Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Event Preview: Thomas Mickey at the Milwaukee Public Libary Tonight, Plus at Boswell, Joshua Ferris Tonight, Robert Tanzilo on Wednesday, and Michael Mair on Thursday.

Monday, May 19, 6 pm, at Milwaukee Public Library's Rare Book Room, 807 West Wisconsin Ave., 2nd floor: Thomas Mickey, author of America's Romance with the English Garden.

As the publisher notes, America's Romance with the English Garden is the story of tastemakers and homemakers that created a gardening revolution, of savvy businessmen and a growing American middle class eager to buy their products. It's also the story of the beginnings of the modern garden industry, which seduced the masses with its images and fixed the English garden in the mind of the American consumer. Seed and nursery catalogs delivered aspirational images to front doorsteps from California to Maine, and the English garden became the look of America.

And this from Publishers Weekly: "This Anglophilia is still strongly felt in American horticulture and is reflected in the (nearly) homogenous suburban landscapes across the American continent. We can trace 21st-century lawns and annual beds in sunny California from the images in 19th-century advertisements. Mickey has thoughtfully woven together an American landscape design history with a critical examination of how commercial interests and mass media shape our preferences, even in our humble backyards. Color illus. throughout."

ForeWord Reviews recommends Mickey's work for "history buffs and professional gardeners offers rich insight into how seed catalogs influenced the American obsession with social status."

Monday, May 19, 7 pm, at Boswell: Joshua Ferris, author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour and Then We Came to the End.

Joshua Ferris is winning raves for his new novel, where he combines the skewering of work life (in this case a dental practice) from Then We Came to the End, with a philosophical meditation on identity that first reared its head in The Unnamed.

Lauren Groff calls the author "brave and adept" in The New York Times Book Review. And here's Ron Charles in The Washington Post: "It's a deceptively comic treatment of Emily Dickinson's claim that 'Narcotics cannot still the Tooth/ That nibbles at the soul.' Ferris has managed to blend the clever satire of his first book, , with the grinding despair of his second, The Unnamed. The result is a witty story that chews on Internet scams, relationship killers, crackpot theology, baseball mania and the desperate loneliness of modern life." One day this guy is going to be too big to come to Boswell and you're going to regret missing out on him.

Plus here's John Freeman in The Boston Globe who calls To Rise Again...: "an engrossing and hilariously bleak novel about a dentist being shook out of his comfortable atheism."

Have we mentioned that the hero is a dentist? Little, Brown is playing this up wit promotional floss. I brought a batch to my dentist, Dr. Dewan, to see if this stuff met his standards for giving out. Lora, the office manager, is a good FOB (friend of Boswell) and wouldn't steer us wrong. While Dewan Dental does prefer unwaxed floss, this still passed the test, so come to the event and get one of the strangest promotional giveaways I've seen in some time.

Wednesday, May 21, 7 pm, at Boswell: Robert Tanzilo, author of Hidden History of Milwaukee.

Little did I expect when I worked for years with Bobby Tanzilo at Schwartz that he would one day be my go-to guy (or at least one of my go-to guys or gals) for Milwaukee History. But now he's at Boswell for his third book with History Press, which looks like it might be his most popular to date.

Mr. Tanzilo has used his "Urban Spelunking" series that he writes for as a jumping-off point for Hidden History of Milwaukee. Per Andy Tarnoff in a recent profile, "Those stories have taken him to the top of St. Josaphat's and City Hall, out to the Breakwater Lighthouse, and down into tunnels beneath the South Side and through the rubble of collapsed buildings to see long-idle beer storage caves."

With a tenacity I can only dream for, Tanzilo has visited the St. Josphiat's lantern, the City Hall bell tower, and the wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum. He holds out hope to still visit the North Point Water Tower and the Linnwood Water Treatment Facility, though so far he has not been successful.

And yes, there will be slides!

Thursday, May 22, 7 pm, at Boswell: Michael Mair, author of Kaiten: Japan's Secret Manned Suicide Submarine and the First American Ship It Sank in WWII.

Platteville businessman and historian Michael Mair is the son of a USS Mississinewa survivor who began research for this book in 1995, including extensive interviews with other survivors and naval personnel stationed in the Pacific at the crucial time in 1944. He has appeared on various History Channel programs, has served as consultant for the program Sea Hunters, and has contributed to Naval History magazine.

Together with Joy Waldron, her had written Kaiten, the story of the manned suicide submarine Katien that the blew up the USS Mississinewa in 1944. Per Mair, it was a weapon so secret that even Japanese naval commanders didn't know of its existence. And the Americans kept it secret as well. Embarrassed by the shocking surprise attack, the U.S. Navy refused to salvage or inspect the sunken Mighty Miss. Only decades later would the survivors understand what really happened at Ulithi, when a diving team located the wreck in 2001. Mair and waldron tell the story for

Mair and Waldron tell the full story from both sides, from the strategic importance of the USS Mississinewa to newly revealed secrets of the Kaiten development and training schools. U.S. Navy survivors recount their gripping experiences in the wake of the attack, as well as the harrowing recovery efforts that came later. Japanese pilots reveal their terrifying experiences training to die for their country and Emperor, never knowing when their moment of doom would come.

David Sears, author of Pacific Air, calls Kaiten: "A crisp, persuasive narrative about a little-known, but startling World War II attack...Mair and Waldron portray the story from both perspectives, constantly building to a dramatic, fiery crescendo."

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

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