Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week's Event Post--Anita Shreve, Peter Lerangis, Eben Alexander, Stephen Jimenez, and Alisa Solomon.

It's our last jam-packed event week of 2013. It's a great slate of authors, so I hope you find something to mark on your calendar. To make sure I get out this post in a timely manner, I often rely on publisher copy or variations there of. In our variations, sometimes we get a plot point wrong in our description, though I have to say that for this week, I've read three of the five featured titles (Shreve, Jimenez, and Solomon).

Monday, November 18, 7 pm, at Boswell: Anita Shreve, author of Stella Bain.

We are thrilled to be welcoming back Anita Shreve, who of course you all know is one of the official ribbon cutters of Boswell, back in 2009. She visited with Mameve Medwed and Elinor Lipman for her novel, Testimony.

Her new novel has a link to that novel, as the story hinges a bit on a courtroom battle. But Stella Bain also harkens back to another Shreve novel. So far it seems the critics are not giving away the secret, so I'm going to go along with the plan. All I'll say is that Shreve fans will half a revelation about halfway through the story.

Here's the setup. An American woman is found with shrapnel wounds on the battlefield of Marles, France, during World War I. She's been working as a nurse, but she's also able to fill in as a driver, bringing wounded back from the battlefield. Her memories have been completely wiped out, though she has a strange desire to somehow reach the admiralty in London.

What is she running from? Or to? And can August Bridge help her heal her wounds enough to finish her story. And yes, that's a hint!

And don't forget about 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."

Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of 17 novels: Eden Close, Strange Fits of Passion, Where or When, Resistance, The Weight of Water, The Pilot's Wife, Fortune's Rocks, The Last Time They Met, Sea Glass, All He Ever Wanted, Light on Snow, A Wedding in December, Body Surfing, Testimony, A Change in Altitude, Rescue, and now Stella Bain. Four of her novels have been collected in The Fortune's Rocks omnibus. The Weight of Water was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and The Pilot's Wife was an Oprah Book Club selection.

Tuesday, November 19, 4 pm, at the Shorewood Public Library: Peter Lerangis, author of Seven Wonders Book 2: Lost in Babylon:

Percy Jackson meets Indiana Jones in this bestselling epic adventure series, the first installment of which was praised by Rick Riordan as “a high-octane mix of modern adventure and ancient secrets….Young readers will love this story. I can't wait to see what's next in the Seven Wonders series!"

Jack McKinley and his race are on a mission to find the Loculi that have been hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In Lost in Babylon, Jack travels to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where he discovers a world out of time and is faced with a dilemma unlike any he'd ever imagined.

Peter Lerangis is the author of more than one hundred and sixty books, including several in the 39 Clues series. These books have sold more than five million copies and been translated into thirty different languages.

The Shorewood Public Library is located at 3920 N. Murray Avenue, just south of Capitol Drive. For more information, contact the library at (414) 847-2670.

Tuesday, November 19, 7 pm, at Boswell: Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven, on tour for the Deluxe Edition with DVD.

Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people. A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDEs, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Eben Alexander, M.D., has been an academic neurosurgeon for the last twenty-five years, including fifteen years at the Brigham and Women's, the Children's Hospitals, and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

This event is free and open to the public, though we may close doors if we reach capacity. If you are interested in attending, I would consider arriving by 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, November 20, 7 pm, at Boswell: Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.

Stephen Jimenez is an award-winning journalist, writer and producer. He was a 2012 Norman Mailer Nonfiction Fellow and has written and produced programs for ABC News 20/20, Dan Rather Reports, Nova, Fox, Court TV and others. His accolades include the Writers Guild of America Award, the Mongerson Award for Investigative Reporting, an Emmy, and fellowships at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. A graduate of Georgetown University, he has taught screenwriting at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and other colleges. He lives in New York and Santa Fe.

Late on the night of October 6, 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming with two alleged “strangers,” Aaron McKin­ney and Russell Henderson. Eighteen hours later, Matthew was found tied to a log fence on the outskirts of town, unconscious and barely alive. He had been pistol-whipped so severely that the mountain biker who discovered his battered frame mistook him for a Halloween scarecrow. Overnight, a politically expedient myth took the place of important facts. By the time Matthew died a few days later, his name was synonymous with anti-gay hate.

The Book of Matt has definitely been controversial, which is one of the reasons why I read the book before scheduling the event. More on a previous Boswell and Books blog post.

Here's Jimenez talking to Rachel Martin on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered: "I certainly did not write the book to make the case that it wasn't a hate crime. I wrote the book so that I could examine the complex set of circumstances, the entanglements that existed behind this crime. Hatred is something that is a background to so much of our lives today. It exists in so many forms. Could there have been some form of hatred that was in play that night? Absolutely. But the point of the book is to say, what was the web of factors that played out here?"

Thursday, November 21, 7 pm, at Boswell: Alisa Solomon, author of Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof

In the half-century since its premiere, Fiddler on the Roof has had an astonishing global impact. Beloved by audiences the world over, performed from rural high schools to grand state theaters, Fiddler is a supremely potent cultural landmark. Now, in a history as captivating as its subject, award-winning drama critic Alisa Solomon traces how and why the story of Tevye the milkman, the creation of the great Yiddish writer Sholem-Aleichem, was reborn as blockbuster entertainment and a cultural touchstone, not only for Jews and not only in America.

It is first a story of the theater, as Solomon follows Tevye from his humble appearance on the New York Yiddish stage, through his adoption by leftist dramatists as a symbol of oppression, to his Broadway debut in one of the last big book musicals, and to his ultimate destination—a major Hollywood picture. And it is a cultural story, of a show that spoke to the deepest conflicts and desires the world over: the fraying of tradition, generational tension, the loss of roots. Audiences everywhere found in Fiddler immediate resonance and a usable past—whether in Warsaw, where the musical unlocked the taboo subject of Jewish history, or in Tokyo, where the producer asked how Americans could understand a play that is “so Japanese.”

I'm not the only fan of this book. Mike Fischer raved about it in Sunday's Journal Sentinel. His take: "Solomon's story of how a dedicated white teacher and his nonwhite students forged their own Anatevka — amid the hate-filled assailants who tried to destroy it — is first-rate journalism. It's also a stirring testament to why theater matters — making it a microcosm of this thrilling, must-read book."

More on the Boswell and Books blog.

Alisa Solomon teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she directs the Arts and Culture concentration in the MA program. A theater critic and general reporter for The Village Voice from 1983 to 2004, she has also contributed to The New York Times, The Nation, Tablet, The Forward, and other publications. Her first book, Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.

This event is co-sponsored by the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM, as well as the Harry and Rose Samson Family Milwaukee JCC.

Next Tuesday, November (editor's note: we corrected the month) 26, we're hosting The Grinch from 4-6 pm. It's a launch for the 25 Days of Grinchmas, where you can grow your heart three sizes. Take a picture with the Grinch, and of course we'll have activities too.

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