Monday, April 27, 2015

Boswell Events for the Week of April 27: Jessica Hagy, Benjamin Percy, Charlie Scheips, Bruce Hillman, Paul Koudounaris, Undergraduate Writers, Independent Bookstore Day. See Below for Some Offsite Locations.

Monday, April 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jessica Hagy, author of The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graphs, a presentation followed by a conversation with Mitch Teich of Milwaukee Public Radio's Lake Effect.

It’s the perfect meeting of minds. One, a general whose epigrammatic lessons on strategy offer timeless insight and wisdom. And the other, a visual thinker whose succinct diagrams and charts give readers a fresh way of looking at life’s challenges and opportunities. A Bronze Age/Information Age marriage of Sun Tzu and Jessica Hagy, The Art of War Visualized is an inspired mash-up, a work that completely reenergizes the perennial bestseller and makes it accessible to a new generation of students, entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists, seekers, lovers of games and game theory, and anyone else who knows the value of seeking guidance for the future in the teachings of the past. It’s as if Sun Tzu got a 21st-century do-over.

Hagy, author and illustrator of How to be Interesting, is a cutting-edge thinker whose language-comprising circles, arrows,and lines and the well-chosen word or two-makes her an ideal philosopher for our ever-more-visual culture. Her charts and diagrams are deceptively simple, often funny, and always thought-provoking. She knows how to communicate not only ideas but the complex process of thinking itself, complete with its twists and surprises. For The Art of War Visualized, she presents her vision in evocative ink-brush art and bold typography. The result is page after page in which each passage of the completecanonical text is visually interpreted in a singular diagram, chart, or other illustration-transforming, reenergizing, and making the classic dazzlingly accessible for a new generation of readers.

Our evening tonight, April 27, 7 pm, consists of Hagy’s presentation, followed by a conversation with Mitch Teich of Milwaukee Public Radio’s Lake Effect. Get inspired!

Tuesday, April 28, 7 pm at Boswell:
Bruce J. Hillman, author of The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History.

The Man Who Stalked Einstein highlights a little-known but important story about the antagonistic relationship between Albert Einstein and Philipp Lenard that changed the course of history and still influences the science of today.

Einstein and Lenard were opposites in virtually every way. That both men were brilliant scientists and Nobel laureates with opposing views about what constituted important, believable science made some degree of conflict inevitable. Lenard’s experimental physics and Einstein’s theoretical physics represent two opposing schools of thought that came into conflict throughout Europe. However, the enmity that each felt for the other was based on much more than their science. It was personal.

Lenard was so consumed by his own narcissism, his envy of Einstein’s fame, and his hatred for Jews that he sacrificed the integrity of his science and his personal reputation among the community of scientists on the altar of his personal prejudices. For nearly fifteen years, Lenard had led the opposition that finally forced Einstein to flee his native Germany. Driven by professional disagreement, intense envy over the public’s adoration of Einstein, and virulent anti-Semitism, Lenard unrelentingly harassed Einstein and publicly denigrated his theory of relativity.

In The Man Who Stalked Einstein, Bruce J. Hillman, MD, Professor and former Chair of Radiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, traces the convergence of influences and events that turned Lenard from a productive and highly respected scientist to a man consumed by racial hatred and an early supporter of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.

Wednesday, April 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands.

It's always a treat when former Marquette professor Benjamin Percy returns to Milwaukee. His newest book is The Dead Lands, a darkly reimagined Lewis and Clark saga told in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. And speaking of Stephen King, he calls The Dead Lands “a case of wonderful writing and compulsive reading,” asserting that “[y]ou will not come across a finer work of sustained imagination this year. Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.” That’s high praise, indeed!

Benjamin Percy’s new thriller, The Dead Lands is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga in which a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders. Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon. Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.

Boswellian Sharon Nagel is a fan. She writes: "Ben Percy’s last novel Red Moon may have seemed like it was part of a trend of werewolf stories. However, he took it a step further and created a social commentary on civilization. Werewolves were living openly amongst humans and even running for political office. Percy’s latest book appears to follow the fashion of post-apocalyptic worlds, but again, he elevates the genre with something more, along with his sharp and captivating writing, a retelling of the Lewis and Clark saga. Mina Clark and Lewis Meriwether set out for the west in a bold attempt to connect with survivors of the devastating flu and rebuild their nation."

In this Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, critic Carole E. Barrowman offers this praise: "Elegiac descriptions and poetic details morph into high-energy action scenes as the travelers battle mutants with their limited arsenal and Lewis' strange magic. Most quests end with the travelers wondering if the journey was worth it. If you ask me, it certainly was." And it's worth attending our event with Percy (photo credit Jen Percy) on Wednesday, April 29, 7 pm.

Thursday, April 30, 5 pm (reception), 6 pm (talk) at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum:
A ticketed event with Charlie Scheips, author of Elsie De Wolfe's Paris: Frivolity Before the Storm.

