Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--Thumb Puppet Dinos, Whale Cards, Flipping Dogs

With a short staff today (we had just two openers and two closers, plus one person in a swing shift), I wasn't able to get too much done today, teamed with yesterday's shift at the Women Leaders conference. But I was able to receive some new gift items that were delivered this week. Our writer/philosopher plush rack is finally full, and that shipment also included our drinking writers shot glasses, which sold a bit quicker than I expected. A bit slower than expected came our Herman Melville finger puppets.

They were not just later than the finger puppet rack, but I actually had dreams for a Moby Dick/whale table display last fall, what with The Art of Fielding (which has a Moby Dick subplot), Moby Dick in Pictures, and Why Read Moby Dick all being released in the same season. Six months later, I not only got my Melville puppet, but an assortment of whale boxed cards and thank you notes. I am nothing if not timely!

Another shipment came in that left us back in stock with bending robots. There wasn't too much new from this vendor on my wish list--they still haven't increased the assortment of Squeek-a-boos they are importing from Great Britain. How mean to show a picture of the penguin in the display and then not stock it! But they did pick up a dinosaur thumb puppet that should sell thorugh pretty well.

With Easter only a week away, our holiday-themed stuff is selling quickly. We're down to one each of our mini rabbit plush and flip-over bunnies. The porcelain bunnies are also selling at a fast clip. So with no more bunnies to flip, it seemed time to put out our flip-over dogs. And yes, the video is sort of slanty sideways, but that just gives it a classic Batman quality. However the camera is tilted, the new dogs flip flip rather nicely.

Friday, March 30, 2012

That Test You're Taking Might be For You to be a Secret Agent--Trenton Lee Stewart at Boswell on April 12.

It all started with a test. Specifically, what would happen if a kid took a test and didn’t know that the reason for the test went far beyond what he or she imagined. That's the story behind The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Our hero, Reynie Muldoon, is an orphan being tutored by Miss Perumel. It is clear that his prospects are limited. It’s thought that this test could open doors for him. And when he passes the test (you must know he’s going to pass the test) using his wonderful abilities to solve puzzles.

The test sorted out kids who would be perfect agents to overthrow a terrible scheme to take over the earth. But it turns out that Sticky Washington passed the test through his great studying skills. And Kate Wetherall’s adeptness with tools gave her the abilities to pass as well. And Constance Contraire? She passed by sheer contrariness (or should I say Contraire-iness?)

Mr. Benedict, who leads this program, is very wise indeed. He’s a very good leader, despite being handicapped by narcolepsy. He has several folks working for him, Number Two, who is known to wear yellow outfits and pencil skirts, Rhonda, Kazembe, a woman short enough to pose as a fellow student, and Milligan, a mysterious agent who seems to have no past memories. Is he a victim of brainsweeping or perhaps a victim of S.A.D. (Sudden Amnesia Disease)?

Reynie and the other new recruits are called upon to infiltrate The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where they will pose as students and try to uncover the nefarious scheme. Is there anything else that is nefarious, aside from a scheme? I’d love to know. We know that the Institute is broadcasting messages that are subliminally influencing people, with various 1984-like aphorisms.

This is nefarious indeed, and will surely lead to complete and total submission. These contradictions are also the lesson plans and rules of order for the Institute. For example, you can keep your light on as long as you want, as long as it’s off by ten o’clock.

Needless to say, Trenton Lee Stewart had a lot of comparisons to Harry Potter. A whole generation of writers is going to credit J.K. Rowling as their inspiration. But the sense of humor is more sly, with notes of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. But the black humor and the puns are just some of what I and so many other folks love about Stewart.

I particularly like Stewart’s underlying idea that there is more than one way to be intelligent. You can be learned in the book smart traditional sense, or a puzzle solver, or a technician, or a skeptic (philosopher). But in The Mysterious Benedict Society, every kind of smartness is valued and it takes them all working together to save the world.

Well, at least for now. There are still several more volumes in the series for me to read. But even if you haven’t read all three books, you can read the prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. Learn about Mr. Benedict when he was a child. We’re hosting Mr. Stewart on Thursday, April 12, 7 pm, at Boswell.

And don’t forget about our other kids’ events in April.

