‘It’s All Relative’ for Michigan Author Wade Rouse

Cover ImageIf you’re anywhere near Petoskey this Tuesday evening, you might want to duck into indie booksellers McLean and Eakin for a few laughs with Wade Rouse. The Michigan author will be on hand for a discussion and signing of his latest book, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir).

This isn’t Mr. Rouse’s first time heading north to promote his work. It was just about two years ago that the author was at McLean and Eakin to share his hilarious memoir, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life, which was released to high praise and laughter.

NBC’s Today Show calls Rouse “laugh-out-loud-funny,” and was noted by The Washington Post as “an original writer and impressive new voice.” Rouse is a contributing humor columnist for Metrosource, a high-profile gay magazine, and his essays and articles have appeared in numerous national magazines and online publications.*

Rouse currently makes his home “on the coast of Lake Michigan” with his partner Gary. Rouse will further anchor himself to Michigan shores with the recent announcement that he’s been asked to be a regular on Michigan Public Radio. The author will be contributing essays from his latest memoir, It’s All Relative, as well as offering special segments. You can click here for Wade’s Saturday feature.

Wade Rouse’s McLean and Eakin event will take place on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 from 6:30pm – 8:00 pm. It is suggested that you buzz the booksellers at 231-347-1180 or 1-800-968-1910 to reserve a spot. Call to confirm detail events before heading out the door as schedules are always subject to change.

If you can’t make it to McLean and Eakin, feel free to link to Rouse’s full appearance schedule for other northern Michigan signings.

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

-Information taken from the Wade Rouse site.

-For a list of Press reviews of Rouse’s work, you can link here.*

Meteorologist Paul Gross Takes ‘Extreme Michigan Weather’ in Stride

Mother Nature received a standing ovation last night for her exceptional performance in yesterday’s storms. Pooling water and weighted trees are a common sight this morning if you’re not still bailing out from the 3 inches of rain that fell across the Detroit metro area. Not sure what I’m talking about? Click here.

Michigan is a definite beauty, but the weather is full of stunning surprises every season, year after year. Much like the dog beaten by his master, we remain steadfast and true to the unpredictable climes of the state that keep us sunning in the summer and weeping in the winter.

Paul Gross, however, has taken Michigan weather up a few degrees. The Local 4 weatherman is well known in the area as the official meteorologist for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, and the University of Michigan football and baseball teams. Gross now adds the title of author to his forecast with the perfect “go to” book for those of us looking for more information on the mystifying weather that both irritates and brings Michiganians such pleasure.

Extreme Michigan Weather: The Wild World of the Great Lakes State is a slick paperback that digs into the state’s heat waves, bitter snows, ripping winds, ice storms, and yes, floods. Gross gets into the reasons behind our harsh climate and explores the causes behind fog, rainbows, lake breezes, ice jams, black ice and even global warming.

Extreme Michigan Weather carries the interest and kind of information that easily transfers to those of us who aren’t so science savvy. For more information about Extreme Michigan Weather, check out this interview with Paul Gross. If you’re interested in buying Gross’ book, it’s available through the University of Michigan Press site.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘The Known World’ Falls Flat for Friends Book Group

DetailsIt had been a while since my last visit it to the Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone book group discussion at Zuma Coffee House in Birmingham. The Baldwin Public Library’s monthly group met just last week, so I made it a point to pull up a chair and join the conversation on their latest pick The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

Jones’s Pulitzer Prize winner apparently didn’t have quite the same awe-inspiring effect on the book club as it did on the literary masses. While it was agreed by all that The Known World certainly deserves the nod it received globally for its content, the heavy-hitting work of fiction made a much softer thud among the group at Zuma.

Though the Friends had mixed reviews regarding The Known World, the book decidedly paved the way for interesting paths of digression. Haves versus have-nots, indentured servants, modern day slaves, and racial passing were just a few of the many hot topics that kept the coffee and conversation flowing.

For some readers finishing a book and moving right on to the next title simply isn’t enough. Readers often feel the need to dig a little deeper and hash out the themes and meanings behind different authors and their works; for this the book club is key.

While there are some who equate the idea of a good book discussion with that of a solid snooze, many of us who voraciously read find it nothing but narcotic. Attempting to fit the literary pieces of a written work into the larger puzzle of life is not a thundering headache, but rather a nice pop of head candy in an otherwise “think for you” world.

