Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Annotated Adult Staff Recs: Books We Love from Bayard Godsave, Margaret Atwood, Valerie Geary, and James Tadd Alcox, Plus a Link to Our Favorite Graphic Novels, Comics, and Nonfiction.

With the craziness of October, I sometimes fall behind in things like answering emails, but this October, a particularly crazy one, I also let go some of our staff rec reporting. We sort of pride ourselves on our recs, so this sort of seemed like an egregious error to me. Once it's down, however, the best you can do is catch up.

Good thing Mel has been documenting our staff recs on The Boswellians blog by category. On October 27, she offered a list of our favorite graphic novels and nonfiction, including Jules Feiffer's Kill My Mother,  Jeff Lemire's Trillium, and The Harlem Helfighters, from Max Brooks. You can read all our recommendations here.

Here are a few more tasty morsels, fictionally speaking.

Torture Tree, a novel by Bayard Godsave (Queen’s Ferry Press, $16.95)
"Our actions do have consequences, both intended and accidental, and regardless, we bear responsibility, if not legally, then morally and ethically. Do xenophobic racists, by their words or actions, deserve to be tortured to death? Do musicians, artists and writers, who shepherd messages of violence to the public, bear responsibility if those messages are translated into catastrophic action? Do the producers, dealers or editors, who bring them to a wider audience, share an equal guilt? These are the deep and troubling questions that Bayard Godsave dares to ask. He does not give us simple or obvious answers."
--Conrad Silverberg

Daniel's note: Mr. Godsave worked at Boswell for a time after our opening, after a number of years as a Harry W. Schwartz bookseller while he was at the creative writing program at UWM. Here's a little more about Torture Tree from the publisher: "In Bayard Godsave's pair of novellas, these fleeting instances perpetuate American ideology in far-flung places and distant points in time. For the inhabiting characters of 'Torture Tree' and 'White Man in Hammersmith' - the Revolutionary War soldier immortalized through his gruesome death; the earnest medical volunteer kidnapped in Iraq; and the unwitting expat-backer of a violent island coup-the political is personal. In this riveting follow-up to Lesser Apocalypses, bursts of violence seize onto and cleave their legacy into moments that might otherwise have been lost to a gloriously inconsequential past."

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Tales, 9/16/14, $25.95)
"A long overdue and highly anticipated collection of short stories, or 'tales,' in this case, by the brilliant champion of fiction that is Margaret Atwood! While most of the tales stand independently from others, several of them share a range of characters whose lives become intertwined over a long period of time, leading to great personality development and proof of the grandeur of Atwood's literary scope. In these stories you will find crafty revenge-seekers, amusingly bitter writers, a lusty ex-bride-to-be with a bizarre secret...all of them dealing with their not overly auspicious lives, settings, and relationships. Atwood rallies together quite the collection of characters and lifestyles, supporting them with witty dialogue, complexity of emotion, and her signature ode to impressive detail."
--Carly Lenz

Daniel's note: There was a time I read Margaret Atwood obsessively, one of those authors where I went back and read all the backlist I could find, but I got lost in her speculative work, which is a bit ironic, since The Handmaid's Tale was my introduction to reading her on publication. Prior to that, she was one of those writers I read when I was working at Warner, when we picked up the Popular Library backlist. I'm pretty sure that's how I got my hands on Surfacing and The Edible Woman. This led me to a detour of why CBS divested Popular Library, why it had a pine tree logo (the co-founder was Ned Pines) and how it was actually owned by a conglomerate who amassed and then sold Marvel Comics, The Saturday Evening Post, and Desilu Studios. The acquirer, Perfect Chemical,renamed it self Cadence Industries, and finally liquidated in 1986.

Crooked River, a novel by Valerie Geary (William Morrow, 10/14/14, $25.99)
"Every few years, some pompous windbag comes along and informs us that the novel is dead; that there are no new things to say and no new ways to say them. They fail to remember that novels are simply storytelling. They fail to remember that the true test of the novel's worth is not the originality of its form or the uniqueness of its expression, but the strength, beauty and compelling attraction of its tale. Crooked River delivers. Valerie Geary is the real deal." Conrad Silverberg

Daniel's note: A little more on plot and genre might be needed here, particularly as the cover is a bit misleading--it clearly isn't targeting Conrad! Kirkus one sentence description: "Two sisters growing up in rural Oregon find their world shaken when they stumble across a dead woman in the river that runs through their father's property." The publisher notes: "Told in Sam's and Ollie's vibrant voices, Crooked River is a family story, a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, and a psychological mystery as haunting as the best Southern gothic fiction that will touch your heart and grip you until the final page."

Does not Love, by James Tadd Alcox (Curbside Splendor, 10/14/14, $14.95)
"This novel explores how and why we name and treat conditions. When once someone was just brokenhearted, perhaps she now has relationship adverse trauma syndrome and could use a prescription to help her recover. Set in an Indianapolis similar to the Indianapolis you may know and love, the book follows Robert and Viola, husband and wife, through disappoints, diagnoses, and treatments on a polluted journey in search of the fulfillment promised by money, modern pharmaceuticals, and romance. Taunting FBI agents, underground drug safety trials, and odd ailments frequent the characters until they, at least for a moment, accept that what they have will never be what myths of marriage promise." --Todd Wellman

Daniel's note: James Tadd Alcox will be here this Saturday with Erika Wurth for our Curbside Splendor evening. Mel's reading the Wurth's novel, Crazy Horse's Girlfriend, right now, and is very hot on it.

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