Monday, September 21, 2020

Boswell events this week: Natalie Bakopoulos, Bill Buford, Ayad Akhtar, Salar Abdoh, Michael Perry, Christian Robinson

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Monday, September 21, 7:30 pm CDT
Natalie Bakopolous, author of Scorpionfish
in Conversation with Valerie Laken for a Virtual Event

Bakopolous, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Wayne State and also author of The Green Shore, chats about her captivating, transporting novel that's been named a Best Summer Read by The Daily Beast and Alma, which calls it "A novel where you can practically taste summer on its pages... a magnetic story." Bakopolous will be in conversation with Valerie Laken, Associate Professor of English at UWM. Register for this virtual event right here, and purchase your copy of Scorpionfish from Boswell Book Company for 10% off list price today!

Here's Daniel Goldin on his read of Scorpionfish: Her parents killed in an accident, Mira takes a leave from her teaching job in Chicago to return to the Athens of her birth. Hoping to take up with her long-time, long-distance lover, she learns upon arrival that he has left her for a well-known film actress. Her voice alternates with her new neighbor, a sailor now separated from the seas and also disengaging from his marriage. The story might dissolve into introspection were it not for Athens, equally lush and tranquil and dirty and chaotic, almost a character itself, and certainly the impetus to awaken these souls from their mournful slumber. If your Greek vacation was cancelled this year, reading Scorpionfish might just be the next best thing."

Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, says "Scorpionfish dazzles, fierce and tender in turn... Savor it, and it will leave you changed." And Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus, says, "a riveting, elegant novel keenly observed in the manner of Elena Ferrante and Rachel Cusk. A divine, chiseled stunner." 

And finally, from the Zelos blog, Bakopoulos writes about Athens: "Though I have friends and family in Athens, I also spend a lot of time there on my own, working, writing - a solitude I really crave sometimes, and enjoy. When I’m not writing or teaching, I love spending hours walking the city. In some ways, though it’s a work of the imagination, Scorpionfish is my own love letter to Athens - a city I’m missing all the more now that it’s more difficult, or impossible, to return."  

Tuesday, September 22, 5:30 pm CDT
Bill Buford, author of Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking
in Conversation with Kyle Cherek for a Virtual Event 

Alliance Française de Milwaukee and Boswell Book Company present an evening with Buford, longtime writer and editor at The New Yorker and author of the widely-acclaimed Heat, where he’ll chat about his brand new book of culinary adventures, a hilariously self-deprecating, highly obsessive account of the author’s adventures in the world of French haute cuisine, perfect for anyone whose ever found joy in cooking and eating food with their family. Buford will be in conversation with Milwaukee Culinary Historian and Food Essayist Kyle Cherek. Click here to register for this Zoom event. And purchase your copy of Dirt from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price today! 

Buford turns his inimitable attention from Italian cuisine to the food of France in his latest, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Baffled by the language, but convinced that he can master the art of French cooking, or at least get to the bottom of why it is so revered, he begins what becomes a five-year odyssey by shadowing the esteemed French chef Michel Richard, in Washington, D.C. 

As Dwight Garner notes in The New York Times: "So much cooking and eating gets done that Buford’s next book, after Heat and Dirt, in order to preserve the Eat, Pray, Love cadence, should probably be titled Gout." (We'll see if that prediction comes true.)

When Buford (quickly) realizes that a stage in France is necessary, he goes, with his wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow, to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at L’Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred La Mère Brazier, enduring the endless hours and exacting rigeur of the kitchen, Buford becomes a man obsessed - with proving himself on the line, proving that he is worthy of the gastronomic secrets he’s learning, proving that French cooking actually derives from (mon dieu!) the Italian. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterly ability to immerse himself, and us, in his surroundings, Buford has written what is sure to be the food-lover’s book of the year. 

As Moira Hodgson wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "You can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s “Dirt,” an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France... Mr. Buford brings a novelistic approach to his story; he is both observer and participant. He’s an entertaining, often comical, raconteur."

Tuesday, September 22, 7 pm CDT
Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies
in Conversation with Mark Clements for a Virtual Event 

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author Akhtar chats with Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements (who is currently working to adapt American Dervish for the stage) about Homeland Elegies, an unflinching novel about searching for belonging in America. Cosponsored by the Milwaukee Rep. To Register for this event, click this link for the Zoom webinar registration page, and purchase your copy of Homeland Elegies from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price.

A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of an immigrant father and his son search for belonging in post-Trump America, and with each other. 

Akhtar talked to Noel King on NPR's Morning Edition. On why he decided to blend fact and fiction: "I wanted to reach a reader today who is addicted to the thrill of breaking news and absorbed in the Instagram scroll feed. That reader, of course, is me, the reader who has lost interest, in a way, in anything that is not sensational in that way. I wanted to write a philosophical novel, but I wanted it to have the thrill of a kind of reality TV serial."

