kinneson (Pilgrim) goes to fight in the Union army and goes missing. His brother (Morgan) tries to find him, but as the family is also a stop on the Underground Railroad and there's been a bit of a mishap with one man on his way to freedom and his bounty hunters in pursuit, he's not just hunting, he's being hunted.

Really great Washington Post review here from Carolyn See. That's Lisa See's mom, for those not in the know. I bet there's a battle for who can write the best toast when someone in the family gets married. And here's the very good Associated Press review, as seen in the Kansas City Star. To paraphrase, Bruce DaSilva calls it positively Iliad-ian. Blog challenge: read only books that are derived from the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Here's Mosher's blog post on how he's rather hot on indie bookstores. Come out and prove him right.

Event is at Boswell on Wednesday, April 21st, 7 PM. That's soon--clear your calendars.

Can't make it because you're say, 500 miles away? Here's the rest of the tour for Walking to Gatlinburg:

APRIL 22, 2010
Winnetka, IL (12:00 pm)

APRIL 22, 2010
Naperville, IL (7:00 pm)

APRIL 23, 2010
Holland, MI (7:00 pm)

APRIL 25, 2010
Cleveland, OH (7:00 pm)

April 26, 2010
Brockport, NY (7:00 pm)

April 27, 2010
Buffalo, NY (tbd)

April 28, 2010
Albany, NY (tbd)

MAY 4, 2010
Burlington, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 5, 2010
Brattleboro, VT (tbd)

MAY 6, 2010
Andover, MA (7:00 pm)

MAY 7, 2010
Concord, NH (7:00 pm)

MAY 8, 2010
Rockport, MA (tbd)

MAY 10, 2010
Exeter, NH (7:00 pm)

MAY 11, 2010
Cambridge, MA (7:00 pm)

MAY 12, 2010
Brandon, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 13, 2010
Waterbury, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 14, 2010
Newbury, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 15, 2010
St. Johnsbury, VT (10:00 am)

MAY 16, 2010
Chester, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 18, 2010
Lyndonville, VT (7:00 pm)

MAY 19, 2010
Portland, ME (7:00 pm)

MAY 20, 2010
North Conway, NH (7:00 pm)

JUNE 19, 2010
Burlington, VT (1:00 pm)

JUNE 25, 2010
Newburyport, MA (7:00 pm)

JUNE 26, 2010
Woodstock, VT (7:00 pm)

JUNE 29, 2010
Quechee, VT (7:00 pm)

Just because I like to annotate, I have included a # sign for the bookstores I have been to. I need to get out more.

Tonight's Double-Header--Pete Nelson and Joe Meno (4/20, 7 PM)

We've got a double-header tonight, with Joe Meno and Pete Nelson, two great novelists reading together. I meant to send each of them the other author's book, but...I forgot. Both are novels about family, cultural angst, and indecision. Both delve into our relationships with animals, albeit in very different ways, and both are funny/sad, though not necessarily weepy.

Meno was on Lake Effect for The Great Perhaps on Monday. You can listen to it here. Jim Higgins reviewed I Thought You Were Dead (in a good way) in the Journal Sentinel last Sunday. Both were highlighted in the Shepherd Express Book Preview.
I am into the double header concept. We've got another coming in May. Two young authors from Coffee House Press. Travis Nichols has a book called Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder, while Aaron Michael Morales has penned Drowning Tucson. The former is an editor for the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, while the latter teaches at Indiana State.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tinkers and Tee Shirts

I'm excited to say we have Tinkers in stock, the novel that won this year's Pulitzer Prize. Here's Motoko Rich's piece on this Cinderella story. Like many booksellers, I had a copy, but seem to have given it away. It's one of those books that folks will be asking me whether I've read it for at least a year, so I better get cracking.

I am reading it in my new black Boswell tee, a color that was printed by customer request. We have a limited supply of size extra-small, as well as some of the tighter cut styles.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Elizabeth Berg Essay Contest Winner--Plus Inspiration from Jennifer Chiaverini'sThe Aloha Quilt

1. Congrats to Karen Middleton, whose lovely essay won first prize in our "The Last Time I Saw You" competition. Ms. Middleton Schleicher was awarded a signed copy of The Last Time I Saw You, a $25 gift card, and a bottle of sparkling Brut. Note: Casey of Sendiks and Downer Avenue Wine and Spirits steered me to the winning bottle. Thanks, Casey!