Tuesday, April 17, 7 pm, at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall, 733 N. Eighth St.:
Kate DiCamilloThursday, author of The Magican’s Elephant, The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie, and Bink and Gollie.

Thursday, Apri l 19, 6:30 pm, at the Greenfield Public Library, 5310 West Layton Ave.:
Herman Parish, author of Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote and many other Amelia Bedelia novels.

Monday, April 30, 6:30 pm, at Shorewood Public Library, 3920 North Murray Ave.:
Michael Buckley, author of the Sisters Grimm and NERDS series.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The New Art Wall is Up and It's Filled with Creative Critters from MCFI Students.

I actually started talking to Nan at the Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI) several years ago about putting student art on our walls. But everything really started coming together last fall, after chatting with Nan at our Jeffrey Eugenides event. She told me there was a great program under Artist in Education Marina Lee with the kids at the MCFI School. This is part of MCFI's school, serving kids K3 through 2nd grade, that helps get them readied for going to third grade and beyond in MPS's public and charter school programs.

And she promised me some great artwork! We scheduled it for after our friend Joyce's paintings, which have been showcased since just after Christmas.
The exhibit, which went up yesterday, but is having its grand opening on April 3, is called Creative Critters. Marina Lee worked with students to create caterpillars, butterflies, and snails in mixed media. Oh, and a giant pig stature! They are absolutely delightful, far beyond my dreams of what I expected to see. Seeing them on the wall, I dare you to feel anything but joyous.

On April 3, 12:30 pm, the students will be gathering at Boswell as part of our three-year celebration. We’ll be serving cupcakes from Milwaukee Cupcake Company (why? because they are mini and I like them) while they last. And Tracey Sparrow, VP of Children’s Programs at MCFI, and Sarah Houser, Principal of the MCFI School, will both say a few words.

The MCFI invitation says the artwork will be up through April 25, but I’ve assured Nan that we’d love it to stay up longer, at least through June. I don’t have the energy to change our art wall more than four times per year anyway. And this is a great way to get the word out about MCFI’s mission. I donate money to them every year, and maybe you should too. Here’s a link with their storied history of helping folks in need.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Was Going to Write This After I Got Home--How'd Things Go with Carol Anshaw and Benjamin Busch? Plus Where to See Them Next Month.

Despite being my day off, I had such a busy day yesterday that I forgot to post our blog. In the afternoon, I hosted a book club talk with a group that came down from Green Bay. I met one of the members at an event last year, and she was so happy with my suggestions that she convinced the group to make a day of it. This gave me incentive to finish my spring-summer book club brochure update. The only problem we have right now, is that one of the paperback jackets isn't public, but that's a story for another day.

At night, we hosted Benjamin Busch, who is visiting close to 200 stores for Dust to Dust. It's tough being at the beginning of the tour, as many of the reviews and interviews haven't hit, but Stacie and I were very happy with 40 people. It didn't hurt that Christi Clancy opened for Busch, reading an essay originally published in The New York Times. And what an honor to have one of Busch's commanding officers among the guests.  

Busch clued me in to Vinton Rafe McCabe's review of Dust to Dust in The New York Journal of Books. Here's just a taste: "Dust to Dust is a work of extraordinary merit. I’ve found no better book of any genre, by any author, so far this year, and likely will not in the months ahead. It is that rare sort of work that will allow you to be jealous of those who have yet to read it, because you know that intense pleasure that lies ahead." Read the rest here.

Here's an interview with Busch in Mittenlit. I think that refers to the shape of Michigan And here is where you can see Busch speak. I can't list 190 more events, but I can link you to the rest.

But the nicest comment was when my former coworker Jenny came in to buy a copy of Dust to Dust based partly on the Boswell and Books blog post. I sort of swooned! I'm sure that occasionally happens but it's nice to actually know about the connection. Hey, both Jenny and Christi are shopping novels. If I were a better bookstore proprietor, I would have read both and would try to help both of them find homes. But I can't even post blogs on time. Sorry about the lack of spacing, but I want to cram this in!