The Friends group is an easy, ever-changing, laid back bunch. However, if you’re more the solitary type there are a couple of smart book groups online that have caught my eye over the past few months. I haven’t participated in any of them but Algonquin, The New Yorker, and NPR all offer interactive sites where readers can engage.

If you are interested in joining the next Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone book group discussion, it will take place at Zuma Coffee House in Birmingham on Tuesday, June 21st at 7:00 pm. Kathryn Bergeron, who hosts the monthly meetings, has announced The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as the next selection. Copies are available at the Baldwin Public Library.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Boyle’s ‘Arc of Justice’ is Back in the Spotlight as this Year’s Great Michigan Read

Cover ImageAuthor and Detroit native Kevin Boyle is pretty pumped about the idea of coming home this fall. The reason? Boyle’s compelling book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age has been selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as this year’s featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Arc of Justice selected for the Great Michigan Read,” Boyle shared in an email, and said the choice of his book holds “particularly powerful meaning.”

Boyle’s Arc of Justice “tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925.”* After an altercation one evening with his enraged white neighbors, Sweet’s life – and the course of Detroit’s racial history – are forever altered.

Published in 2004 (Henry Holt and Co.), Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Arc of Justice has also made its mark on Michigan’s literary scene. Boyle’s nonfiction book was selected in 2005 as a Michigan Notable Book and was the 2007 pick for the Detroit metro community-wide Everyone’s Reading program. Now Arc of Justice will make yet another appearance in the state as the star of this year’s Great Michigan Read.

The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide initiative intended to encourage Michiganians of all ages to read and participate in book discussions and events that take place across the state. It targets Michigan themes so the literature will be more accessible and interesting to citizens of communities throughout the state.

Free is certainly a word that catches the eye these days. As our literary and   educational resources continue to dwindle, programs such as the Great Michigan Read are a boon to local communities and to those of us who relish fine reading. Book clubs, classrooms, colleges and museums are but a few of the potential sites that can sponsor a reading or get directly involved with Arc of Justice and bring fine literature to life.

This fall The Humanities Council will offer reader guides, teacher guides and free discussion kits that will include copies of the book. Supporting programs such as book discussions, classroom exercises, exhibitions, lectures, oral history projects and more will also be available. For communities offering bigger programs, the Council can provide opportunities to host the author as well as financial support.

Whether or not Kevin Boyle will hit your hometown is still to be determined as the Great Michigan Read schedule continues to take shape. Boyle currently lives in Ohio but is, in fact, excited to be “coming home” this fall for a six-city author tour as part of the Read program. “It’ll be great to talk about Detroit, about Arc of Justice, and about the big questions the story raised,” Boyle says, “Most of all, it’ll be great to be home.”

*Information from Michigan Humanities Council

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

Powells.com Review of Arc of Justice

Warning: plot spoilers – NYT review ‘Arc of Justice’: I Swear it Was in Self-Defense

Heffernan Offers Humor, Allusions, and Exotic Locales ‘At the Bureau of Divine Music’

Cover ImagePoets Michael Heffernan and Thomas Lynch are teaming up for a few appearances in northern Michigan this week. The dynamic literary duo will kick off their Notable Books Tour on Monday, May 16th, 2011, at Petosky’s McLean & Eakin as part of their Yellow Chair Series, followed by several other stops dotting the northern part of the state.

While I happen to love poetry, honesty forces me to admit that I’m not the most able when it comes to its interpretation. Therefore, I have happily turned to fellow blogger Maggie Lane (Poem Elf)* to share her views on Michael Heffernan’s latest work, At the Bureau of Divine Music. Heffernan’s book was published in March and is part of the Wayne State University Press’ stunning Made in Michigan Writers Series.

At the Bureau of Divine Music by Michael Heffernan

– review by Maggie Lane

If one morning travel guru Rick Steves woke up bitten, in spite of the mosquito netting on his hammock, by the poetry bug, and upon finding himself unable to write a single sentence of his usual clear and cheerful prose, decided to give over to his new muse, what he’d write might sound like this:

Never fail to go as far from home

as you can find the means to get

or even

. . . I had to move,

at least to put new things in front of me

if not to make another kind of home

if home was what I wanted in the first place

The lines are from Michael Heffernan’s new collection At the Bureau of Divine Music. Heffernan, like Steves, is a world traveler, a restless spirit for whom “home” is not a refuge but a place which must be left behind.  The urge to inhabit new spots on the ever-alluring space-time continuum is too great for Heffernan to stick in one locale or even one gender for long in this entrancing new collection of poems.

