Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Event Post--Amy Tan tonight, plus Rick Dodgson on Ken Kesey, Jane Kelley at the Weyenberg Library, Rich Cohen on the 1985 Chicago Bears, and Two Double Headers--Douglas Trevor and Charles Blackstone on Thursday, Ernest Loesser and Jayson Iwen on Friday.

Monday, November 11, 7 pm, at Alverno College's Wehr Hall:
Amy Tan, author of The Valley of Amazement.

Lesley Downer's essay for The New York Times Book Review begins as follows: "'When I was 7, I knew exactly who I was.' With these words, Violet, the principal narrator of Amy Tan’s latest novel, The Valley of Amazement, begins her story. Yet over the course of the book, Violet’s certainty about her identity — and nearly everything else — will be turned upside down."

Her assessment? "Its array of colorful multilayered stories is given further depth by Tan’s affecting depictions of mothers and daughters. Here are strong women struggling to survive all that life has to throw at them, created by a writer skilled at evoking the roil of emotions and mad exploits they experience when they follow their hearts"

Just a reminder that we've moved the event to Wehr Hall, so the best place to park is the lot at 43rd Street and Morgan Avenue. Doors will open by 6:30 pm.

Advanced ticket sales are closed, but walk-up sales are still available.

Tuesday, November 12, 6:30 pm, at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library, 11345 N. Cedarburg Rd in Mequon:
Jane Kelley, author of The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya.

An African grey parrot and a sick girl bond in the newest novel from Milwaukee-area native Kelley. She'll be speaking at the Weyenberg Public Library, as well as appearing at two area schools. If you can't make our event, she'll also be appearing at Oconomowoc's Books and Company on Wednesday, November 13.

I found an interesting interview with Kelley in a blog based in Park Slope, where she now lives. Mary's interview with Jane in the Park Slope Stoop:
Here's an excerpt from

Mary: What inspired you to write The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, 
and who should put it on their must-read list?

Jane Kelley: The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya grew out of my fascination with African grey parrots. Our cat communicates with me as best she can, but parrots can actually talk. I decided it would be a lot of fun to get inside a parrot’s head. And it was! Zeno has the intelligence of a 5-year-old, but his emotional level is more like a toddler’s. The other main character in the book is Alya, a girl who is struggling with cancer. I had cancer myself 12 years ago. I knew how important it is to keep trying, even when you’ve lost your sense of self, as both Zeno and Alya do in the novel. This book could be important for anyone who needs encouragement, as well as anyone who enjoys humorous adventures. Like many arrogant people, Zeno is unintentionally funny.

Tuesday, November 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Rick Dodgson, author of It's All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey

We originally heard about this book through Elena, the publicist at University of Wisconsin Press. Dodgson teaches history at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, and this book began as a dissertation. Steve Helig in the San Francisco Chronicle found the book a worthy read: "'Fame is a wart,' Kesey opined, after he had found it and found it wanting. This book ends as Kesey was about to gain renown, but to him it was bigger than literary success. 'We're on the verge of something very fantastic' he predicted in 1963, 'and I believe our generation will be the one to pull it off.'"

When I first booked this event, Professor Dodgson asked me whether we wanted a more traditional reading or something more out of the box, combining art, music, and literature. "Out of the box!," we replied, of course. That's what you would have wanted, right?

Wednesday, November 13, 7 pm, at Bowell:
Rich Cohen, author of Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football

If Boswell was located in the suburbs, I'm not sure I could get away with a book about the Chicago Bears, even that reminisces about the 1985 team. But with us having hosted not one but three Green Bay Packers events, and being located in the city, where there are a lot of Chicago transplants, please allow us to represent a diversity of voices.

About the book: Rich Cohen was seventeen years old when the Bears won their first and only Super Bowl; he was in the Super Dome when they defeated the New England Patriots 46-10. In Monsters, he breathlessly recounts the thrilling narrative of their championship season. It’s a story filled with outsized characters and unbelievable-but-true anecdotes gleaned from extensive interviews with the players themselves. It’s a story about fathers and sons, love and loyalty, hope and redemption, pain and joy. It’s a story about football, in all its beauty and all its brutality—the uniquely American sport.

Cohen earned an A- from Mike Bruno in Entertainment Weekly, who notes: "Cohen really hits his stride when he digs into the '85 season and the team's steamroll to victory in New Orleans. He ends with a fairly heartbreaking 'Where Are They Now'' update that lays bare his pride and compassion for the warriors who brought glory to Chi-Town for one unforgettable moment."

Thursday, November 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Charles Blackstone, author of Vintage Attraction, with Douglas Trevor, author of Girls I Know.

The first of our two double-headers, Charles Blackstone is based in Chicago where he is the managing editor of Bookslut.

About the book: Before Peter Hapworth meets Izzy, he knows the difference between Pinot Noir and peanut butter, but that's about it. Lonely and frustrated with his academic career--as well as with dating--his life takes a sudden turn one night when he turns on the television. He's transfixed by the woman staring back at him, a glass of wine swirling delicately in her hand--Isabelle Conway, one of the preeminent sommeliers in the world. There's something about her. Somehow, he feels like he already knows her.