Thursday, March 29, 2012A Room of One's Own
307 W. Johnson St. Madison, WI 53703
Friday, March 30, 2012
Book Cellar
4736-38 N Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60625
Monday, April 02, 2012
Prairie Lights
15 S. Dubuque St. Iowa City, IA 52240
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Anderson's Books
123 W Jefferson Ave.Naperville, IL 60540
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Learned Owl Book Shop
204 N Main St. Hudson, OH 44236-2826
Monday, April 09, 2012
Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave.NW Washington, DC 20008
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Strand Bookstore
at 12th St 828 Broadway New York, NY 10003-4805
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Powerhouse Arena
37 Main ST Brooklyn, NY 11201
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Colgate Bookstore (this is where Frederick Busch taught)
Colgate Bookstore 3 Utica ST Hamilton, NY 13346
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Westchester Library System
Tappan Hill 81 Highland Ave. Tarrytown, NY 10591
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Oblong Books and Music
Ste 6 6422 Montgomery St Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Harvard Bookstore
1256 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02138
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Odyssey Bookshop
9 College St. South Hadley, MA 01075
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Fort Lewis Main Store
Bldg 5280 Pendleton Ave.Fort Lewis, WA 98433
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Village Books
1200 11th St. Bellingham, WA 98225
And way more here...

After reuniting Brandon Mull with his jacket and Carol Anshaw with her marked-up copy of Carry the One, I perhaps over-worried about what Busch might leave behind, particularly his change of clothing. But I think in this case we are in good shape.

And of course now I feel like I should mention some upcoming events for Anshaw. She's not scheduled for 200 more events, but there are a few out there.

Wednesday, April 4
Salt Lake City Reading Series at the Main Library
210 E 400 South, Salt Lake City UT 84111
Tuesday, April 10
Prairie Lights
15 S. Dubuque St. Iowa City, IA 52240
Monday, April 23, 7 pm
in conversation with Cara Hoffman
McNally Jackson
52 Prince Street, New York City NY 10012
Tuesday, April 24
Barrett Book Store:
314 Heights Road, Darien CT, 06820 
(note: I caught a discrepancy between the bookstore and publisher website here. I will make sure this is the correct date.)

Signed copies of both books are still available.

Tonight is Chase Twichell at the Hefter Center, 3271 N Lake Drive. I think Jason is going to work this one, and I'm grateful. There's always some hitch, however. We've sold down on Twichell's book, Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, and when I looked to reorder, there were no copies at Ingram's Indiana or Baker & Taylor's Illinois warehouses. So we're not bringing over quite as many copies as we'd like. Don't panic, Jason. We've still got more copies than we sold of last year's Bourdreaux reading book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Gift Posting on Tuesdays! But Maybe Just This Once...For These Keychains. Plus a Mull Wrap-up.

This morning was spent wrapping up our events for the past few weeks to publishers. Yesterday Brandon Mull did three schools with us in a day, a record. That's nothing--when he was traveling around on his own, he did as many as five.  I asked Mull, author of the series Fablehaven and The Beyonders, how he was able to cram so much education into such a short time. It turns out it was part of a grant, and he actually had advance folk who'd get to the school ahead of time and set up the event. Wow!

Mull's event last night was a lot of fun. I learned how to pitch each series--Fablehaven is more whimsical adventure, while The Beyonders is more traditional Narnic (Narniac?) fantasy.  We all contemplated whether it would be worth it to be swallowed by a hippo if it led you to a magical land. I'm on the fence.

I arrived at the store to find a whole mess of stuff that I ordered had come in--book lights and giftwrap and journals and yes, even some holiday ornaments. So while I wasn't planning to spend my afternoon receiving, how could I not jump right in?

I'm sure you're wondering about the ornaments. We bought the product on sale, so we're able to offer them at a very good price. And last year, we sold out of two of the three skus pretty early. I'm sort of shock that they were still available. But I figured that if I scheduled them for September shipping, they'd surely be gone.

With that order, I found an ornament holder that would double well for jewelry. It was an excellent price--we are actually selling three of the lot of four off at the price of $19.95 (original list price $24.99). But we really needed this to display the leather animal ornaments that I bought at the Atlanta gift show. We looked at a whole bunch of ways to put them out, but our existing fixtures didn't do them justice, and they just didn't look right in a basket.