And move around he does, from a café in postwar Paris to boyhood days in Detroit to Russia to Macedonia to Shreveport to a place, perhaps imaginary, with the lovely name of Kittythorpe.  Always his imagination is flitting back to the past and jumping ahead to the future. Restlessness is a trait he shares with many of his characters, some of who appear in masterful dramatic monologues:  travelers, dreamers, unfaithful lovers, embezzlers, and a man who aspires to be the neighborhood Gaughin.

His travels, real or imaginary, pack his poems with references and asides that had me chasing to keep up.  The allusions in the poems can be challenging, but well worth every Google search. If you’re the type of person who thrills at a conversation with someone smarter and wittier than you, you’ll get charged up reading Heffernan.  And if you are also the type of person who’s fantasized about being married to a smarter, wittier person, here’s a little scenario for you from “Consecration of the House”:  Heffernan sits upstairs in his bubble bath, quite the Diogenes, thinking about big questions and quoting Yeats, and calls down answers to his wife’s crossword puzzle.  He calls down more information than she asks for, just because he knows it:

’It’s also the word for being as in L’Etre et le Neant by Jean-Paul Sartre.’

Pretentious, oh yes, but he’s playing a part and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Clearly he knows that no man sitting in a bathtub can be judged as anything but silly.  The poem, through Heffernan’s deft maneuvering, becomes a meditation on the soul (on being, the crossword clue), and ends with an unforgettable image of Kennedy moments before his assassination.

Just how seamlessly Heffernan travels through time and moves from drollery to tragedy and from matters mundane to the metaphysical, is evident in a favorite poem of mine from the collection, “Morning Mail.”

The poet in his bathrobe, aimless and alone in the house on a Monday morning, gets a letter from a friend in Boston.  The friend asks for reasons to keep on living from those of his friends who took the time to soothe him where it hurt/in the exhausted tissues of the soul.  The poet, as he considers his friend’s pleading for reasons to be vertical, reclines on the couch, which is funny but also dark, as if his friend’s despair entices him to try on death himself.

Lying there he remembers an old lover, a woman in a café in France who would just as soon be back in Worcester.  They both seem to wonder why we were doing this, a phrase that connects the vignettes in the poem, but the couple continues the doomed relationship in long travels through the Balkans on ships and uncomfortable trains.  In Greece they watch three women in black dresses step into the sea.  Two of them are daughters bathing their blind mother, who is crying. The image is indelible to him and to the reader.

From the pain of this reverie he comes back to the present as the letter drops behind the couch.  The time had come to rise up and occur, he says.  (I’m going to store this line as a useful antidote to indolence.)   In typical fashion for writers, this resolve to action leads him to stare out the window.  There he watches three blackbirds on a neighbor’s roof.  The blackbirds become the three Greek women and then transform into black angels come to make him face uncomfortable truths.  Why are we doing this? they seem to ask as they tumble from the roof and swoop up again.  His friend’s existential question has reverberated through his past and through the past of the two women who forced their mother unseeing into the sea and now into his present.  Why are we doing this?  And once we realize the futility, how do we stay vertical, how do we stay aloft?

Heffernan’s humor, allusions, and exotic locales form a viewing platform from which he hopes to catch sight of the unseen.  His restless spirit seems always in search of permanence, which some would call, especially those with Heffernan’s Jesuit education, the divine.

Heffernan, a Detroit native, teaches poetry at the University of Arkansas and is the two-time recipient of the Pushcart Prize, among other awards.  At the Bureau of Divine Music is Heffernan’s ninth book and, as noted, part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series by Wayne State University Press.

– If you can’t make it to those readings, click here to listen to Garrison Keillor read “The Art of Self-Defense,” a poem from this volume set in Detroit.

*Maggie Lane lives and writes in Beverly Hills, Michigan where she hosts the blog site Poem Elf. You can find her at http://poemelf.wordpress.com.

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Author Richard Ford Edits and Assembles for Ann Arbor’s 826michigan

Cover ImageIf you didn’t catch the  Detroit Free Press feature on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford last Sunday, then you just might be unaware of Ford’s recent release, Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work, and his contributions toward fostering the written word in Michigan.

Harper Collins is the publisher behind Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar, and touts the book as a “vital and compelling collection of stories about work.” Ford, who both edited and assembled Stories of Work, will be donating all proceeds to 826michigan.