From Ron Charles in The Washington Post: "The challenge of remembering one’s identity in a racist culture is also at the heart of Akhtar’s remarkable new book, Homeland Elegies. But here, Akhtar bounds far beyond the cleverly engineered drama of Disgraced. With its sprawling vision of contemporary America, Homeland Elegies is a phenomenal coalescence of memoir, fiction, history and cultural analysis. It would not surprise me if it wins him a second Pulitzer Prize. But for which category?"

Wednesday, September 23, 7 pm CDT
Salar Abdoh, author of Out of Mesopotamia
in Conversation with Meg Jones for a Virtual Event

Boswell hosts Iranian novelist Salar Abdoh, author of Tehran at Twilight and The Poet Game, for a conversation about his latest, in which Abdoh offers an unprecedented glimpse into "endless war" from a Middle Eastern perspective. He'll chat with Meg Jones, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Register for this event on this Zoom registration page, and purchase your copy of Out of Mesopotamia from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price.

In a novel that draws from his firsthand experience of being embedded with Shia militias on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Abdoh gives agency to the voiceless while offering a meditation on war that is moving, humane, darkly funny, and resonantly true. 

From Eliot Ackerman, author of Red Dress in Black and White, in The New York Times: "For many Americans, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have become abstractions, separated from our lives by geographic as well as psychic boundaries. Abdoh collapses these boundaries, presenting a disjointed reality in which war and everyday life are inextricably entwined. The result, Saleh asserts late in the novel, is that 'the transience of it all made us mad men.' This discovery of collective madness seems closest to the achieved wisdom Proust alluded to, attained only after a long journey through the wilderness. The novel arrives at that wisdom by shining a brilliant, feverish light on the nature of not only modern war but all war, and even of life itself."

From Boswellian Chris Lee: "In what should well become an essential portrait of the fight against the Islamic State, Salar Abdoh’s novel reinvigorates the way we write about war. Saleh, an Iranian journalist and reluctant drama-as-propaganda television writer, travels between the urbane art world of Tehran and the battlefields near the northern border of Syria and Iraq, where he’s gotten more involved than a reporter is supposed to be. The novel digs into Saleh’s meditations and struggle to understand: why do we choose to bloody our hands? The answers are many, uneasy and contradictory, but as Abdoh riffs on the Western canon of war – the adrift disillusionment of Hemingway, the absurdity and commerce of Catch-22Out of Mesopotamia is nothing less than profound."

Thursday, September 24, 7 pm CDT
Michael Perry, author of Million Billion: Brief Essays on Snow Days, Spitwads, Bad Sandwiches, Dad Socks, Hairballs, Headbanging Bird Love, and Hope and Big Boy's Big Rig (available at Books and Company)
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a Virtual Event

Beloved Wisconsin author Perry joins the proprietors of Boswell Book Company and Books and Company for the September installment of our joint Readings from Oconomowaukee virtual event series. He’ll chat with Goldin and Baudoin about his latest book, a new collection of columns from Perry’s regular 'Roughneck Grace' feature in the Wisconsin State Journal. Click right here to register for this event, and purchase your copy of Million Billion for 10% off list price from Boswell or Books & Company, and Big Boy's Big Rig from Books & Company.

In this fresh collection of 'Roughneck Grace' columns, bestselling author and humorist Perry reinforces his reputation as a writer navigating between the transcendent, the quotidian, and the downright goofy. Whether putting himself on roller skates for his daughter's birthday, fixing the chicken fence, or celebrating St. Jude (patron saint of fools), Perry writes with a big heart from a small place.

Michael Perry is an author, humorist, playwright, and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry’s memoirs include Population: 485, Truck: A Love Story, and Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. Among his other dozen titles are The Scavengers (for young readers) and his novel The Jesus Cow. 

Friday, September 25, 5:30 pm CDT
Christian Robinson, author of You Matter
in Conversation with Glenn Carson for an After School Virtual Event

Enjoy this UWM ACCESS event for students, parents, and educators of Milwaukee Public Schools that's just been opened to the public! Christian Robinson’s encore virtual visit is for an after school special virtual event to chat about his latest picture book, You Matter. Open to the public - click here to register now. And purchase your copy of You Matter for 20% off list price today!

Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honoree Robinson chats about his new sensitive and impactful picture book about seeing the world from different points of view. In this bright and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored, from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.

Don't forget about NO Studio's event with Rick Perlstein for Reaganland, in conversation with John Ridley. Tickets are $10, free for NO Studios members, and are available here.

Our thanks to this week's event partners.

Photo credits - Natalie Bakopoulos (Jerehmiah Chamberlin), Bill Buford (Thomas Schauer), Ayad Akhtar (Vincent Tullo), Salar Abdoh (Mehri Rahimzadeh), Michael Perry (Cameron Wittig), Chistian Robinson (John Kwiatkowski)

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