There were a lot of oohs and ahs, particularly from Halley, who wanted to set up a battle scene with the hippo. I noted I just learned that hippo gullets are portals to magical lands. And a customer chimed in that their teeth are quite melodic when used in a jazz combo.  For those on the youngish side, that's a reference to the Flintstones.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday's All About This Week's Events--Brandon Mull, Carol Anshaw, Benjamin Busch, Chase Twichell.

We have another full week of exciting events, starting with Brandon Mull tonight (Monday, March 26) at Boswell, 7 pm. We've heard from a lot of schools that students love the Fablehaven series. Last year Mull started a new series with Beyonders: A World Without Heroes. The story starts when Jason enters the land of Lyrian through a hippopotamus's gullet. Really!

In the second installment, Seeds of Rebellion, Jason returns to find fellow Beyonder Rachel and help Prince Galloran fight the evil Gandor. Mull's variation on such classics as Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia has gotten great reviews from the staples of children's reviewing, such as Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, and Voice of Youth Advocates.

Our store event follows three school visits, which is a record for us for one day with an author. It was hard to believe that when Mull set up his own school tours, he would schedule as many as five schools into one day. Talk about heroic! And not just for kids either. Here's Susan Carpenter writing about the series in the Los Angeles Times. Carpenter notes "Mull elevates the genre, pairing humorous and imaginative scenarios with intelligence and well-written dialogue in a story that quickly involves Jason in a scheme to depose Lyria's evil emperor."

On Tuesday, March 27, we're hosting Carol Anshaw, author of the acclaimed novel, Carry the One. This #1 Indie Next Pick has been getting great reviews everywhere. It's the story of a wedding party that inadvertently (well, perhaps a little advertently, as there were some drugs involved) hit a young girl while traveling at night, with the reprecussions of her death following the characters for the next quarter century.

The focus of the story are three Chicago siblings, Carmen, and Nick. The children of an unpleasant artist and his obedient wife, the three kids would probably have problems even without this trauma in their life. Carmen, the oldest, is passionate and idealistic about various causes, and thus is blindsided when her husband leaves her for their baby sitter. Alice, a budding artist, falls in love with Carmen's sister-in-law, but is abandoned for men and Hollywood, leaving her with a bit of a hole in her heart. But the gapingist hole is reserved for Nick, whose girlfriend was driving the car and wound up spending years in prison. His scientific skills are no match for his need for self-medicating drugs. It ain't a pretty downward spiral.

Carmela Ciuraru writes in USA Today that "Carol Anshaw is one of those authors who should be a household name (in literature-loving homes, anyway). There's a good chance that her latest novel, Carry the One, will make it happen. It's her fourth work of fiction, and although her 1992 debut, Aquamarine, arguably remains her best novel, the more plot-driven Carry the One has great potential to bring her work to a wider readership."

I'm sad to note that Anshaw's backlist is now print on demand. While still on returnable trade terms, the printing process left us with not enough time to bring it in before our event. My advice to you? Start with Carry the One, and then move onto Aquamarine aftewards. Apologies in advance.

On Wednesday, March 28, 7 pm, we feature Benjamin Busch, author of the memoir Dust to Dust. You've read my thoughts on the book in a recent blog post. You may know him as the son of acclaimed author Frederick Busch. You may know him as police officer Anthony Colicchio on The Wire. Or you might just discover him here in the pages of his book.

Here's a bit from his Star Tribune profile: "Busch's personal history is a twisting path with the strength of his connection to the natural world running through it like a stream. His boyhood memories are peppered with long days spent digging trenches, building forts and exploring the forests beyond his childhood homes. He pursued even the objects he was warned from -- including water and bees -- his natural and indefatigable curiosity winning out over caution and safety."

And note that our own (well, can't we claim her a bit?) Christi Clancy will be opening this reading a piece that was first published in The New York Times. An alum of the UWM Creative Writing graduate program, Clancy is currently teaching at Beloit College.

And finally, on Thursday, March 29, 7:30 pm, we head over to UWM's Hefter Center on Lake Drive for the Boudreaux Reading. This year's featured speaker is Chase Twichell, author of the recent book of poetry, Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been. This volume features the best of Twichell's six volumes of poetry, covering thirty years of writing.