The Friends of the Villa Terrace present Charlie Scheips, discussing and signing copies of his latest gorgeous book, Elsie de Wolfe’s Paris. The reception begins at 5 pm, followed by the presentation at 6 pm, and a signing immediately after.  Admission is $20 (our apologies on a previous typo) with admission going to the Friends to continue their work and this fine decorating series. The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is located at 2220 N. Terrace Avenue in Milwaukee, several blocks southeast of Boswell.

The American decorator Elsie de Wolfe (1858-1950) was the international set’s preeminent hostess in Paris during the interwar years. She had a legendary villa in Versailles, where in the late 1930s she held two fabulous parties-her Circus Balls-that marked the end of the social scene that her friend Cole Porter perfectly captured in his songs, as the clouds of war swept through Europe. Charlie Scheips tells the story of these glamorous parties using a wealth of previously unpublished photographs and introducing a large cast of aristocrats, beauties, politicians, fashion designers, movie stars, moguls, artists, caterers, florists, party planners, and decorators in a landmark work of social history and a poignant vision of a vanished world.

Gotham magazine writes: “Scheips utilizes 170 black-and-white and color images-some previously unpublished-to visually illuminate his fascinating narrative of this peerless woman's life, one that intersected with some of the most colorful and important characters of the day on both sides of the Atlantic, including Elsa Maxwell, William Randolph Hearst, Cecil Beaton, Janet Flanner, Gertrude Stein, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The tome culminates with de Wolfe’s final grand fête, the second Circus Ball, which defined the glamour and decadence of international society before the lights went out all over Europe.”

Shorewood-bred Charlie Scheips is a curator, art advisor, artist, writer, and cultural historian who has curated exhibitions in the United States and Europe. He has contributed to Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, and was the founding director of the Condé Nast Archive in New York. Your chance to hear Scheips is Thursday, April 30, starting at 5 pm.

Please note our event with Sandy Tolan has been rescheduled to Monday, May 11, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Friday, May 1, 6 pm, at the Walkers Point Center for the Arts:
Paul Koudounaris, author of Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us

In Western society, death is usually medicalized and taboo, and the dead are strictly separated from the living, while in much of the rest of the world, and for much of human history, death has commonly been far more integrated into peoples’ daily existence, with human remains kept as much a reminder of life, memento vitae, as of death, memento mori.

With Memento Mori's remarkable color photographs taken at more than 250 sites in thirty countries over a decade, Koudounaris, whose previous works The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies focused on European traditions, presents a thought-provoking examination of how human remains are used in decorative, commemorative, or devotional contexts around the world today.

From Bolivia’s “festival of the little pug-nosed ones,” where skulls are festooned with flowers and given cigarettes to smoke and beanie hats to protect them from the weather, to Indonesia’s burial caves, where human remains are prominently displayed, to visits with Indonesian families who dress mummies and include them in their household routines, the book’s photographs affirm life while confronting the specter of death. A gifted narrator, Koudounaris vividly recounts the stories and traditions that lie behind the macabre pictures—including naturally preserved Buddhist monks in Thailand, memorials to genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda, the Chauchilla necropolis in Peru, and Europe’s great ossuaries—reminding us that our own lives are, and forever will be, linked to those of the dead in an endless cycle.

Paul Koudounaris received his doctorate from the art history department at UCLA. His previous books include The Empire of Death, a cultural history of ossuaries and charnel houses, and Heavenly Bodies, a study of lavishly decorated Baroque skeletons originally from the Roman Catacombs. Join Koudounaris at The Walker's Point Center for the Arts, located at 836 South Fifth Street in Milwaukee. Our thanks to Howard Leu and Christina Ward for their help on this event.

Friday, May 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
The Best of the Undergraduate Readers, Part 1: University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Marquette University.

We've asked the creative writing professors at Marquette and UWM for their best undergraduate writers to read at a program of Boswell. We've been holding this periodically since 2009, when it was part of our grand opening ceremonies. Here are this year's readers.

From Marquette:

Sarah Smithy is a junior Digital Media student at Marquette University. She grew up just outside Milwaukee in the city of Waukesha. Sarah enjoys writing, reading and all other leisurely activities. After graduation, Sarah wants to work in the film and television industry.

Alexandra Whittaker is a senior journalism and Writing-Intensive English double major at Marquette. She has interned for InStyle, Elle, The Wall Street Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Woman’s Day. She has also freelanced for USA Today, and Women’s Wear Daily during New York Fashion Week. Whittaker is from Naperville, Illinois.

Michael Welch is a junior with Writing Intensive English and Public Relations major at Marquette University. He also serves as an editor for the Marquette Literary Review. A native of Chicago, he is planning on applying for graduate school after graduation.

Krystin Kantenwein is a senior Writing-Intensive English student at Marquette University. She lives in the Chicago suburb of Fox Lake, Illinois. Krystin enjoys hiking, photography, and hanging out with friends. After graduation, Krystin plans to attend Concordia University Chicago for a Masters in School Counseling. And to learn how to cook something other than oatmeal.