2. If you haven't seen the lovely Hawaiian quilts that Jennifer Chiaverini is taking with her on tour, I think they are worth showing. I've got a photo posted of the one with a bird-of-paradise motif. The Book The Aloha Quilt is #11 on the new New York Times bestseller list. Is it possible this is her first showing on the printed list? I'm confirming from Wendy at S&S, only her second hardcover book to appear there.

First Lisa Lutz reads at Boswell and hits for the first time (at 16, in a tie situation, no less). Now Chiaverini. If I were a publisher, I'd pay attention!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stacie Went on Vacation and All She Brought Back for Me was this Lousy Suggestion to Carry Bald Guy Greeting Cards

The headline is true, more or less. Stacie had seen them on a trip and did suggest that we carry them. We printed out some pages, and Stacie took a poll of the ones that booksellers thought were the funniest.

Now we've got them in and it's time to tell the world, blog style, particularly because they don't always display well on the rack. Many of the designs don't have much going on at the top, so you can't exactly discern their charms without removing the card.

Bald Guy is a San Francisco company run by two guys who may or may not be bald. I'd sort of feel bad if at least one of them wasn't at least receding. Deceptive advertising and all that. Ian Kalman writes the cards and Sean Farrell illustrates them.

The writing is snarky, walking a tightrope between sentiment and obnoxiousness. It's all very old-school Mad Magazine, and I mean that as a compliment. Ian and I emailed back and forth a bit, and he told me which cards were selling well. We bought a little extra of their #1 card.

I was going to do a Bald Guy Greetings match game, where I'd mix up five cards and five greetings, and have a contest. But the whole things was very confusing, and I couldn't read the insides that well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Part Two of Lonely Polygamist Post--A Conversation with the Agent, Nicole Aragi

Believe it or Not.

Aragi: Hi, I’m Brady Udall’s literary agent, I spotted your post about The Winter Institute, Brady’s book.

May I be nosy and ask … do you not like big fat books*, or is it simply a carrying-around issue? I also represent Rabih Alameddine, author of The Hakawati, which is on your reading list I see and it’s another fat book, so I suspect you’re open to reading long un’s but your post made me wonder.

Hope you don’t mind me asking, I just don’t get many chances to talk to booksellers direct as there’s always a layer of publishing personnel in between me and bookseller opinions.

Goldin: I continually whine about fat books, but I actually find I read a lot of them. It's intimidation more than anything else, and I get a little bent out of shape when it seems like I could have cut 100 pages here or there.

That said, I think I've read the following books (in addition to The Hakawati) that are more than 500 pages in the past 12 months:

The Post Birthday World
Raymond Carver
Half of a Yellow Sun
Cutting for Stone

So maybe it's more chatter than anything. And my buyer Jason loves big fat books, and I think that it's become this discussion, dialogue, a mock debate, about the point of it all.

It's not a carrying around issue at all. In fact, I hate the very thin paper they sometimes use to make books look thinner (or maybe cheaper). There's nothing I hate more than being able to see through a page as I'm reading it. And it comes up more than I'd wish.

Someone compared it to Middlesex at WI5, and I thought that was fair, the way it makes something you're not used to become mundane by getting to know the characters so well. His writing reminds me of Anne Tyler so much, the patriarch who wields power but secretly is plagued by doubts. (editor’s note—I know I used this in the last post, but hey, it’s my hook.)

You must be so pleased. The book was clearly the hit of WI5. The line for signings must have been 3 times the size of anyone else's.

Aragi: I whine about fat books too (“they wouldn’t be so long if typed on a typewriter” is my wail), and then I go ahead and fall in love with a monster manuscript and insist to everyone that this fat book is the exception to the fat book rule.

As for thin paper, oh I’m with you there, please repeat that complaint noisily and often to everyone in publishing.

It’s done for cheapness more than size but I think it’s off-putting. If I’m going to fork out $25 or so for a hardback I want it to feel good in my hands, without the text from the reverse page glowing through.

That’s quite a list of big fat books too; I wish mine was as long. I loved Cutting for Stone. (Editor’s note: clearly modesty. Agents have to read like crazy.)

I’m so glad you’re enjoying The Lonely P, I have my fingers braided that it’ll be a huge success. You’re right it’s funny how polygamy became ordinary, although an administrative nightmare. I really liked the family, even the crotchety ones, which shouldn’t matter (or so they say) but it does to me.

