Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daniel Goldin's Last Official Post on Inside Flap--Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Closed March 21, 2009

As I transition to a new life at the new Boswell Book Company, I am saying goodbye to a lot of important parts of my old life. It's actually a bittersweet experience, but the adrenalin surges (they look like enthusiasm but they are really driven by fear) mask these emotions to the outside observer.

One of the things I am saying goodbye to is the Inside Flap, this very blog started by a team of Downer booksellers. It was started to engage readers with their distinct personality and vision both to Milwaukee-area book buyer and the wider literary world, which it did quite successfully.

Sarah, Carl and Conrad, ex-Downer Schwartz folk all (Sarah has also been one of the key posters on "Flap", and I discussed the idea of asking Jay if we could take over the blog at our new store. But we agreed that it would be best to start afresh.

We're hoping to have booksellers start posting at The Boswellians any day now. I'll continue to have my Boswell and Books blog with a somewhat different perspective. (Not totally different, mind you--Sarah just let me know that a big mystery author that I love was interested in doing something with us, a friend of a friend thing, and I was absolutely jealous).

The Inside Flap gang (aside from the above folks who are moving to Boswell Book Company) has not so much left as dispersed over the last year, like butterflies leaving their cocoon:

Jordan, having conquered Milwaukee from his native Cleveland, is ready to tackle Chicago

Justin is giving up his hourlong commute from the South Shore for a closer-in part-time gig, allowing him to devote more energies to his writing, his art, and his kids.

Stacie, as discussed in the "Chris Cleave visits Milwaukee" video, is looking forward to leaving here so she can come back and visit. She's traveling west in April, but has a number of tricks up her sleeve for the future.

And Jay is immersed in life at UWM's English department, and of course is editor-in-chief of the Cream City Review. Teacher, student, new father, writer--he's keeping pretty busy.

That said, Jay is mulling the option of a post-Schwartz, post-Boswell, reincarnated Inside Flap. I wish him the best.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Can Judge This One by The Cover

The paperback edition of the magical short story collection The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier, flapped about in January of last year, landed yesterday.

The new cover is exquisite - its dark, beautiful, imaginative visage perfectly reflects the content inside. The painting that graces it, "Library", is part of a 'city without humans' series of paintings titled "The City" by Lori Nix. I highly recommend checking her out. She has an eye for disaster, nature and tableaux that is to be rivaled by few.

Also, the Fall 2008 issue of The Cream City Review (Volume 32, Issue 2) features a lengthy interview with Brockmeier, covering everything from writing to philosophy to fancy dijon mustard commercial reenactments.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Callisto - Torsten Krol

If Torsten Krol's debut novel went no further than the setup, a floundering young high school dropout getting in over his head in the go-nowhere titular town, it would be a great read. Krol has a fantastic gift for fleshed-out character creation and a command of quirk to rival that found in the best movies of the Coen brothers. However, like the Coens, Krol's story wades into the shallow end of strange and then something takes hold of its feet and drags it down into epic depths of weird and wonderful.

Odell Deefus is a loser by most objective standards. He's a drifter with no prospects who hits upon the terrible idea of joining the U.S. Army circa 2007 to fight "the mad dog Islamites" and gain recognition as a person who matters. His plan takes him in the direction of an Army recruitment center in Callisto, Kansas. Deefus's car, however, falls short of the goal by dying at a farm on the outskirts of town. You could call it fate, but only if you believe in a terrible God who enjoys laughing at the tribulations of the less fortunate.

This unscheduled detour assures that all of his plans, ill-thought as they were, have now gone off the rails, depositing Odell in a perfect storm of cross purposes and competing agendas. How does one man escape the entaglements of murder, lawn mowing, drug dealing, terrorism, local news, televangelism, small-town grudges, national politics and military "justice" armed only with a love of rum and Condoleeza Rice? Can not quite sharp enough instincts and a cracked spine copy of The Yearling guide Odell out of the troubles he's both fallen into and created for himself?

Callisto is a book equal parts George Singleton and George Saunders; exploring small town eccentricity and nation-sized paranoia; both a story of personal inventory and a chronicle of national dread. Far from another safe, 'there he goes again', funny, sad sack story, it's also a hilariously brutal indictment of a society too ready for story and not able to question what they're given. Odell Deefus is the post-9/11 Middle American Everyman, not stupid but unthinking; affable but less wise than the times demand. His journey may be highly improbable, but his part in the story rings true, God help us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

David Schwartz on Bookselling & Milwaukee (circa 1995)

we here at the Downer store would like to take this chance to share something with you that isn't ours. we do this often enough, of course, but this time it's a little something closer to home.

though some of us never had the chance to know David Schwartz, he's always represented to us the pinnacle of bookselling-as-it-should-be. we hear stories from all corners, tales of heroism and gallantry; first, second & third hand accounts that consistently paint the same picture - a man greatly loved, sorely missed, and forever held in the highest regard. 

with that said, we share with you a little blast from the past, a 1995 interview by Jim Peck on I Remember Milwaukee. recently we had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Peck at the Downer store, and fondly remembered the interview we're about to share.

Note: We own no permissions for this video, all credits go to Milwaukee Public Television.

without further ado:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

and once more (for good measure):

Bookselling was and is for me a cultural and political expression, an expression of progressive change, of a challenge to oppressive authority, of a search for a community of values which can act as an underpinning of a better world. The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the bookshop on the community.

A. David Schwartz
(July 15, 1938 - June 7, 2004)