Michigan’s Literary Stars to Shine on Saturday Night

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 2012 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.

This year’s featured speakers are 2010 and 2011 National Book Award Winners for Fiction, Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones) and Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule). The evening’s moderator is both a National Book Award Finalist and one of my favorite authors, Bonnie Jo Campbell (American Salvage and Once Upon a River).

Authors to be honored at the Night for Notables this year include such names as Michael Moore, Jack Dempsey, Steve Hamilton, and Jim Harrison among others. Many of this year’s contributors will be on hand 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.

For NLR coverage of a few of this year’s titles, you can link here. For a detailed piece on the upcoming event, link to this wonderful City Pulse piece by fellow friend and Mittenlit blogger Bill Castanier.

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

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Milan: A Treasure for the Traveling Bibliophile

While we struggle to keep our independent bookstores alive here in the United States, those in Italy appear to be thriving. At almost any turn in Milan, tiny bookstores are warmly tucked into the deep, ancient facades that crowd and curve through the city. This bookstore is nestled in a fairly quiet corner and might have been easily missed had I not been staying across the street.

One of the highlights of Milan for me were the small stands that raise their arthritic arms to reveal rows of used books of every genre. The vender fidgets close by while pedestrians take their time perusing titles or looking for that special treasure.

Books and art often hold hands. Should you make it to Milan, don’t miss out on seeing Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper, which is housed at Santa Maria delle Grazie. I was completely unprepared for the painting’s magnificence. A bookstore is attached but absolutely no pictures are permitted.

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

Post by Megan Shaffer

Gregory Sumner Brings Vonnegut to Baldwin Public Library

Gregory Sumner, author of Unstuck in Time: A Journey through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels will speak at the Baldwin Public Library tonight, Wednesday, April 11 at 7 p.m.  Sumner’s appearance is part of Baldwin’s celebration of National Library Week.

In Unstuck in Time, Gregory Sumner guides the reader, with insight and passion, through a biography of fifteen of Kurt Vonnegut’s best known works, his fourteen novels starting with Player Piano (1952) all the way to an epilogue on his last book, A Man Without a Country (2005), to illustrate the quintessential American writer’s profound engagement with the “American Dream” in its various forms.

Sumner gives the reader a poignant portrait of Vonnegut and his resistance to celebrating the traditional values associated with the American Dream: grandiose ambition, unbridled material success, rugged individualism, and “winners” over “losers.” Instead of a celebration of these values, we read and share Vonnegut’s outrage, his brokenhearted empathy for those who struggle under the ethos of survival-of-the-fittest in the frontier mentality—something he once memorably described as “an impossibly tough-minded experiment in loneliness.”

Heroic and tragic, Vonnegut’s novels reflect the pain of his own life’s experiences, relieved by small acts of kindness, friendship, and love that exemplify another way of living, another sort of human utopia, an alternative American Dream, and the reason we always return to his books.

Gregory Sumner, JD, PhD, is a professor of history at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he has taught since 1993. He holds a doctorate in American history from Indiana University and is the author of Dwight Macdonald and the Politics Circle. Sumner has been awarded summer fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has twice been William J. Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the Université di Roma Tre.

Books will be available for purchase and signing from the Book Beat bookstore.  You can also pre-order with Book Beat at 248-968-1190.

The Baldwin Public Library is located in downtown Birmingham at 300 W. Merrill Street and can be reached at 248-647-1700 or through the Library’s website at www.baldwinlib.org.

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

– Press release provided by Baldwin Public Library  and posted by Megan Shaffer

Bookstores Alive and Well in Italy

… and did I mention beautiful?

This is Libreria Rizzoli which is located in the breathtaking Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Though it appears to be just a storefront, it  actually connects to many other fine stores and rests opposite more high-end retail. The magnificent marble constructions extend upward where they blend and form a fantastic arch that covers the pedestrian walkways.

Piazza del Duomo – Libreria Rizzoli is through the arch to the left. Incredible.