This is not the easiest event to put together logisitically, but goodness, is it rewarding! If you're planning your evening on Friday, May 1, each budding author reads for up to ten minutes. And who knows? Maybe they'll be back when their books are released.

From UWM:

Valerie Vinyard studies Secondary English Education at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. She lives and works in Waukesha, as a tutor and a nanny. She has had her work published in local undergraduate literary magazines such as Furrow and The Windy Hill Review, where she also served as an editor. Besides teaching and writing, she is an amateur photographer, trombonist, and hoop-dancer.

Ashanti Anderson is a junior psychology major attending University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Through UWM's domestic exchange program, Ashanti is visiting from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she will return in May to launch a music-based summer program funded by Keds and TMI (a agency) to improve literacy amongst urban high school students. When not engaging in her own creative processes, whether writing poetry or essays or painting, Ashanti studies the psychological effects of creativity on the brain.

Matthew Farr grew up in Oak Creek. He currently attends UW-Milwaukee, and upon graduating he plans on hiking across America. His poetry can be found online or in print at Verse Wisconsin, Shepherd Express, and Furrow.

Amber Scarborough is graduating form UWM in May with a major in creative writing. Her favorite novel is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and when's not writing, she loves watching cat videos, perfecting her winged eyeliner and log rolling. She'd like to thank her parents and friends for always supporting her. She also wants to give a huge thank you to her professor Liam Callanan for nominating her. Amber hopes to continue studying literature in the UK this coming fall.

Saturday, May 2, Independent Bookstore Day!

Inspired by Comic Book Day and National Record Store Day, Independent Bookstore Day was the brainchild of several California booksellers, most notably Pete Mulvihill at Green Apple Books. I know that he would say hear that there were many people involved in putting this together, and there really were, most notably Hut Landon, the executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, but nobody I have seen has been more of an evangelist for the cause than Mulvihill.

And all of us are rewarded with the results. This year's Independent Bookstore Day has an amazing selection of one-of-a-kind limited edition offerings for sale, only at independent bookstores, on May 2, with no pre-orders, web orders, phone orders, or holds. We're celebrating the day old school--arrive here, wait in line, and make your purchase. And yes, there will be quantity restrictions on the items as well.

Among the items for sale:
--An archive quality Chris Ware print
--An Literary Map of the Seas print
--A Guess How Much I Love You bunsie onesie. It's a bunny, get it?
--New collected essays from Roxane Gay
--A boxed set of our favorite book-themed novels
--Two sets of dish towels, one sweet and the other salty
--Christopher Moore throx. If you read his novels, you know what these are.
--the Margaret Atwood wood stencil (pictured)
--A joke collection illustrated by your favorite children's book artists
--Stephen King and Ally Brosh posters
and that's not all.

Can 't wait for the date? Why not get the limited-edition Roz Chast tote to get you in the mood? It's available in red or blue.

At 11 am, Jannis will be presenting a special book-themed storytime. And don't forget, May's regularly scheduled storytime has moved to Sunday, May 3, 11 am. So take your pick, Saturday or Sunday. Both will feature books, rhymes, finger play, and fun! (Please mark your calendar - no storytime on Mother's Day (May 10).

At 2 pm, Sharon has organized a critics vs. authors book-themed quiz game.

And at 7 pm, we'll be hosting Best of the Undergraduate Writers, part two:
--MIAD: Michelle Sharp and Krista Toms.
--Cardinal Stritch University: Emlyn Dornemann and Raveen Lemon.
--Carroll University: Taylor Belmer and Cory Widmayer.
--Alverno College: Celeste Johnson and Jennifer Fazal

Sunday, May 3, 11 am, at Boswell: Join Jannis for storytime. This week we feature Lion Lion, written by Miriam Busch and with illustrations by Larry Day, and other books about animals

Here's a little about the book. A little boy is looking for Lion. Lion is looking for lunch. And so our story begins. But look closely. . . . In this tale, nothing is quite as it seems Children will delight in this classic picture book with a mischievous twist.

Monday, May 4, 6:30 pm, at the Whitefish Bay Library:
Blue Balliett, author of Pieces and Players.

Blue Balliett is the award-winning author of the bestselling novels The Wright 3, The Calder Game, The Danger Box, and Hold Fast. Her debut novel, Chasing Vermeer received an Edgar Award, a Book Sense Book of the Year Award, and was named a New York Times notable book of the year. Now she's back with Pieces and Players, which brings together some of Balliet's most beloved characters.