826michigan is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills,” states the 826 site. As part of their mission, the Ann Arbor based organization offers various academic services such as drop-in tutoring, creative workshops, and in-school programming, and is dedicated “to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”

In celebration of the students and volunteers of 826michigan, guest of honor Richard Ford joined fellow Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor last night as part of  The Storymakers Dinner. The annual Dinner is designated as an evening to shine the spotlight on all of those at 826michigan who make good stories happen.

If you happened to miss the dinner, you can still contribute to the 826 cause. If you’re interested in purchasing Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work, it’s available at the 826michigan site for $16.99. All proceeds directly benefit 826michigan student programming.*

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer

*All proceed and benefit information taken directly from the 826michigan site.

Related Links

Christopher Walton: Author Richard Ford edits anthology to benefit nonprofit tutor program

‘Friends of the Library’ are Friends Indeed

Book lovers turned out en masse last Saturday morning looking to add a few new titles to their personal collections. On what was an absolutely flawless Spring morning, I was just one of many local bibliophiles who opted out of the brilliant sunshine for a little stint of shopping on the lower level of the Baldwin Public Library.

We all need friends, but no one does it quite like Baldwin’s Friends of the Library when it comes to their Semi-Annual Used Book Sale. The excitement was palpable as book enthusiasts eagerly thumbed, browsed, and flipped through more than 10,000 books looking for literary treasures. Be it novel, cookbook, movie, or music, the Friends had it all broken down and categorized into tight, tidy sections allowing patrons the opportunity to snag prime hardcovers and paperbacks for just a few bucks a book.

With library funds dwindling, bookstores closing, and the surge of e-books, many avid readers are now looking toward used book sales as a way to stockpile their reading stash while also contributing to a great cause. Friends of the Library treasurer Joe Wolf expected some 600-700 book buyers to move through Baldwin during the weekend’s Spring sale, and said the 2010 Fall sale made about $13,000.

In our tight economy, the Friends of the Library play an integral role in financing library programs, above and beyond the library’s budget. All proceeds from the Friends’ sales go directly to library programs and materials. Author visits, summer reading programs, movie screenings, and Everyone’s Reading  programs are just a sampling of the extended list of gifts the Friends provide. Simply stated by one of Baldwin’s librarians, “We couldn’t do it without them.”

If you’re looking to contribute on either end, the next used book sale will take place in November. The Friends accept books, CDs, DVDs, and GameBoys in excellent to good condition. If you have donations, you can leave them on the shelves by the elevator doors on Baldwin’s main floor. Tax receipts for donations can also be requested at the Circulation Desk.

If you can’t wait until November for the next big used book sale, you might want to check out Bookstock in Livonia next week. All proceeds benefit literacy and education initiatives for our local communities.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘A Red Herring Without Mustard’ is Oh So Delicious!

Cover ImageAlan Bradley is back at it and his readers couldn’t be more pleased. Flavia de Luce is saucier than ever in A Red Herring Without Mustard, Bradley’s third and latest installment of the Flavia de Luce mystery series.

Bradley’s de Luce books are a bit like a literary Christmas; they come once a year, are full of mystery, and guarantee a wink and a smile when they’re over. If you haven’t yet caught Flavia or Bradley’s clever style in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie or The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (the first and second books in the series), I strongly suggest backing up to the beginning for maximum enjoyment.

Flavia is a wonder to behold. Not only does she fearlessly make her way through the creepiest of spine-tingling situations, but she also knows how to fire it up in her chemical laboratory. It’s in Flavia’s beloved lab that sass turns to spark as she calmly sifts through the bizarre clues she’s collected along the way to solving the latest mystery in England’s Bishop’s Lacey.

A Red Herring Without Mustard is no exception to Bradley’s shrewd yet perky series, and easily falls in with Flavia’s past footsteps of messy murder and mischief. Once again, the cheeky eleven-year-old super sleuth has found herself a fresh body (dead, of course) on the old Buckshaw estate and aims to get to the bottom of things.

“I have no fear of the dead,” quips Flavia. “Indeed, in my own limited experience I have found them to produce in me a feeling that is quite the opposite of fear. A dead body is much more fascinating than a live one, and I have learned that most corpses tell better stories.”

And a good story it is. Though from a comparative standpoint Herring fizzled a touch for me at the end, its ramped-up eerie factor brought about a fine balance making A Red Herring Without Mustard a delicious read.

For those of you who are already hooked on the series, Bradley’s next Flavia de Luce novel is titled I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, and will be released in the United States on November 1, 2011. Yes, just in time for Christmas.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

NLR’s review of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

– Review of Red Herring from National Post

‘Night for Notables’ to Honor Michigan’s Finest

Michigan’s finest authors will be stepping out Saturday night for a few hors d’oeuvres, some fine Michigan wines, and a swell of well-deserved recognition for their award-winning contributions to the 2011 Michigan Notable Books.