Goldin: I have this theory that fat books are more intimidating, but once you read them, you've made this investment and become convinced that it's better than the equivalent thinner book. Just a theory, which I have to tighten.

Aragi: You may be right about fat books, although I’ve noticed that I’m drawn to them more often these days and my counter-theory (we all have theories!) is that life is so fractured and distracting these days that big, involving books have more appeal than in the past. It’s almost restful to invest in something that takes time and silence. Don’t know about you but my email never stops clicking and my phone never stops ringing and when I pick up a big novel it’s when I want the world to shut up and go away. Maybe that’s just me though, I’m rather grouchy.

Goldin: Yet at the same time there seems to be resurgence in short stories. So go figure.

Aragi: Really? That’s nice to know. I began my so-called “career” by representing short stories (writers like Junot Diaz, Nathan Englander, Aleksandar Hemon) but publishers now insist that people don’t want to read collections. (Editor’s note: yeeks)

There’s a chasm between what publishers say and what booksellers say. I believe you guys.

Talking of short story collections, have you read In the Valley of the Kings, by Terrence Holt? Do you like dark, creepy, literary, and did I mention creepy, stories?

Goldin: Oh, I have at least one huge fan of Terrence Holt's book on staff, Carl. He sold a few, and hopes for more in paperback. I can be a little thin-skinned for creepy.

Re: short stories, what do they say about Elizabeth Strout and Jhumpa Lahiri, who likely had two of the bestselling paperbacks of last year? We've sold hundreds of the former so one suspects that there are stores that have sold thousands.

I understand that indie bookstores are a special case--it might be hard to get table placement at Cosco or an endcap at Walmart. But what about this theory that people are going to want to download individual stories as ebooks? Hey, they have to buy the rights to the stories or they won't get the agency fee.

Moral of the story--go buy a copy of The Lonely Polygamist.


*Our Handy Book-Size Calculator
under 200 pages: lil’ books, also known as novellas

200-499: the AMA's approved page count for books. I call this average, which offers no implication that the book is better or worse than any other book

500: big ‘n’ fat
Read the Next Chapter post from their buyer Dave about how much he loves The Lonely Polygamist. No offense to Emily St. John Mandel, but I'm a little shocked that this book was not the #1 Indie Next Pick for May.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hating, then Loving Big Fat Books--an Ode to The Lonely Polygamist

Hurray! Our first copies of The Lonely Polygamist are in! Time to talk about it some more.

Several months ago, I mentioned that Amie and I attended Winter Institute in San Jose. One of the things I noticed that not only was there a big, fat buzz book, there three of them vying for attention. Knowing I could not possibly aim for all three, I put aside Justin Cronin's big, fat vampire novel, The Passage, and Karl Marlantes' big, fat Vietnam novel Matterhorn, and set my initial sites on Brady Udall's big, fat polygamy novel, The Lonely Polygamist?


1. Because he had the longest lines. Not just any lines (or I'd be reading xxxxxxxx xxxxxx's latest), but lines of outliers (yes, I'm appropriating Gladwell), folks who read and sell to that sweet spot where critical analysis meets emotional resonance.
2. Because Johanna told me to. I trust my Norton rep.
3. Because I still have remorse that I didn't read The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.*
4. Because I'm sort of on a polygamy reading program, having read and enjoyed The Nineteenth Wife and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.

It turned out that I loved The Lonely Polygamist. It's the story of Golden Richards, inducted into the Principle by his father and now the proud husband to four wives and father to 28 children. The story is family dysfunction on a grand scale, told through the eyes of Golden, his wife Trish (the one mostly on the margins, she only has one child) and one son, Rusty, known to the rest of the family as "the little terrorist."

Golden's got a construction company, but his finances are little shakey. He takes a job he's not quite proud of (or maybe shame is the right word, as everybody in the family thinks he's doing senior housing), for a whorehouse. There's pressure to take wife number five, but meanwhile he probably needs to get the first four to stop feuding. And no, you don't exactly get to know all 28 kids all that well, but you get the feeling Golden doesn't know them that well either.

Udall, as you may know, wrote the piece for Esquire Magazine in 1998, which was titled "Big Love." Somebody got the idea from this piece for a little series on HBO. Supposedly Udall didn't get any credit--a little idea stealing, alas. I think he has a better case than the author of The Adventures of Willie the Wizard has.