Thirteen extremely valuable pieces of art have been stolen from one of the most secretive museums in the world. A Vermeer has vanished. A Manet is missing. And nobody has any idea where they and the other eleven artworks might be…or who might have stolen them. Calder, Petra, and Tommy are no strangers to heists and puzzles. Now they’ve been matched with two new sleuths: Zoomy, a very small boy with very thick glasses, and Early, a girl who treasures words…and has a word or two to say about the missing treasure. The kids have been drawn in by the very mysterious Mrs. Sharpe, who may be playing her own kind of game with the clues. And it’s not just Mrs. Sharpe who’s acting suspiciously—there’s a ghost who mingles with the guards in the museum, a cat who acts like a spy, and bystanders in black jackets who keep popping up. With Pieces and Players, you have all the ingredients for a fantastic mystery sure to delight readers 8 and up!

Kirkus Reviews writes: “Juggling multiple pieces of art and multiple suspect players, Balliett again deftly merges mystery, art, and friendship into another perplexing puzzler.” The Whitefish Bay Library is located at 5420 N Marlborough Drive, just south of Winkie's on Silver Spring. For more information, contact the library at (414) 964-4380.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Annotated Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending April 25, 2015 Plus the Journal Sentinel Book Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison
3. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg (ticketed lunch 5/14 at Wisconsin Club)
4. Memory Man, by David Baldacci
5. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen
7. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, by Jennifer Chiaverini
8. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
9. The Dead Lands, by Benjamin Percy (event 4/29 at Boswell)
10. Falling in Love, by Donna Leon

For a review of The Dead Lands, see Carole E. Barrowman's take below, when we look at the Journal Sentinel book page. Kirkus has a review of David Baldacci's Memory Man, concluding that "although the crimes and their perpetrators are far-fetched, readers will want to see Decker back on the printed page again and again." And here's Publisher's Weekly's thoughts on Donna Leon's newest, Falling in Love: "Leon’s Venice is peopled with urbane, sophisticated characters, and she flavors the novel with insights into stagecraft, Tosca, and the storied La Fenice opera house. Series aficionados as well as those who appreciate elegant settings and cultured conversation should find this a deeply satisfying escape."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Edible Memory, by Jennifer A. Jordan
2. Youthnation, by Matthew Britton
3. Tapping Solution for Pain Relief, by Nicolas Ortner
4. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
5. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
6. Lentil Underground, by Liz Carlisle
7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
8. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
9. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
10. Between You and Me, by Mary Norris

David Brooks' The Road to Character debuted on The New York Times bestseller list at #1 and it's not doing bad at Boswell either. The Washington Post features this review from Michael Gerson: "The literary achievement of The Road to Character is inseparable from the virtues of its author,,,The voice of the book is calm, fair and humane. The highlight of the material is the quality of the author’s moral and spiritual judgments. Across the pages, Brooks is a reliable guide and a pleasant companion."

Paperback Fiction:
1. What's Done in the Dark, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
2. Let the Church Say Amen, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
3. Imaginary Things, by Andrea Lochen
4. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
5. Meet me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales
6. Euphoria, by Lily King
7. Listen and Other Stories, by Liam Callanan
8. Family Affair, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
9. No Book but the World, by Leah Hager Cohen
10. The Martian, by Andy Weir

We had a very nice day with ReShonda Tate Billingsley at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority luncheon at the ICC. In addition to the featured title, What's Done in the Dark, attendees were particularly interested in Let the Church Say Amen, which is due for release soon. It's on the shelf, as we say. And folks were also excited about Billingsley's next book Mama's Boy. Here's the setup: ""When her son is accused of a violent crime, church first lady Gloria Jones finds herself battling his prosecutor--as well as her own inner demons--to save him."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Call Me Captain, by Susan Scott
2. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
3. Lady in Gold, by Anne Marie O'Connor
4. Multiplication is for White People, by Lisa Delpit
5. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
6. The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
7. The Art of War Visualized, by Jessica Hagy (event 4/27 at Boswell)
8. How to be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy
9. How to Walk, by Thich Nhat Hanh
10. One Pot, by the editors of Martha Stewart Living

We've had a nice pop for The Opposite of Loneliness, in part due to a strong recommendation from Carly Lenz. She writes: "This posthumous collection of short stories and personal reflections is a testament to the extraordinary literary talents of Marina Keegan, a promising young writer who tragically passed away days after her Yale graduation. Her writing is relevant, realistic, funny, and touching."

Books for Kids:
1. World Without Princes, by Soman Chainani
2. The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani
3. The Tapper Twins Go to War with Each Other, by Geoff Rodkey
4. Nothing but Drama, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
5. In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler
6. Blessings in Disguise, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
7. Rumor Central, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
8. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
9. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, 75th anniversary, by Virginia Lee Burton
10. I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

So let's check in on The Tapper Twins Go to War With Each Other. Geoff odkey was in Milwaukee doing schools but in order to get him to his next event, we did not have a public event. Enthusiasm was strong from both schools, who had never before had an author visit through our program. Once you do it, you know how great it is. The (UK) Guardian has reader reviews and Amazed Earthling wrote: "This picture filled book gets five out of stars from me as it is an entertaining and often hilarious read for both boys and girls 9+. There are annotated photographs and even texting threads used to illustrate the story which was a format that works well with the pace of the book. (Warning boys, there are many derogatory remarks about males in here but don't let that put you off!)"

