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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Family Condition

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  We’re all familiar with the agonizing scenario: the family dining table that serves as a battleground; the television set (and, increasingly, the Internet) that serves as a palliative and the drugs, alcohol or infidelity that serve as emotional props. American popular culture and literature is resplendent with memorably dysfunctional families, whether it’s through the writings of Eugene O’Neill and Raymond Carver or animated TV hits like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” The success of shows like “The Osbournes” reveals the delight that viewers take in seeing other people’s dirty laundry aired in public.

  Continuing this tradition is PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Jennifer Haigh. In her new book, The Condition, she writes about a New England couple visited with more problems than most. Apart from a disintegrating marriage, one increasingly estranged son and another in the throes of suburban purgatory, their daughter suffers from Turner syndrome, a rare genetic disorder where the body never matures from girlhood.

  The novel follows the success of Haigh’s 2004 debut novel, Mrs. Kimble, and has been described as being "filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism." Haigh comes to the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Shorewood at 7 p.m. on June 30.

  Also this week, parents looking to keep their kids occupied over the summer will be glad to hear of a number of children’s readings taking place at venues around the city. Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Brookfield and BayshoreTownCenter host a story-time event followed by a children’s activity at 10 a.m. on June 26 and July 2, and at their Greenfield location at 10 a.m. on July 2. MilwaukeeArt Museum teams up with MPTV to host its very own monthly book salon for children at 10:30 a.m. on June 28. The event, titled “Bugs, Butterflies and Backyard Fun,” includes a reading that relates to the insects and outdoor places depicted in the museum’s art collection, followed by an opportunity for children to draw images inspired by what they’ve seen and heard. The event is free with general admission.