Like Middlesex, Udall takes the other and makes it familiar, if not commonplace. His writing reminds me of Anne Tyler of all things, the befuddled patriarch who is not quite clear how he got where he did. It's a wonderful book, and I'm hoping for a great run.

And here's the strange thing. The book came in and it doesn't look all that fat. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

Here's an interview with Udall in Boise Weekly where he discussed the writing process, his background, and a bit about Boise.

*I met a bookseller at WI5 who told me he almost never rereads authors. It's mostly first novels and discoveries. After that, he's bored. So when I pushed Frederick Reiken's Day For Night on him, it was a good thing he hadn't read either The Odd Sea or The Lost Legends of New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How the World Reacts to Day for Night, a Post About Translation Rights

It's almost time for Day for Night, my spring obession, to arrive. It's time to start posting.

About a year ago, when I was in my throes of Little Bee love, I did a post about the book's two titles, and the various jackets. It turns out the publishers' were correct--the two titles were appropriate for different markets. Or...the book was so good that you could call it Immigration Detention Center Story or Batman on the Beach and it still would have found its market.

That said, I thought the hardcover jackets for the US and UK versions for Little Bee/The Other Hand were quite similar in style. For the paperbacks, the visions diverged greatly. The US stayed the course with their beautiful artwork and bold color that popped that book off the shelf in a big way. The UK went with a more traditional paperback jacket--a photo of a boy on the beach. Both worked.

It's an interesting topic, and I could talk about international rights with just about every author and get some sort of insight, but surprisingly enough, it came up again with my new book obsession, Frederick Reiken's Day for Night. The book has started shipping!

I asked Mr. Reiken to talk a little about how foreign rights have gone for him.

"I can tell you that the foreign rights thing has always seemed pretty random in my case. My first novel, for instance, had German, Dutch, and Greek translations. You can see all the foreign covers on my web page and I still have no idea what those kayaking Eskimos are doing on the cover of the Greek version, but I've been told it's a good translation (by a Greek speaking person who still has no idea about the Eskimos).

"So far, with Day For Night, there are going to be Dutch and French translations, as well as editions in the U.K. and Australia. I'm told that these days there is sometimes more international action after the pub. date. Here's hoping -since I really thought more European countries would be interested. The book will be available throughout most European countries in English (the British edition, I think).

"What might amuse you is that the same house (Little Brown UK/Abacus Books) is doing both the U.K. and Australia editions, but they decided to go with two completely different covers - which you can also see on my web page (go to the "books" link and look on bottom right of the Day For Night page) both of which are radically different from the U.S. edition cover. I was told by the British publisher that Brit readers are cynical and don't like anything that might have spiritual connotations (i.e. the sunburst on the watery blue U.S. cover), and I suppose the Aussies will always like animals and motorcycles."

You might think these jackets represent three different books, but to me, they work on a continuum. The UK cover plays up the serious aspects of the novel, while the Australian cover emphasizes the playful ones. The American cover seems to try to balance them.

Still to come--why do the Dutch love Reiken so? It looks like his second novel, The Lost Legends of New Jersey, had trouble getting international publication, and not surprising, because of the place-centered aspect of the novel, which doesn't work outside of the international tourist destinations of New York, San Francisco, and a handful of other American locales. That said, there was still a Dutch edition.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Have Lunch with the Acclaimed Novelist Sue Miller on April 28th--Musings on Her New Novel, The Lake Shore Limited

It's almost time for the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Luncheon, a great way to support the Library. Last year's event was one of my first events outside the store. It was Leif Enger talking about his book So Brave, Young, and Handsome. I don't how well the book did elsewhere in paper, but that luncheon's high profile let to solid sales for Enger for the rest of 2009.

This year's guest is Sue Miller, author of many beloved novels, including the new one, The Lake Shore Limited. Not everyone who starts out with the bang of The Good Mother can continue writing strong literary works that also resonate with lots of readers (writer talk for them selling well) but Miller is one of them. Miller's work has continued to win critical acclaim, most recently for The Senator's Wife.

The jumping off point for Miller’s new novel is 9/11. In this case, the story is about a play being performed, one with the terrorist bombing of a train. Don’t think that Miller’s gone all action-adventure, the story is about relationships and memories and regret. Having just finished Let the Great World Spin, I was curious to see how Miller would handle this touchstone tragedy that has been absorbed into so many artistic works. The results are very different, but no less interesting.