Still available with a slot each is Max Brallier's Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway, on May 12, and The Nightsiders: The Orphan Army, by Jonathan Maberry on May 14. Contact Phoebe for details.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews On the Move: A Life, by Oliver Sacks. The neurologist behind the books The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings writes a sequel to his childhood memoir, Uncle Tungsten. Higgins notes: "As this memoir makes clear, the Whitmanesque Sacks truly contains multitudes: the compassionate scientist who writes beautifully and travels to Mexico to look at ferns has also been a motorbike buff, a competitive weightlifter, and in the past, a drug abuser."

Jim Higgins also reviews the new Grateful Dead biography from David Browne, So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead. Per Higgins, the "new book arrives in time for the Dead's 50th anniversary, which the band's surviving members will celebrate by playing a few stadium shows this summer." Browne chronicles the band's long, strange, trip, through the development of their sound and their use of now-commonplace techniques such as income being driven more by tours than record sales, and directly building relationships with fans. Per Higgins, this is "an engaging account of an idiosyncratic American musical institution."

Early Warning, the second novel in the new trilogy from Jane Smiley, early warning, gets a great write-up from Christi Clancy. "The unconventional form of Smiley's undertaking (an Iowa farm family's journey through the 20th century) works for a long, sprawling epic, because the first two books int he trilogy somehow capture the feel and aestetic of an American family. You meet the Langdons in Some Luck, but by the time you finish Early Warning, you'll feel like you are one of them."

And finally, in advance of our event with Benjamin Percy on Wednesday, April 29 (7 pm), comes Carole E. Barrowman's review in the Journal Sentinel of The Dead Lands. Barrowman notes that "Minnesota writer and former Marquette University instructor Benjamin Percy imagines the historical journey of Lewis and Clark as a post-apocalyptic quest with monsters and magic merging the past and the future in astonishing ways." She observes that "along with parallels to Lewis and Clark's real journey, Percy's story is layered with allusions to other quest narratives and his prose, like his Lewis character, displays a kind of alchemy all its own."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Reading the Latest Novel by Michelle Huneven While Walking Around Pasadena.

When I map out conferences theoretically, it doesn't seem like too much, but once I got to my side conference that was held in conjunction with ABA Children's Institute in Pasadena, it just brought home the truth that I still haven't put into practice the great ideas from Winter Institute in Asheville.

Every time I come out to Pasadena, it's morphed a bit. On my first visit, many years ago, there was a traditional seventies-style indoor mall, but the rest of the retail along the street had seemed passed its heyday. The next time, it seemed that there was sort of an outdoor lifetstyle center that was the big thing, but coming back, that shopping center now seems to have some functional issues, and Old Town Pasadena, the part of town that wasn't part of a mega-development but grew organically, seems to be more bustling than ever. On the downside, like many other popular shopping areas, it was hard to find a retailer selling "stuff" that wasn't food and drink, with of course the big exception being the magnificent Vroman's.

In 2003, when Book Expo was in Los Angeles, I happened to take along with me a novel called Jamesland, by Michelle Huneven. It has turned out to be one of my favorite novels, one of only a few that I've read more than once. I don't know if the chicken or the egg came first here, but while I was getting read for a conference in Pasadena, I decided to take along Michelle Huneven's latest book, Off Course, which I knew had at least part of the book set in Pasadena, and coincidentally was just out in paperback last week.

For some reason, there is nothing like a place-driven book when you're on vacation in that place. Some folks actually make the request and sometimes it just comes up when you're discussing books. One thing I've noticed is that when you get it right, that's one of the most frequent incidences where the customer comes back after the trip to tell you about it. So really if I were a better bookseller, I'd have a crib sheet to be prepared for requests.

That said, it was not exactly the experience of reading Jamesville and walking around the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. For one thing, most of the action took place in the smaller towns of Sparkville and Sawyer, closer to the Sierras; Pasadena was a bit player. And yet, and yet, it was true that I was completely obsessed with reading Off Course while walking around the city that first day, and I only attribute that in part to Hunevent's writing.

Set in the 1980s, Cressida Hartley was ABD (all but dissertation) on her advanced economics degree, where she was documenting what artists did that affecting the value of their work --#1 was dying. To find a place where she could concentrate, she moved up to her parents cabin and slowly fell into the rhythm of the small town life, taking up with Jakey, the local lodge owner and getting some odd jobs. She realizes the lodge owner is quite the philanderer and pulls back, but it's the next fellow she fall in with that drives the narrative, for he is not just a quiet, older carpenter, but he's also married. And the more they continue, the more complicated the relationship gets, the more they are unable to break the stranglehold the relationship has on them. And no, that dissertation is not getting written.