To quote: "A longtime student of Zen Buddhism, Twichell probes how the self changes over time and how the perception of self affects the history and meaning of our lives. Her poems exhibit a deep and urgent love of the natural world amidst ecological decimation, while also delving into childhood memories and the surprise and nourishment that come from radical shifts in perception."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Bestsellers? Do You Have The Hunger Games? Do You Have The Hunger Games? Do You Have The Hunger Games, and for a Change of Pace, Do You Have Catching Fire?

Yes, we have been blowing out the Suzanne Collins' trilogy all week. The film is playing at the Oriental, which helps things a bit. Oddly enough, another book that has hit the top of the lists in its self-published form, Fifty Shades of Grey, has slowed down in terms of requests. We were never able to get the original version in anyway; that's not the Vintage edition that's on The New York Times, even though it says it is; the Vintage edition is not out until April 3.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Be Different, by John Elder Robison (yes, the hardcover)
2. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (our event is Monday, April 16)
3. Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer
4. House of Stone, by Anthony Shadid
5. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Late as I am in getting displays up, we finally have our Anthony Shadid memorial table.  Shadid's first job after graduation from UW was for AP, based in Milwaukee, and he actually lived very close to Downer Avenue. Alas, he lived here when the street was between bookstores--just after Webster's closed in 1990 and before Schwartz returned in 1997.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Carry the One, by Carol Anshaw
2. Stay Close, by Harlen Coben
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. Expats, by Chris Pavone
5. Mirage, by Matt Ruff

Jim Higgins reviews Carol Anshaw's novel Carry the One in today's Journal Sentinel, alling the author a "sharp, commanding writer and often surprisingly funny." I like some humor laced in my drama, and as I've noted previously, so do you (other examples that have been Bowsell favorites are Eugenides, Barry, and also-represented-in-the-top-five Harbach).

Chris Pavone's Expats, already a national bestseller, also makes our top five this week. The Newark Star Ledger's reviewer congratulates Pavone for "crafting a thriller so good that you wonder what other ideas he has up his cloak. And our buyer Jason notes the irony that Matt Ruff's first pop in sales for us came when he took the book off the Boswell's Best. Mirage, the story of an alternate universe where American terrorists crashed planes into towers in Baghdad. The Onion's AV Club notes there are "enough interesting twists to the inverted-world discoveries to keep them surprising and clever through to the final pages." Ruff gets a B+, but one never knows what kind of curve the critic is grading on without context.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Be Different, by John Elder Robison
2. Look Me in the Eye, by John Elder Robison
3. The Dairy Farmer's Guide to the Universe, Volume 1, by Dennis Merritt
4. Uprising, by John Nichols
5. Please Stop Laughing at Me, by Jodee Blanco

Another sweep by event alums, though in Blanco's case, we were just selling books for her at Greenfield High. That said, we did promote the book in store and got at least a few Boswellians to head out there. I don't think Nichols has done an event in Milwakee yet for Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, though FOBs have noted that he had a very nice event in his home base of Madison. We had a great time with our Jungian guest Merritt too. But it was Robison who clearly made the impression with this week's list, capturing the top two slots.

Paperback Fiction:
1. No Miracles Required, by Jane Gillette
2. Open City, by Teju Cole
3. Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith
4. Horoscopes for the Dead, by Billy Collins
5. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin

Glaciers is one of those books that it looks like the mainstream media is overlooking, due to it being from indie Tin House. The Star Tribune (of Minneapolis, when you're kicking it old skool), notes that this is a "slim, emotionally precise debut.") But maybe it's time for some of the editors to take another look and review this.

Books for Kids:
1. The Trouble with Chickens, by Doreen Cronin
2. The Legend of Diamond Lil, Doreen Cronin
3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Cronin
4. Rescue Bunnies, by Doreen Cronin
5. Diary of a Fly, by Doreen Cronin
6. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

And then a bunch more Cronin and Collins, including, yes, the boxed set of hardcovers. And then more Peter Lerangis and 39 Clues books, after we reconciled our school visits for him. And then a few Easter books, with our bestsellers being Duck and Goose: Here Comes the Easter Bunny and Ten Easter Egg Hunters.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--Putting Out Ducks, Glasses, and Cards While Working the Front Desk.

As we were short of people today, I started the day at the front desk. In between helping customers, I received our new shipment of reader ducks. Being that we went almost six months with the product sold out, we decided to take no chances and order a bunch. These ducks are PVC free, but I don't think that's why they are a big hit. As the popular children's book says, "It's a book."