Wilehlmina Gertz’s new play is set in Chicago. A professor has learned from his son that the train his wife was travelling on has been attacked by a terrorist group. Let’s just say the family is not particularly happy with his reaction, particularly when they meet his mistress.

As we all make desperate attempts to read the artists’ life into their stories, so are the characters who see the play wondering how much this mirrors Billy’s life, or at least her feelings for her lost lover, Gus, who was on one of the 9/11 planes. And Billy acknowledges in the story a rift she had with Gus, when she lifted a private moment from their lives and put it in one of her earlier works.

The story is almost a chain of regret, jumping from the playwright, to the actor with an invalid wife who slept with her, to the sister of the victim, to a family friend set up with the playwright by the sister, who at one time had a chaste dalliance with him. The story jumps back and forth in time, but not in that present-past kind of way. No, the story keeps moving ahead and jumping back a notch, so that you get the same event from several perspectives.

The play at the center of the book is not just a framing device however. It portends the book itself, which is sort of set up in acts, and you could see that most of the plot action is of the drawing room sort where the action would be retold by the character in a living room or a restaurant or a theater. In fact, the only piece of action would be when two characters have an accident in an Arboretum. It made me curious whether Miller had thought about her novel as a play itself, making the references come full circle.

I found the answer (sort of) in an interview with Miller on the Random House site.

Q: Much of the book centers around the characters’ reactions to Billy’s play, “The Lake Shore Limited”. How and why did you structure the book as, in essence, a play within a play?

A: As I began to include some of the lines from the play and create scenes in rehearsal, it began to seem more important to me. It began to seem central to the book, actually. I began to see the book as at least in part a kind of speculation on how the experience of art can be transforming in life—for those who create it, as Billy and also Rafe, the actor, do; and for those who take it in and ponder it and ask about its connections to their own lives. And then, I suppose, I just got interested in the play, too—in writing it, at least the part you read in the book.

While Miller has not disclosed whether she would turn this novel into a play (which I still think she could do quite successfully), she has thought about writing Billy's play!

I expected one sort of novel and got another. To my surprise, it reminded me much of one of my favorite authors, Alice Adams. This led to me wondering why there was no Adams on my rec shelf, and whether there were any Adams’ books in the store at all. This reminded me of this amazing bookstore I went to in Tucson years ago (long closed) that would carry every book of every author the proprietor liked, as long as they could be obtained (and well after, as many were ostensibly new but out of print).

See? Just reading Miller leads me to that sort of chain-of-events thinking that gives the novel such energy. I’m so excited that Miller will be the guest at this year’s Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library literary lunch on Wednesday, April 28th. You can arrive early to get your books signed—doors open at 11. You can still get tickets by calling 414-286-8720 or email

Read this Seattle Times review.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Test a Facebook Promotion for "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and It is Over Within Minutes, Plus Three Folks Advance in Elizabeth Berg Essay Contest

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", or as I like to call it, "Män som hatar kvinnor"* is playing at the Downer Theatre on our block, at least through Thursday. We partnered with Vintage to offer free pairs of tickets to the first ten reponders. Congrats to all lucky winners.

If you are irked by missing out, you should become a fan of Boswell Books on Facebook. I think they are changing the terminology of "become a fan of" to "like" as folks are more likely to click on that button, even though it does the same thing. Another option they discarded was "make fan of" as in "Would you like to make fan of Boswell Books?" That received the highest number of responses, but the resulting sites were barraged with insults.


Another contest that is closed out is our Elizabeth Berg essay contest for her new novel, The Last Time I Saw You. Congrats to the semi-finalists, and thanks to the Journal Sentinel, who put the contest in their Cue section** . We sent off the semi-finalists to Ms. Berg's publicist for the final judging.

*You should all know by now that the untranslated title is "Men who hate women." I don't know what the title of the second book was. Oh, yes I do, it's "Flickan som lekte med elden." Could there already be a movie of this too?

**And they got the spelling of our name right! We, on the other hand, spelled it wrong in our email newsletter, which may have imposed an bit of a mental puzzle to solve. Why isn't this going through? Hey, Boswell is spelled wrong. That said, we did correct it in our next newsletter. But my apologies to entrants who might have been a little stressed out.

Our event with Berg is Wednesday, April 13th, at 7 PM, where Berg will read the winning entry. I'm on my way to buy the bottle of champagne for the winner. Forgot to enter or still brushing up your entry? Next Chapter is having a similar contest.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Japanese Erasers Find Us Amused and Confused

What is exactly supposed to be featured in that dish? Why is it important to collect the bowling ball plus pins in all three colors? Do these things really work as erasers?

