We’re heading into prime author appearance season at Schwartz, and some may wonder how we figure out which event goes where. Sometimes we base the decision on how similar books have sold or the success of previous events. Other times it’s the luck of the schedule. When an author has local ties, we often ask him or her which location they think would work best.
Recently we were chatting with Daphne Beal, author of the marvelous new novel In the Land of No Right Angles. Beal, who has written for Vogue, McSweeneys, Open City and the London Review of Books, has local roots, and they positively glow in her Wisconsin entry of the upcoming anthology State by State.
The novel is in the finest “innocent abroad” style, a young woman in Nepal under the spell of a Western Buddhist teacher and a young local who is eager to escape the confines of her tribal village. You can read some of the wonderful reviews on Beal’s official site.
It turns out, some location requests are more eloquent than others. So why not share?
Down by the East Side
When asked where I wanted to read when I came to Milwaukee, I immediately responded Downer Ave. While I grew up in a more northerly suburb, the famously infamous River Hills, it was Downer Ave. where I first got a taste for adolescent freedom and rebellion, at least in a kind of G-rated way. When I started high school at University School, then a separate campus in Whitefish Bay, I made friends with juniors and seniors from the intriguing East Side, kids of artists and professors who were somehow different from the people I’d known mostly up until then.
Up until ninth grade, it had been a more bucolic life, riding bikes around the suburbs, going bowling at Brown Port Mall. With the exception of cultural or sports excursions downtown, Whitefish Bay was about as far south as my friends and I usually got.
But it was on Downer Ave. at the old Coffee Trader where as a high school freshman I had my first cappuccinos with my friend Sam(antha), where we talked for hours, feeling very cosmopolitan under the high ceiling fans. To my teenage eyes they were as romantic as the ones in "Casablanca." We were giddy with our newfound freedom; we could have been in Paris or Istanbul, we felt so sophisticated.
Sometimes Sam and I hung out with the older boys, occasionally pouring soap from the laundromat into the fountain in the sidewalk and watching the great drifts of suds tumble and blow. Our friend Schuyler whose mother was a ballet teacher drove an old white VW station wagon we called the milk truck, and our friend Mike, who once described himself as a “yellow-dog Democrat” drove a little red Ford Fiesta that we all thought would break down any minute, especially when the weather turned.
At fourteen, I felt like Downer Ave.—and its close cousin North Farwell—was the portal to the wide world beyond with its foreign food, books, magazines, and movies, and in a way it was. When Mike and Schuyler and our friend Alison all graduated and went East to school, it didn’t surprise Sam and me. Of course they were going further afield. I eventually followed.
It seemed only apt that for my first reading in Milwaukee, I would return to the threshold of the place that led me out.
Daphne Beal will be reading at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Avenue (of course) on Thursday, September 18th. The event starts at 7 PM.
Matt Weiland, the co-editor of State by State will appear at the Downer Avenue Schwartz on Thursday, October 2nd at a special pre-debate time of 6:30 PM. The event will also include the Milwaukee premiere of the "Out of the Book" documentary for State by State, produced by Portland's Powell's Books.