I still haven't read Round Rock, but I think it's clear to say that Huneven's last three novels have dealt with addiction in one form or another. And while a lot of folks in Off Course drink way too much (and a few have peripheral drug issues), this is definitely her relationship addiction novel. And like Blame it's a bit painful to read--"No, no, no!" I found myself shouting more than once. That's just the way a book like this is going to go.

Huneven (photo credit Karen Tapia) captures the innate sexism of the situation that works out on several levels. Cress doesn't really see that even though both she and Quinn are complicit in this relationship, and Quinn has less moral ground, everyone around her slowly decides that it is in fact her "fault", with not just Quinn remaining blameless but also Jakey, even though the town has got to know that he has taken multiple married women as lovers - we sure know it. And perhaps that is partly a function of the times, but really, has society changed that much in thirty years on this front? I'm not sure.

Off Course sends us deep into the relationship abyss and gives us a lot of hints that this eventually we will climb out of that dark hole. But can the story resolve it self to our satisfaction? How can it? There are lots of possible resolutions out there, but the one we know that won't happen is the one that Cress thinks she wants, but even she, deep down inside, seems to know she doesn't want it either, and the same with Cress.

Yikes. The thing is, even though this may not have been the book I wanted to read by Huneven, her writing is as sharp as ever. I was ready to read Cress's dissertation of economic models for artists if Huneven ghost-wrote it. Perhaps my only quibble, really, was with a therapist perhaps over-explaining to us a few details that I thought it might have been more fun to leave for us to put together.

In a nice turn of events, Off Course has just come out in paperback from Picador. And in another nice turn, here is a sign I spotted while walking around Pasadena. I believe the full name is Hotel Livingston.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Stuff! Authors Appearing on Lake Effect, Morning Blend, Kathleen Dunn

Recent Book Segments on Lake Effect:

Phil DiMeo talks about Binoculars: Masquerading as a Sighted Person, a memoir of his battle with retinitis pigmentosa. He spoke with Audrey Nowakowski.

Greg Trine and Steve Arntson talked to Mitch Teich about their books, Willy Maykit in Space and The Trap, respectively. This was tied into their visit to Milwaukee for Middle Grade Mania.

Kimberley Blaeser talks about her role as Wisconsin Poet Laureate. From Lake Effect: "Blaeser is of Anishinaabe ancestry and she’s a native of White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. Her poetry is infused with the stories of her ancestry, her experience of nature and Native place and the longing for spiritual connection."

Mitch Teich also talked to Stewart O'Nan about West of Sunset, his new novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald. Per Lake Effect, per O'Nan, "Fitzgerald saw himself as the outsider looking in while he struggled with alcoholism, massive debt and an institutionalized wife, all while trying to find work as a writer in Hollywood during the Great Depression."

And finally, Lizzie Skurnick talks about the world of word coining with Mitch Teich for That Should be a Word: A Language Lover's Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World.

Morning Blend Guests!

Here's Soman Chainani talking about The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes and why turning to writing may have cost him his edge on the tennis court. What happens if you give the princess the dark heart? Can a witch and princess look at each other and be friends?

Nickolas Butler appeared to talk about Shotgun Lovesongs. I couldn't kill anyone because then people would think it was a ripoff of Four Weddings and a Funeral. And yes, one of the characters is inspired by Justin Vernon, the musician who could have lived anywhere but moved back to Eau Claire.

And yes, Binoculars author Philip DiMeo was on Morning Blend as well, along with his guide dog Tessie. "I was worried that I would lose my job!"

Kathleen Dunn Guests!

Arlene Alda spoke to Kathleen about her book, Just Kids from the Bronx, "an autobiographical remembrance of one of America’s most influential boroughs and some of its many success stories."

Martha Hodes spoke to Dunn about her book Mourning Lincoln. Tony Horowitz wrote that "This book is a timely reminder that wars rarely end on the battlefield. Through the lens of Lincoln's death, Martha Hodes vividly portrays a scarred and bitter nation that has laid down its arms yet embarked on a conflict that endures 150 years after Appomattox."

And finally, Jeff Motske talked about his book, The Couple's Guide to Financial Compatibility: Avoid Fights about Spending and Saving--And Build a Happy and Secure Future Together.

I'll be on the Kathleen Dunn show on Wednesday, April 29, 2 to 3 pm central time, as part of the pledge drive. Here's hoping my pledge numbers are good! THe phone number is 800-486-8655 and you can listen live here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boswell Event Blast: Andrea Lochen Monday, Theatre Gigante Tuesday, Liz Carlisle Thursday, Jennifer Jordan Friday, Susan Scott Saturday, and Elizabeth Crawford and Listen to Your Mother on Sunday.

Monday, April 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Andrea Lochen, author of Imaginary Things.

Burned-out and broke, single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old son, David. The sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs forces Anna to admit that either she’s lost her mind or she can see her son’s active imagination. Frightened for David’s safety, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon and how best to protect him. But what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and dark secrets about her own childhood imaginary friend.

