Thursday, September 8, 2016

The amazing event that is Ann Patchett in conversation with Jane Hamilton! It's ticketed, and here's why you should buy your ticket before September 13.

As you know, Ann Patchett is coming to Boswell on Wednesday, October 19, 7 pm. It's ticketed. The new novel, Commonwealth, releases September 13, a full five weeks before our event. So we've got a special program going on. From now until September 12, when you buy your ticket, you can choose "Early Pickup" and get your copy of Commonwealth any time after its release. Can you still pick it up on the night of the event? Yes, and you'll be sure to get a first edition too. (Ann Patchett photo credit Heidi Ross)

After September 13 and until we sell out, you'll still be able to purchase your "General" ticket, but it will be the usual rules - you'll be able to pick up your book on the night of the event only. And yes, a sellout is definitely possible - we've already sold 120 tickets. There is a gift card option on the night of the event, but you must select "general" to have that option.

The format? Patchett is in conversation with Jane Hamilton. This is amazing on several levels. For one thing, the authors are great friends and early readers of each other's work. For another, their current novels (Hamilton's is The Excellent Lombards) each draw on their own lives more than any previous novel. Hamilton blew away the crowd at Boswell this past spring. If you're not going to attend our event on October 19, Jane Hamilton is also a keynote at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at UW-Waukesha on November 4 and 5.

What are folks thinking about the new book?

Just in! Jennifer Senior at The New York Times calls Commonwealth "exquisite!"

All well and good, but what do we think? Here's Boswellian Sharon K. Nagel: "Ann Patchett tells the story of a family and its disintegration, caused by one small occurrence. A kiss between a man and a woman who are each married to other people, is the catalyst for the destruction of two relationships and then the reblending of their families. Beautifully written with skillfully wrought characters; this is one of Patchett's best." (Jane Hamilton photo at right)

And here's Boswellian Caroline Froh: "Set off by a sizzling party-scene seduction, this novel whirlwinds through the resulting tumult, chaos, and complicated mess of love that makes up blended family life. Decades pass, and parents re-marry and try to move on, but the children continue to be tuned by the memories of summers they shared growing up. It's only when those memories appear in a best-selling novel (written by someone who happens to be dating their sister), that the now-adult children are brought face to face with unresolved grief from their past, and it's only then that the healing can begin. Ann Patchett tests the responsibilities of love in her usual clear and cutting prose (just look at the first line!). Most of all, Commonwealth promises to be rattling, filled with secrets you didn't know lived in any family outside your own."

Having been around a lot of authors, I know how possessive and private authors can be about their own stories. And I love the way Patchett takes germs of her own story and weaves it into something completely different. Commonwealth is a more intimate tale than Bel Canto or State of Wonder, but it's no less a joy. Patchett has a great time with structure, and the reader gets to play along, unraveling a story within a story within a story, and it's never a chore because well, because it's Patchett.

Look, I'm well past any ability to be unbiased about Patchett's work. I'm excited and a bit nervous to see the reviews start coming out. But more than that, I'm anxious to read every word she says. This piece from Hermione Hoby at The Guardian came out and this paragraph blew me away: "All of her novels, she explains, are the same story: a group of people are thrown together and must forge connections to survive. 'I’ve been writing the same book my whole life – that you’re in one family, and all of a sudden, you’re in another family and it’s not your choice and you can’t get out.' Finally, she asked herself: 'I wonder if I wrote the story that I’m so carefully not writing, if I might be free of it?'" And yes, you have to read this complete article. 

Isn't this what all our favorite writers do? To my thinking, the only difference between commercial and literary writers is that commercial writers write the same literal story every time, whereas literary writers write the same figurative story. And with that definition, you realize that by commercial, I'm not talking about popularity, and that you can do a great job or a terrible job whichever path you take. How's that for an aside?

What can I say? Not from Milwaukee? Patchett has a big tour and I would highly recommend you get your ticket to whichever city your close to if it's not yet sold out. We're actually one of the few stops that's at a bookstore. I'm pretty sure we could have sold more tickets at a theater, but I just felt that at least for this event, the event should be at the store, and the publisher agreed to it. But that means we're likely to sell out our 300 tickets before October 19. Why not buy your ticket now and, if it's still before September 13, choose early pickup? Tickets are $28 and include all taxes and fees. You can also purchase tickets by calling (800) 838-3006.

Coming Friday, my road trip to Parnassus Books in Nashville!

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