This has inspired me to broaden our rubber duck selection. The motif shows up on everything from key chains to kitchen timers. But my concern is that the books that tie in generally are environmental ones such as Death by Rubber Duck and Moby Duck. Doesn't seem like a good match. On the other hand, there are probably some kids' books that work well with the items. We'll see, I guess.

Last night Halley helped me get our new reading glasses on the floor. Several companies have tried to sell me sun readers, and this year I finally bit. I don't think this design is for everyone (for example, it's hardly unisex) but with the cat's eye design, you can pretend you're in Palm Springs or some other mid-century modern kind of place.

I breathe a sigh of relief that another rack is full, but then I turn around and the Mighty Bright Booklights, Out of Print tees, and Moleskine journal displays all look malnourished.  But we'll be getting stock for each of these lines shortly. And not one, but two customers came in for items I had just ordered--a Great Gatsby tee and a pop-up magnifier booklight. In each case, I was able to tag the orders instead of emailing a panic, hoping they could add another item on.

I didn't mention that we got in new spring boxed cards from Te Neues. Several of the lines came in new environmentally friendly packaging featuring designs from Sandra Isaksson. We'll see if customers bypass the glitz of plastic and sturdier cardboard for this green-friendly unbleched packaging. But so far, the bestseller has been a card called Paste Dogs, by Denise Fiedler.

Denise Fielder has been selling her work, also called Paste, since 2009. I wondered if she had licensed anything else, or if the cards were available loose, but to my knowledge, that is not the case. However, you can buy her prints online, or at one of the shops that carries them. In the Milwaukee area, it looks like they have been available at the Home Market in the Third Ward. Cool!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Short Post

1. I'm trying to cut back for a bit on crazy out-of-the-box offsite events while I do some training and other things to make the store better. So why did I just agree to do not one but two crazy offsite events for Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative in May? Perhaps it's because the book so inspires me that I can't help myself.

2. Reordered some book tees for special orders. After dipping our toe in the water for the bright red Clockwork Orange tee, we sold through quickly enough (with another special order) to bring in a larger assortment of sizes. So here's my question--why don't we sell the Anthony Burgess's novel better?

3. Here's another head scratcher. Do I follow my rep's advice and bring in some head scratchers?

4. Our reading glasses rack is full again, and we also received our reading ducks. But what do I think this is, the Saturday gift post? Well, based on when this is written, it almost is.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christopher Moore Inspires Every Bookseller's Urge to Create...a Blue Display.

Ever since I have been in bookselling, there has always been the tug of every display person I've worked with to creat displays based on the colors of books. I don't exempt myself, as we've had more than one post that noted a particular color palette lurking through recent releases.

But I've always spoken against the color display. Sure, it generally looks pretty, but what is it saying? And the merchant in me says, "What is it selling?" So for three years, I've been forcing all my booksellers to bottle up their creativity.

But then Christopher Moore came along with Sacré Bleu (on sale April 3), nothing if not an ode to the color blue. Set in 19th century France, it's the story of Lucien Lessard, a baker who gets a tube of ultramarine blue paint from the mysterious Juliette, as Library Journal puts it, "His painting becomes masterly and his life becomes a mess." To solve the mystery of the paint, Lessard's journey takes him across a canvas that include the masters--Renoir, Gaughin, Seurat, Monet, and Pisarro.

Here's what Boswellian Conrad had to say about Sacré Bleu: "Christopher Moore is our Wodehouse, albeit a twisted one. His novels inhabit a parallel universe oddly like our own but distinctly and humorously other. Sacré Bleu will satisfy your Moore itch and allow you once again to enter that tantalizing and bizarre world. As good as he gets."

And then the rumors started that there are color plates in the first edition. We don't know where it came from, but we certainly became obsessed with making sure we had a big order coming in. Big!  Because Christopher Moore's coming to Boswell, on Wednesday, April 11. And yes, the event is free!
I threatened last time to hit capacity, but we didn't quite make it. This time we want to fill the store. I'm already planning a line for folks outside for people to get their books signed after we get to our store's maximum.