Living right next door is Jamie Presswood, Anna’s childhood friend who has grown much more handsome and hardened than the boy she once knew. Jamie reminds her of simpler times—Ferris wheels and sparklers, picnics by the river, and Neapolitan ice cream—but due to past regrets and the messy lives they’ve since led, rekindling their friendship proves easier said than done. Between the imaginary creatures stalking her son and her tumultuous relationship with David’s biological father, Anna doesn’t have any room left in her life or her heart for another man. But as David’s visions become more persistent and threatening, Anna must learn to differentiate between which dangers are real and which are imagined, and who she can truly trust.

Andrea Lochen is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Michigan. An early version of her first novel, The Repeat Year, won the Hopwood Prize. She currently teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha where she was recently awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Tuesday, April 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Theatre Gigante presents a preview of Terminus.

Terminus is an audacious Irish drama of interlocking monologues that illuminate the quietest fears and most intimate desires of its three characters: a lonely woman looking for love; her mother, seeking atonement; and a serial killer who has sold his soul to the Devil. Playwright Mark O’Rowe’s dizzying language is dark, unrelenting and gorgeously wrought: a dense, musical brand of colloquial poetry that sounds like a mix between Jay-Z and Tom Wolfe on a gonzo riff. It is Spoken Word Poetry from contemporary Ireland, written entirely in verse.

Our preview features a series of talks: Paul Kosidowski will set the stage, if you will, speaking about the play, Mark O'Rowe, and Irish drama, followed by a talk about the current production from Theatre Gigante's own Mark Andersen and Isabelle Kralj. We'll round off the evening with a craft talk from featured Terminus actors, Megan Kaminsky and Tom Reed. We'll have copies of both editions of Terminus for sale.

 The play debuts May 1st and will run through May 16th, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, at Kenilworth Square Studio 508 on the East Side. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors and $15 for students); for more info, call Theatre Gigante: 1-800-838-3006. or visit Brown Paper Tickets site.

Thursday, April 23, 7 pm, at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center:
Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America.

Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness launched a campaign to push small grain farmers to modernize or perish, or as Nixon Administration Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz put it, to “get big or get out. But twenty-seven year-old David Oien decided to take a stand. When he dropped out of grad school to return to his family’s 280 acre farm, Oien became the first in his conservative Montana county to seed his fields with a radically different crop: organic lentils. A cheap, healthy source of protein, rich in fiber, folate, Vitamin B1, and amino acids, lentils are drought tolerant and don’t
require irrigation. And unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods. Today, David Oien leads a thriving movement of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand Timeless Natural Food, this “lentil underground” has grown into a million dollar enterprise that sells to hundreds of independent natural foods stores, and a host of renowned restaurants.

Author Liz Carlisle is joined by farmer David Oien at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center. Liz Carlisle is a fellow at the Center for Diversified Farming Systems at the University of California, Berkeley. Suggested admission is $10, $5 for Urban Ecology Members.

Friday, April 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jennifer A. Jordan, author of Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods
This event is co-sponsored by UWM Urban Studies Programs.

Each week during the growing season, farmers’ markets offer up such delicious treasures as brandywine tomatoes, cosmic purple carrots, pink pearl apples, and chioggia beets—varieties of fruits and vegetables that are prized by home chefs and carefully stewarded by farmers from year to year. These are the heirlooms and the antiques of the food world, endowed with their own rich histories. While cooking techniques and flavor fads have changed from generation to generation, a Ribston Pippin apple today can taste just as flavorful as it did in the eighteenth century. But how does an apple become an antique and a tomato an heirloom? In Edible Memory, UWM associate professor of sociology Jennifer A. Jordan examines the ways that people around the world have sought to identify and preserve old-fashioned varieties of produce. In doing so, Jordan shows that these fruits and vegetables offer a powerful emotional and physical connection to a shared genetic, cultural, and culinary past.

From Wendy Griswold at Northwestern University: “Although a lot of books have appeared in recent years about food cultures and foodways, none have analyzed how personal nostalgia and food politics are intertwined, sometimes in mutual support of one another (local heirloom tomatoes) and sometimes in conflict (green Jell-O salad, anyone?). Jordan, who has done exemplary research on how memory shaped modern Berlin, is perfectly situated to examine the emotion work and emotion play we lavish on what we grow, seek, and put into our mouths. Jordan is working in some of the most vital areas in cultural sociology: theoretically, a sociology of materiality and sensory experience; substantively, food studies and cognitive sociology; methodologically, interweaving of the micro-historical (personal) with the macro-historical (developments in agriculture, consumerism, nationalism). This is an important book.”

Listen to Jordan discuss heirloom tomatoes on Chicago Public Radio.

Saturday, April 25, 1:30 pm, at the Cedarburg Library:
Susan Scott, author of Call Me Captain: A Memoir of a Woman at Sea.

