Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Email Newsletter Has Gone Out, The Award Nominations are Coming In for Current and Former Boswell Guests, and I Learn That the Band Survivor Had a Lot of Troubled Relationships, But Idea of March was Relatively Happy.

1. First of all, I should note that our email newsletter has gone out. Folks who read the blog will get a week ahead on events--there are features through October  4 and listings through October 16. There's a piece on the Milwaukee Film Festival and on several other events that are not ours, some of which we're selling books at (Betty Medsger's The Burglary) and some we aren't (Michelle Alexander, Stuart Gibbs and William Alexander). I know there's a good number of you interested in the Michelle Alexander event for The New Jim Crow, based on how many we've sold.

2. We've been crowing about how both Americans on the first Man Booker shortlist to include Americans read at Boswell for their most recent novels. Karen Joy Fowler's We are All Completely Beside Ourselves is already out in paperback, but Joshua Ferris's To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is fresh enough that it got scheduled as a daily New York Times review and far from disparaging it to prove it was the right decision to skip over it in the first place, she raved about it.

"This is also the first novel by Mr. Ferris that really lives up to the reputation he established too quickly. It’s a major achievement that far outshines the much-publicized Then We Came to the End, his entertaining but weightless debut, and The Unnamed, a baffling, downbeat aberration. Neither of those books anticipated the wonders that turn up in this one." Holy cow!

2a. Now it appears that Boswell is about to host not one but two authors on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. I thought we had a chance, but I kept assuming that one of the titles would be Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (the novel that we have been gushing over of late). I forgot that David Bezmozgis is also Canadian, which I should have figured out since we were working with the publicist on getting the author from Toronto to Milwaukee (and yes, there is a direct flight).

So The Betrayers is one of the books, and the other is Miriam Toews' All My Puny Sorrows. The funny thing about that was that I noticed that our event (November 11) is only a day after the prize is awarded. I said to the publicist, what if Miriam Toews wins the prize? Would she still do our event? So far, everyone is committed. Do you think I obsess too much about the Giller Prize? Did you know that one of the books that made the 2012 Giller longlist, The Crooked Maid, is written by Dan Vyleta, an author we hosted when he lived in Milwaukee. But I'm sort of sad that in general, it's been hard for the Giller winners to get a toehold in the United States. In the old days, we at Schwartz did pretty well with several winners from unknown writers, including Richard B. Wright's Clara Callen and Bonnie Burnard's A Good House. Maybe this year I'll vow that we'll read the Giller winner in our in-store lit group (unless it's something I've read already).

3. I was reading a story in The Wall Street Journal, arguing that 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading was highly beneficial to your wellbeing, just the sort of propaganda a bookseller likes to hear, and I realized that I've been so busy that I haven't been drinking my own medicine. The problem has been that I've been jumping from book to book, not able to get into anything.

Of all things, I wound up gravitating to Jim Peterik's memoir, Through the Eye of the Tiger: The Rock 'n' Roll Life of Survivor's Founding Member, written with Lisa Torem. As a person who obsessively followed music in the 70s and 80s, it was fun to know what was going on behind the scenes of a band I was pretty familiar with, and Peterik wrote not just for Survivor, but also cowrote must of the hits for .38 Special. Plus I jump at any excuse to pull out my well-worn copy of The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 1996 edition, written by Menomonee Falls' own Joel Whitburn.

Little did I know that this outside work with Don Barnes was cause for some of the bad blood he had with Survivor's lead guitarist, who was also his writing partner. It was a pretty complicated relationship and while I'm only reading Peterik's side, one gets the feeling that whoever was right or wrong in this feud-like relationship, it made Peterik's most successful years also among his least happy. Just another example of superstar success being overrated.

Jim Peterik (Jimbo!) will be at Boswell on Saturday, October 18, 7 pm. He's a Berwyn boy, you know.

4. So while I'm writing this, the National Book Award longlist came out. I really have to say that I love these longlists. So it turns out that we once again have two contenders as events, but in this case it's one past and one future. Congratulations to Rabih Alemeddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman, and Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven. How cool is that?

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