But for now, I just want to have the bluest display ever. We found some totes, some candle votives, journals, and lots and lots of our favorite Polish wood boxes. And then we scoured the store for our very favorite blues novels--The Invisible Bridge, Day for Night, and our current fave (or it will be mine as soon as I read it, but for now I'm trusting Stacie), Glaciers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Five Things I've Been Meaning to Tell You.

1. I'm on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn show tomorrow at 10 am! There's pledge drives a happenin' so it's an abbreviated segment, but I'll still have a lot to say. Call in with your favorite book and perhaps I'll come up with what you should read next.

2. We've got a really great spring in store for you with events. I'm hoping to have an email shortly with all our April events. Highlights include Christopher Moore (I'm putting the finishing touches on a blog post) for Sacre Bleu on April 11 and Cheryl Strayed for Wild (April 16--it's the #1 Indie Next Pick for April). But we've also got authors speaking about everything from China (Eating Bitterness on April 9) to Al Capone (Deadly Valentines on April 10).

And the kids events! We've got not one but four amazing authors, starting with Trenton Lee Stewart at Boswell on April 12, Kate DiCamillo at Centennial Hall on April 17, Herman "Amelia Bedelia" Parish at Greenfield Public Library on April 19, and Michael Buckley at Shorewood Public Library on April 30. Check out the page that Stacie made with events just for kids. Buckley will be added any second (it's my fault, as I color-coded it wrong on our event grid).

3. And I'm still confirming great events in May, but here's one you should know about now. We're hosting the launch event for Will Allen's long-awaited book, The Good Food Revolution, on Saturday, May 12, 7 pm, at Boswell. It's going to be a fundraiser for Growing Power--a $5 ticket gets you $5 off the price of the new book, and all the ticket proceeds go back to Growing Power.  We hope to have tickets available by April 1.

4. Speaking of fundraising, we've got three really great programs going on with nonprofits. We're in the process of changing out our Boswell Benefits Beneficiary from Paul Farmer's Partners in Health to Literary Services of Wisconsin. I'm proud to say we've donated almost $2000 to the former organization, from folks who chose not to use their Benefits coupon. We're putting the finishing touches on a book donation program for Columbia St. Mary's health clinics. And next week, we'll be changing our art wall to showcase the work of schoolkids from Milwaukee Center for Independence. On April 3, we'll be hosting a reception for our young artists. I am very excited about their work.

5. I know it's not gift day, but I spent part of today receiving gift items, and I'm very pleased with our collection of kid stuff inspired by Goodnight Moon. We've got rattles, blankets, and beanbag plush. I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't stock it on our fall order--it must be my inclination to lump all bunnies with springtime.

If anything's wrong tonight, I will count on Sharon to let me know tomorrow, and it will be fixed. That's called proofing after the fact.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Legacies, both Family and Elmental, Grace Benjamin Busch's New Memoir, Dust to Dust. He's Appearing at Boswell on Wednesday, March 28, 7 pm

Much has been made of the father-son relationship over the years, or should I say over the centuries. I look back at my father and realize that while I was very different from him in some ways (love of folk dancing, for example), I am like him in many others.

Benjamin Busch was very different from his own father, Frederick, acclaimed author of The Night Inspector, North, and many other literary works. He was a cerebral guy, cautious of danger, wary of war. Both of Busch’s parents did their fair amount of war protesting. And though he settled his family in rural New York, he was not the kind of guy was who particularly connected to the land, though Benjamin’s mom did enjoy gardening.

You can only imagine how the elder Busches (Frederick is shown at left)  felt went their son enlisted in the Marines, albeit jumping from a stint in Vassar. If a Busch is going to join the armed forces, coming from a former all-women’s school seems the way to do it. And yes, Ben was the first male Vassar recruit ever. But this is not really a story of father-son conflict.

After two tours of Iraq, the younger Busch followed his wife to a teaching position in Michigan, where they settled in another rural area. Previous to that he honed his acting skills, appearing in several episodes of the acclaimed David Simon helmed cable show, “Homicide,” where he played both corpse and killer. And later he played a soldier in “Generation Kill.” Yes, he was a soldier and also played a soldier.