Writer and marine biologist Susan Scott had an enviable existence—a home in Hawaii, a prized 37-foot sailboat and exciting international adventures, all shared with her physician husband Craig in a marriage so intimate they called it the Twinship. Yet, when her menopausal hormones raged and Craig grew preoccupied with Ironman triathlon training, this perfect life ended. Once blessed with well-being, love, humor, and sharing, the Twinship exploded with fights, silence, accusations, and failed counseling.

Shell-shocked, Susan sought solace in the one thing that always gave her joy: marine wildlife. She overhauled the couple’s neglected boat and, with a male friend nearly half her age, sailed away. Except it wasn’t that easy; Susan had always relied on Craig to make the sailing decisions and Alex, her young first mate, was a sailing novice. Call Me Captain follows Susan as she leaves everything behind—or tries to— and sails to spectacular but isolated Palmyra Atoll to work as a volunteer biologist. Susan helps rescue baby sea turtles, bands seabirds, and corrals ten-pound coconut crabs that look like Godzillas with knife-blade claws. She determinedly repairs her sailboat, skippers it through terrifying storms, and to her surprise, finds she and Craig are falling in love all over again. This time the two rediscover one another via satellite phone—Susan calling from her tiny floating speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Craig in his hospital emergency room on Oahu.

Susan, a native of Cedarburg, writes with passion about swimming with manta rays, kayaking with sharks, and sailing with whales and dolphins. In those passages, she shows ways these magnificent animals guided her through the journey of a lifetime. Her memoir of self-discovery is a romance, a rousing sea tale, and a personal account of nature’s power to put life in perspective.

Sunday, April 26, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Elizabeth Crawford, author of At the Table: Recipes and Techniques

In At the Table: Recipes and Techniques, each recipe’s introduction reflects the sense of memoir, paying homage to the lessons Elizabeth Crawford has learned from her students and from cooks she’s met throughout her travels. With every dish, she places herself in the reader’s shoes, anticipating their experience level, questions, doubts, and emotional connections to food so that what could simply be a recipe becomes a narrative fueled by the dialogue between writer and cook. The fundamental philosophy behind At the Table is an understanding that food is essential for bringing people to the table, and once there, we all have the opportunity to share our hearts and ideas so that we may listen and be heard.

“I’ve had the privilege to hire and work with Elizabeth as part of our culinary program here at the Milwaukee Public Market and I am continually amazed at her knowledge, yet she always wants to interact with the students to learn from them as well. It’s such a passion that is evident in everything she does.” —Jill Nickerson, Culinary Director, Milwaukee Public Market

Wisconsinite Elizabeth Crawford is a self-taught cook in the classical French model, who is so enamored with the practice of Tai Chi that she weaves its principles into her cooking. A teacher, caterer, spice seller, consultant, and armchair anthropologist, she is currently hard at work on her next project.

also Sunday, April 26, 3 pm, at Alverno College's Pitman Theatre:
Listen to Your Mother Milwaukee.

Mark your calendars for Sunday, April 26th, 2015 (two weeks before Mother’s Day) at 3:00 p.m. at the Pitman Theatre on the Alverno College campus right in the heart of Milwaukee at 3431 South 39th Street for the third annual Listen to Your Mother event.

Come see these amazing women and gentleman perform their mom-ologues (that's a Boswell pun; don't blame the cast): Elaine Maly, Anna Stone, Michelle Dobbs, Liza Cohen, Moira Sennett, Katy Meyer, Nicole Smith, Mary Steinert-Ng, Raina Johnson, Jack Douthitt, Leana’ Cristiana Grimm, and Alexandra Rosas, who is also co-producer.

Tickets are $15; the service fee is not included. 10% of ticket proceeds will be donated to Strong Baby, a campaign of United Way Greater Milwaukee & Washington County. Strong Baby is focused on improving conditions that lead to poor birth outcomes and infant mortality.

Just on sale is the the official tie-in book, Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We're Saying Now, edited by Madison's Ann Imig. Books will be for sale at this event, but note that Ann Imig will not be present.

Monday, April 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jessica Hagy, author of The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graphs, presenting and in conversation with Mitch Teich of Milwaukee Public Radio's Lake Effect.

It’s the perfect meeting of minds. One, a general whose epigrammatic lessons on strategy offer timeless insight and wisdom. And the other, a visual thinker whose succinct diagrams and charts give readers a fresh way of looking at life’s challenges and opportunities. A Bronze Age/Information Age marriage of Sun Tzu and Jessica Hagy, The Art of War Visualized is an inspired mash-up, a work that completely reënergizes the perennial bestseller and makes it accessible to a new generation of students, entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists, seekers, lovers of games and game theory, and anyone else who knows the value of seeking guidance for the future in the teachings of the past.

Jessica Hagy is an artist and writer best known for her Webby award-winning blog, Indexed . A fixture in the creative online space, Jessica has been illustrating, consulting, and speaking to international media and events since 2006. Mitch Teich is the executive producer and co-host of Lake Effect, which airs on WUWM.