On a whim, he pitches himself as a guest on her popular TV show, and the two embark on a whirlwind courtship. But relationships require a delicate balance of nurturing and belief, much like winemaking. Hapworth and Izzy must navigate the complex mysteries of wine--and the heart--from glamorous social events and domestic travails in Chicago to the vineyards and rocky bluffs of Santorini in Greece. Vintage Attraction is a rich and insightful novel by an exciting, young literary talent.

Blackstone notes in this interview with Kevin Nance in the Chicago Tribune that this story is inspired by noted his courtship of noted sommelier Alpana Singh.

Appearing with Blackstone is Douglas Trevor, author of the novel, Girls I Know. Trevor teaches at the University of Michigan. He is the 2005 winner of the Iowa Short Fiction prize.

Publishers Weekly calls Douglas Trevor’s Girls I Know an “affecting and smoothly written debut novel.” In it, a young man survives a shooting in his favorite Boston cafe that leaves four people dead. He befriends the 11-year-old daughter of two of the victims and a Harvard co-ed researching a nonfiction book. Wounded but resilient, all three must deal with loss and grief and the consequences that come when their lives change in unexpected ways.

This event is co-sponsored by the Harry and Rose Samson Family Milwaukee Jewish Community Center.

Friday, November 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jayson Iwen, author of Gnarly Wounds, with Ernest Loesser, author of Road Film.

Our friend Bryan Tomasovich has set up another fine evening of writers from Emergency Press. Just released is Jayson (at right) Iwen's Gnarly Wounds, which tells the tale of one man's horrifyingly funny journey through grief, madness, and amnesia. In three linked novellas, Jayson Iwen takes readers into a smart and raunchy dreamscape full of riddles, jokes, and metaphysics, with a cast that includes the ridiculous son of an eastern European dictator, monks, witches, soldiers, furry animals, an ex-hitman, a super strong baby, and more.

Framed as a cinematic odyssey, Ernest Loesser's Road Film owes its debt to the famous road movies from the 1960s-80s. Every reader rides shotgun on a trajectory into an American imagination full of joy and angst. Loesser's mix of prose and verse displays the best of the tradition of the New Sentence-and his work as a journalist in New York as a young man, post 9/11. The result reassembles all the broken episodes collected along the lost highways of America: discarded and violent news reports, local and violent rumors, and the unverifiable stories passed from one traveler to the next.

Jayson Iwen is also author of A Momentary Jokebook and Six Trips in Two Directions. He's studied and worked in software, security, insurance, construction, ecology, and education in a number of different countries, including the U.S., Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon.

Loesser is the also the author of Touched by Lightning, a collection of obituaries, news reports, and other prose poems. He earned his B.A. in Journalism at NYU, and an M.A. in English at Texas A and M University. Both authors now live in Wisconsin.

Sunday (thanks for catching this, Sharon!), November 17, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Nina Edelman, presenting Max Gendelman's A Tale of Two Solidiers, as part of the Shir Hadash shopping day.

“This World War II memoir is a remarkable history of survival and friendship. If an American military sniper—a young Jewish man from Milwaukee—can befriend a German Luftwaffe pilot and become lifelong friends, then we can all certainly hope for a better world.”'—Wolf Blitzer, CNN

Nina Edelman, will discuss her father’s memoir, A Tale of Two Soldiers. Max Gendelman was a young Jewish G.I. taken prisoner in the Battle of the Bulge, where he witnessed horrific images that left him shell-shocked. For sixty years Max Gendelman avoided painful memories by nurturing his family, business, and a lifelong friendship with the German Luftwaffe pilot who helped him escape. He received the Purple Heart and was named by the French Republic "Chevalier of The Legion Of Honor." He died in June 2012, just a month after he finished A Tale of Two Soldiers.

Sneek Peak for Next Week: Monday, November 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Anita Shreve, author of Stella Bain and other novels.

You may remember that Anita Shreve is one of our trio of novelists who participated in Boswell's ribbon cutting ceremony. We're so honored to have her back at Boswell for Stella Bain.

Here's our rec from Jane Glaser: "Wounded and shell shocked on the World War I battlefields of France, Stella Bain's journey from amnesia to self discovery begins with a happenstance encounter in the London garden of a doctor and his wife. Lily and Anthony care for Stella as her remembrances gradually emerge and the connection with a mysterious woman named Etna Bliss Van Tassel begins. In this well written story of psychological drama and historical fiction, readers are given, through the voice of Stella, an often ignored portrait of how profoundly women who served as nurses and ambulance drivers suffered the horrors of the wartime experience. Written with insight and compassion I was intrigued by this plot twisting story of loss, memory, love and the limits of forgiveness."

And here's the Publishers Weekly review, which proclaims "Shreve’s 17th novel is a tragic yet hopeful story of love, memory, loss, and rebuilding."

Hope to see you at one of this week's events!

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