He made a film, “Sympathetic Details,” that has played in film festivals all over the country. And yes, he wrote too. It’s Busch’s connections to the land that connect his accomplished first memoir, Dust to Dust. Each chapter takes an elemental—water, metal, wood, blood and more—and connects the stories of his youth, wartime, and adult lives. It might be the blood of a high school football sprain that links to carnage in Iraq, or the metal pennies that Ben crushes on railroad tracks leading to an almost-fatal helicopter crash during his training.

Whether it’s the rings on a tree or the cracking of bones, the younger Busch notes that all these elements signal our brief walk through life. And Busch connects his life, and that of his family, and perhaps all of us, to these primal materials that connect both the world and our bodies. After all, the last section of this memoir is “Ashes."

I guess in a lot of ways, I am more like the elder Busch in my perspective, though perhaps even moreso, as I would probably not locate my primary home in a rural area. My perspective would be more akin to Ava Gabor in “Green Acres”, only with an emptier wallet and a different accent. Here I am reading about someone so connected to materials in a way that I am rather removed.

I was thinking about the audience for the book as I spoke to Michael at Ecco, and told him it reminded me a bit Michael Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work. I guess that was not far off, as Michael noted that this same comparison was used by the editor at a sales meeting.

Benjamin Busch's memoir, Dust to Dust,goes on sale today, March 20. We'll be hosting Mr. Busch at Boswell on Wednesday, March 28, 7 pm. Opening for him will be writer Christi Clancy. Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's Going on at Boswell This Week? Merritt on Jung and Nature, the Mysterious Gillette, Robison on Aspergers, and Doughty on Music and Overcoming Addiction.

We've got a nice assortment of locals and touring authors this week. Tonight, March 19, at 7 pm, we host Dennis Merritt, author of The Dairy Farmer's Guide to the Universe: Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology Volume 1: Jung and Ecopsychology. There are four volumes eventually scheduled to be published. #2 is The Cry of Merlin, #3 is Hermes and the Cows, and #4 is An Archetypal View of the Land, Weather, Seasons, and the Planet of the Insects.

Merritt notes that Carl Jung believed that there needed to be a major paradigm shift if we were to avert the apocalyptic conditions described in the Book of Revelation (for more on this aside, read Elaine Pagel's new Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation), coining the term "New Age" (so that's where the term came from) to describe the paradigm shift. Join us for some integrated consciousness tonight.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20, we are hosting Jane Gillette, whom many of you know as area resident Jane Bednarek. She has written a series of mysteries, with one recommended by our mystery expert Anne. In fact, our mystery group will be attending the event tongiht, to talk about the book No Miracles Required at their next meeting.

The newest installment follows Inspector Freddy Donovan and the Belmont police as they investigate both the mysterious corpse that showed up in Star Lake, and the harrassment of writer Iris Woolsey, after a facetious remark about a dead body.

On Thursday,  March 22, 7 pm, we are hosting John Elder Robison for the paperback release of his second book, Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian. This event is co-sponsored by Austism Speaks, and as a fundraiser, the five dollar ticket/admission will go straight to Autism Speaks' Milwaukee outpost. Mr. Robison is on the board of the national organization. In addition, ticket holders will get 20% off the cost of Be Different, either the paperback (arriving tomorrow) or the hardcover.

Robison, also the author of Look Me in the Eye, is the brother of Augusten Burroughs, but their point of similarity is mostly that they are both very funny people. Robison has also been profiled in The New York Times, as both his son and his son's girlfriend have Asperger's. Boswell will close to the general public at 6:30 pm, but since we are not sold out, you can still browse the front of the store with a five dollar pledge to Autism Speaks.

More information about their big fundraiser, Walk Now for Autism Speaks, on Saturday, April 28, here. And more about Robison here.

And finally, this coming Sunday, March 25, at a special time of 4 pm, we're hosting Mike Doughty, author of the memoir, The Book of Drugs. Doughty is a touring musican who first rose to prominence as a member of Soul Coughing ("I don't need to walk around in circles, walk around in circles...") In his memoir, he discusses his life through music, drugs, and self-reinvention.

Here's a nice shout out from Rosanne Cash: "Sex,,drugs, and rock 'n' roll have never been desconstructed with such literary elegance and self-deprecating honesty. This is a tremendously brave and honest book: funny, sad, jarring, and achingly true."

Hope something strikes your fancy this week.