Monday, June 23, 2014

Boswell's Event Blast: Ann Garvin Tonight, Susan Simensky Bietila on Tuesday, and a Preivew for Jonathan Lethem Next Monday.

Monday, June 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ann Garvin, author of The Dog Year.

Matt Mueller writes about Ann Garvin's inspiration in

"'I remember years ago – probably the late '90s--I saw a woman try to shoplift a purse from TJ Maxx,' Garvin said. 'At the time of it, she looked like she knew she was obviously caught, and then she thought she was going to make a break for it but she didn't She gave up on that immediately. And it made me feel so sad for her. I just kept thinking, "My god, what's going through her mind? And now what?" I thought about it often over the years, and whenever I'd see a sign that said shoplifting steals from all of us or something, unfortunately for that woman, I'd think of her.'

"Years later, that memory gave Garvin the inspiration for her lead character in The Dog Year: Dr. Lucy Peterman, a well-respected surgeon who turns to stealing to stay level after an accident takes away her husband and unborn child. She soon resorts to swiping supplies from her own hospital, a decision that gets her caught and reluctantly dragged into a 12-step program for help."

The Dog Year deals with overcoming grief, which is something everyone has to go through. And while we don't all find our grief manifested in kleptomania (perhaps because more of us aren't caught? Theft prevention specialists periodically talk to booksellers about opportunity thieves, and there are more of them than you imagine), many of us have found an animal companion to help us make it through.

A quote inside a quote inside a quote goes double, single, double, right? And below is a video contemplating another potential market I should be chasing for Garvin's novel.

Tuesday, June 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Susan Simensky Bietila, contributor to World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-2014.

World War 3 Illustrated  is a collective-based operation that is now celebrating its 25th anniversary, who raised the money for their most recent project on Kickstarter. Recently a panel was put together at MoCCA Fest in New York, featuring various contributors, moderated by Publishers Weekly's graphica enthusiast, Calvin Reid, who described World War 3 Illustrated as "an open platform for protest." Hannah Means Shannon covers the program in this Bleeding Cool blog post.

Publishers Weekly (unsigned, but almost definitely Calvin Reid) writes: " Far ahead of its time, World War 3 paved the way for the more established forms of comics journalism now. Even when the passion on display here overcomes craft, this is an indispensable collection of groundbreaking comics."

While we were not able to get six contributors to volunteer to come to Milwaukee, the town is fortunate enough to have Susan Simensky Bietila in residence, a longtime part of the collective, who appeared at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops for The Wobblies collection.

Bietilla's work includes drawing, printmaking, documentary and pictorialist photography, political comics, art criticism, and guerrilla theater. She's been a Milwaukeean since 1986.

Monday, June 30, 7 pm at Boswell:
Jonathan Lethem (photo credit John Lucas), author of Dissident Gardens.

From The American Reader's review by Hal Parker: "Jonathan Lethem never writes a single novel when he can write three novels rolled into one, and Dissident Gardens is no exception. It is a neighborhood novel: the author’s peripatetic imagination, which has wandered in previous works from Brooklyn’s Court Street (Motherless Brooklyn, 1999) and Boerum Hill (The Fortress of Solitude) to Manhattan’s Upper East Side (Chronic City, 2009), now re-crosses the East River to rest in Queens’ Sunnyside Gardens. It is a political novel, one whose plot is shaped by the vicissitudes of the Popular Front, the machinations and intrigue of American Communism, Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and even the crepuscular spasms of the Occupy Movement. Finally, it is a multi-generational family novel, in the style of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901), narrating the fates of three generations of American radicals along with a few of their relatives and associates. "

My recommendation: "Drummed out of the communist party for sleeping with a Black guy (and a police officer to boot), Rose Angrush Zimmer isn’t one to have anyone tell her what to do. The same can probably set for her lefty daughter Miriam Zimmer Gogan, which is why their relationship consists of a lot of ideological arguing. But this sprawling novel is more than just mothers and daughters; it’s a multi-generational, heartfelt Franzenesque story about identity and belonging, with an emphasis on rejecting said identity. Everything I love about a novel is here, from dysfunctional family politics to a sprawling subculture that is the political left, to the Queens setting, which of course is where I grew up. The result is super-smart, funny, heartfelt, intensely discussable and often cantankerous novel!"

Here's a map of the book that appeared in New York Magazine. It also notes that Rose Zimmer is inspired by Lethem's grandmother, Minna Frank.

We've hosted some of my favorite authors during Summerfest in year's past, including Sapphire and Andrew Sean Greer. I didn't really understand this Monday break day, but now I have figured out it was all so that we could sneak in Lethem. But being featured in the midst of Summerfest seems appropriate for Lethem, who is well versed in music criticism, having written essays on James Brown and Bob Dylan for Rolling Stone, a rock and roll novel (You Don't Know Me Yet) and one of the 33 1/3 series, for The Talking Heads: Fear of Music, which was, per the publishing copy, "tackling one of his great adolescent obsessions and illuminating the ways in which we fall in and out of love with works of art."

It was also the soundtrack to my sophomore year of college. And when I moved to Milwaukee, one of the things everyone would say was that Jerry Harrison lived in Shorewood. Was it really true? Probably, though I never met him. I do have proof in this 26 second club of the 2010 Shorewood High School All Star Band.

How's that for meandering off topic? Hope to see you at one of this week's events.

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