The Library of Michigan’s annual Night for Notables is an event designed to pay tribute to those authors who have written works that offer “high-quality titles with wide public appeal” and “are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience.”*

The event’s featured speaker this year is none other than Traverse City’s National Writers Series founder Doug Stanton, a New York Times best-selling author. Saturday’s Night for Notables will honor this year’s title contributors and also provide a forum for the authors to sign and discuss copies of their award-winning books.

What are the Michigan Notable Books? Each year, the Library of Michigan selects up to 20 published titles over the last year that celebrate Michigan people, places, or events. Stretching back to 1991, the Michigan Notable Books began as the “Read Michigan” program but switched its name in 2004.

Anywhere between 250 to 400 Michigan-related titles are reviewed each year. Book selections are highly competitive and are reviewed by a board of 10-16 members who come from various literary backgrounds. The program is supported by sponsors and grants handled by the Library of Michigan Foundation.

Night Light Revue has covered several of this year’s Notable authors and their works. If you are interested in a few of NLR’s book reviews or author event coverage, please feel free to click on the links below. If you are interested in reading any of this year’s titles, our undervalued yet oh-so-amazing local libraries carry copies of the Michigan Notable Books both past and present and offer author events throughout the year. For free. For everyone.

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

Heather Sellers – “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know”

Writers Live! Features author Heather Sellers

Heather Sellers Delights at Writers Live! Event

Bryan Gruley – “The Hanging Tree: A Starvation Lake Mystery”

‘Starvation Lake’ is a Trip Worth Taking

Laura Kasischke – “Eden Springs”

Kasischke Shines in Eden Springs

Thomas Lynch – “Apparition & Late Fictions”

Life With Death – One Good Thing Leads to Another

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*As stated on the Michigan Notable Books site.

National Writers Series of Traverse City Definitely a Trip Worth Taking

COH Banner

As it turned out, driving north into high winds and rains for four hours was time well spent after all. The National Writers Series of Traverse City banged out another successful evening of laughs and literary insights at the City Opera House Thursday night as they played host to four authors from the Wayne State University Press “Made in Michigan” series.

If you think the art of the written word in Michigan is rusting away due to our bleak economy, you’d better think again. An opera house full of lit lovers both young and old turned out to hear authors Michael Delp, Jack Driscoll, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Michael Zadoorian open up about the writing process and their work.

NWS founder and Traverse City native Doug Stanton honored local student scholarship recipients before turning the mic over to author Michael Delp, who then presided over the evening’s laid-back program. Lending an air of humor and levity that would woo anyone to the midwest, Delp offered up a few self-disparaging narratives to lighten the mood before posing the heavier, more introspective questions to the panel.

The casually clad Campbell, Zadoorian, and Driscoll easily took the stage and answered Delp’s questions with earnest, lyrical answers befitting both their roots and their craft. It was agreed by all that Michigan as “place” plays an integral role in their individual writing process, and regardless of “where” the authors physically do their writing, it’s the people and places of their upbringing that ink the soul, pen, and page. As Driscoll beautifully noted, “We are the aggregate of everything that surrounds us.”

The aggregate on this particular night was a layered assemblage of Michigan voice and perspective from urban, rural, and northern exposures. From Detroit’s edgy Zadoorian to Comstock’s cadenced Campbell, to northern Michigan’s ever-measured Driscoll, each writer brought forth a unique passion for the writing process as well as a nod to the state that breathes such life and rugged beauty into their work.

“Art has no function if it doesn’t transfer,” stated Driscoll, and I firmly agree. Though he was speaking about individual interpretation, many deft hands play a part in the actual artistic transfer that lands such fine literary events into our laps.

Delp applauded Wayne State University Press for giving “a voice to authors in Michigan” and honored their integrity in risk-taking and honest publishing. And of the National Writers Series? Impressive is a word that simply falls far too short in describing the passion and sincere intention of Doug Stanton and the NWS to keep the written word alive and well in Michigan.

For literary lovers and aspiring writers, the series is not to be missed. For a full schedule of events, click here.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

On the Side

“Shnovel” is apparently a new term in the writing game. The merging of “short story” and “novel” may or may not be the creation of poet/novelist Jack Driscoll.

Related Links

-NLR’s Freedom of the University Press

-NLR’s Power of the University Press