Monday, March 24, 2014

Brigid Pasulka at Boswell on Tuesday, Angela Sorby on Wednesday, and a Preview for Joel Greenfield at the Urban Ecology Center on Monday 3/31.

We only have two events this week, partly because I am attending my aunt's 80th birthday party in Orlando, but each one of them had a nice publicity hit over the weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 7:30  pm, at Boswell:
Brigid Pasulka, author of The Sun and Other Stars

Pasulka won the PEN/Hemingway award for A Long, Long, Time Ago and Essentially True, and it was a book I enjoyed handselling in paperback. It's the story of a family legacy in Poland, through two lovers on the eve of World War II, and their granddaughter fifty years later who returns to the homeland. Sales of the previous book have picked up in advance of this event.

Her new novel, The Sun and Other Stars, trades Poland for Italy. It's the story of Etto, a young man in mourning for the deaths of his mother and brother, and estranged from his father. A famous but currently disgraced Ukrainian soccer star comes to town in hiding, with his beautiful sister in tow, and that leads to some awakening of spirit in Etto and when the town figures out what's happening, some craziness.

For all of you who said you liked Beautiful Ruins, but not the Hollywood parts, this is your story. And if you like soccer, it's a truly football obsessed novel, but I should really call it "calcio" in this case. Publishers Weekly wrote "The resulting complications could easily have been cloyingly "heartwarming, " but Pasulka avoids cliche with some lovely writing (Etto, falling for Zhuki, decides her name sounds like "the waves foaming up on the beach in the winter"), well-placed low humor, and specificity of place. Readers will be crossing their fingers for Etto to find some well-deserved happiness."

But it's The New York Times review this weekend that was a breath of fresh air, after a rather mean-spirited, almost vindictive writeup from the Chicago Tribune*. I wonder what the backstory on that. Yes, it's an old fashioned tale, free from, as Mike Peed, genre mashing and excel spreadsheets. But "the sincerity of this tale of psychological recovery gratifies. As it hums to its conclusion, the reader is pleased by the realization that San Benedetto’s most aggrieved native is, at last, learning how to, 'you know, live.'"

Wednesday, March 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Angela Sorby, author of Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children's Poetry

Angela Sorby and I started talking together about this presentation just after the new year. It's a great collection of children's verse, and I think there are a lot of our customers who would like to hear more about it. At Boswell, Jannis has lauded it as a wonderful find. That said, it's published as an academic work, so it might not wind up in every parent's nursery, even though it should!

So as we were playing around with dates, we missed the February deadline (it was a busy month for winter) and Over the River and Through the Wood's event wound up in March. So what's wrong with that? At this point, it might not even snow (though an inch is scheduled for this evening)? The problem is that the event now mashed up against Sorby's next book! Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review came out and highlighted the talented Sorby's newest book of poetry, The Sleeve Waves (University of Wisconsin Press). But we are no the launch for that--I think that is with fellow poet Joanne Diaz at the Sugar Maple on Wednesday, April 16, 7 pm, complete with a reception and black turtlenecks galore.

So back to Jim Higgins' terrific review in the Journal Sentinel. All I'm saying is that we may have a few copies of Sorby's The Sleeve Waves on sale, but you are not to celebrate too much, as we are pre-pub date. The true toasts come on April 16 in Bay View. Instead, you are to spend an evening being delighted by classic children's poetry. Do you understand or am I going to have to make you go to your room without your tablet?

Preview of Monday, March 31, 7 pm, at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place: Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. This event has a $5 admission for members, $10 for nonmembers.

From the UEC: naturalist Joel Greenberg wanted to mark the centenary of the passenger pigeon's extinction by writing a book with a broader hope that the anniversary could be a vehicle for informint the public about the bird and the importance that its story has to current conservation issues. How could a species that numbered in the billions as late as 1860 completely disappear by 1914? What does that say about our current relationship with the natural world?

More about A Feathered River Across the Sky on Joel Greenberg's website.

*I would normally not link to a review like this but I was sort of shocked by how disparaging it was to a Chicagoan like Pasulka.  Looking at Jollimore's body of work (poetry and philosophy), he's incredibly accredited and equally talented, but he seems like the wrong match for a book like this. But as I started to think about whether things would be different if the review had been in the Los Angeles Times or the Miami Herald, I realized how the most difficult job is theater critic (which amusingly enough, our book critics share) because outside of New York, the productions are almost always local that you're reviewing and they can't all be amazing. So honestly, I'm not sure what I would have done if I were in the editor's shoes.  Do you run a really bad review of a local author's book, do you nuance it, or do you kill it and suggest it be submitted elsewhere? Let the replies pour forth.

Addendum: My first reply was from Ann at Lake Forest Bookshop, who wrote an essay about this topic for the Books on the Table blog. It also is a beautiful recommendation for Brigid Pasulka's novel. 

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