And many, many other questions. That said, we're selling them for a dollar each.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Not Enough USB Ports? That's a Job for My Other Mouse

My new laptop has 3 ports. Great! The problem is that I need a connection for our printer, one for my inventory system, one for photos, and one for my memory stick.

Fortunately I had bought the solution to sell at our store. It's a USB mouse from Streamline, and it comes in blue, green, and white. When it's working, the eyes light up. I don't usually reorder this stuff unless it sells out very quickly...or it fits in with a blog post.

I'm kind of a big fan of this line, and I find myself buying for myself just about everything I bring in. I carry around my duck tape measurer and keep my ladybug calculator on my desk.

Now I've got my eye on the panda bear manual shredder.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trailer Mania! Pete Nelson and Adam Langer Share Book Trailers with me in the Same Week

A few days ago, I received a trailer from Pete Nelson for I Thought You Were Dead. No, not an Airstream, but a link to a Youtube video. As you should know, we're hosting an event with Nelson on April 20th. The trailer captures the mood of the book, in that it's a little quirky, a little sad, a little confessional.

At the same time, Adam Langer sent me the link to a trailer for his new novel, The Thieves of Manhattan. coming out in July. The jacket isn't finalized yet. Like most of what Langer writes, it made me laugh.

Jason bought it for the store as a hardcover, and it still claims that on Ipage, but I noticed on Edelweiss it's now a paperback original. Our rep John is so good about sending us change memos, but there are so many adjustments in the fast moving world of modern publishing, that it's hard for a small store to keep up. Apparently, it's hard for Ingram to keep up too, though I've been told whenver I send in corrections that they expect publishers to make the changes via feed.

Right now, my link to our website says hardcover, but if this change is correct, it will suddenly change, as our website is also linked to Ingram.

Since there's no jacket for the new book, I give you one for Crossing California, mostly because I still love that book, even though it is now out of print! It makes me so sad that this book has never found its market. We sold three copies last year, two new and one second hand.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Inside the Self-Published Book--Richard Cutler as Case Study

It was over a year ago that Richard W. Cutler contacted me about his new book, I Came, I Saw, I Wrote: A Risk-Taker's Life in Law, Espionage, Community Service, Start-Ups, and Writing.

The author of Greater Milwaukee's Growing Pains and Counterspy had written a memoir. The manuscript was pretty much done, but the new book certainly incorporated aspects of the other books. After all, his war career was pretty much about intelligence, and his law career was highlighted by working on regional issues. Sometimes the issue was about municipalities working together, and sometimes (as in the 1950's, when Cutler faced down Zeidler over the annexation of nearby towns), it was about municipalities working separately.

Just to reemphasize how bookselling is about diverse ideas (that I think we have a chance of selling), I made arrangements for Cutler's new book the same week I brought back in Mayor Zeidler's memoir, which we hadn't had in stock since the transition to Boswell. But I jump ahead here.)

We talked about the options for the book. It was my thought that a book on how Cutler's training during the war affected his post-war law practice. I had rigged up this whole gimmick in my head--Counterspy For Success, and could imagine it being a hit with just the right business publisher.

Only one problem. That wasn't the book that was written. And I hadn't read it yet, so I didn't know what was in it. One day I will write a post on reading unpublished manuscripts.

After looking at several options, Cutler decided to produce the book himself. There's really great talent in the Milwaukee area, and he took advantage of it. The book was printed by Burton & Meyer, marketing efforts are being coordinated by Luminaries, and the cover shot was done by Deone Jahnke.

The book chronicles Cutler's legal career, mostly in the firms that consolidated to become the modern Quarles and Brady. Not only was he involved in the creation of the current makeup of the cities and villages of Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties, he was helped in the purchase of the Milwaukee Brewers. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Cutler was the son in law of Edmund Fitzgerald, the man the ship was named for that sank in the 1970's. I feel just steps removed from Gordon Lightfoot.

I heard the event at Next Chapter was very successful. Did you miss it? We're hosting Cutler on Thursday, April 29th, at 7 PM. (Thanks to Kirk for noticing that I wrote the piece as if the Mequon event hadn't yet happened. I wrote it several days ago and wound up moving it).

The book retails for $19.95 and is available at both bookstores. We've also posted it on a popular website, using their marketplace program.

More in the Journal Sentinel.