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Monday, Aug. 18, 2008

Book Preview

For tangible proof of water's life affirming significance one doesn't have to go very far; examining the continual rediscovery and reinvention of Milwaukee's rivers will suffice. Whether it's early settlers drawn to the rivers' abundance of wild rice and waterfowl, fur traders looking for profitable inroads into Wisconsin's luxuriant wilderness, feuding founders using the rivers as battlegrounds or city officials seeking to transform them . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

by Christopher Duggan

Italy is a country of many distinct regions, mutually incomprehensible dialects, squabbling political parties and great artistic fertility. The history of Italy is a lot to fit into one book, even if limited to the past two centuries, but British historian Christopher Duggan manages in around 600 well-written pages. One of his persistent themes is the country's doubtful search for identity. Even Mussolini failed. The dictator . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

Searching for Ancient Psychedelia

Anyone who encountered the Lotus Eaters while reading Homer already suspects that mind-altering drugs flourished on the fringes of the ancient Greek world, the matrix for much of what we call civilization. In The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press), D.C.A. Hillman argues that the Lotus Eaters weren't confined to one isolated island but were in the mainstream of Greek and Roman society. In other words, Haight Ashbury in 1967 had nothing on Athens in 300 B.C. With degrees in the classics and bacteriology, Hillman is interested in both the natural world and the cultivated garden of humanity. The convergence makes stuffy academics uncomfortable. As the Madison author tells it, he originally hoped to present his findings on ancient drug use in his doctoral dissertation at the
Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008

Tonight @ the Shorewood Schwartz Bookshop - 7 p.m.

As HBO’s “Big Love” attests, the Mormon world is filled with dramatic intrigue, intrigue which author David Ebershoff also taps in his just-released suspense novel The 19th Wife. Ebershoff’s book intertwines two stories—one about a wayward wife of a powerful polygamist in the 1800s, and another . . .
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008

Tonight @ the Shorewood Schwartz Bookshop - 7 p.m.

Spanning the first half of the 19th century, Ellen Baker’s debut novel, Keeping the House, follows an extended Wisconsin family through generations, focusing particularly on a 1950s housewife who, unable to conceive children, makes a point of revitalizing an unkempt house that has been passed . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

(Milwaukee Art Museum/University of Wisconsin), by Cheryl Robert

Milwaukee was fertile ground for arts and architecture in the early 20th century, with many ideas transplanted from Europe. The new expanded edition of The Domestic Scene examines the work of George Niedecken, perhaps best known for collaborating with Frank Lloyd Wright, but also a significant force in his own right . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Extraordinary debut by Wisconsin novelist

Some books are written in such exquisite detail that even if you somehow don't care for the overall story, you can't help but enjoy reading them. Robert Coover provided a perfect example with The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., in which the title character, a disappointed accountant, spends his solitary nights immersed in his own world, manipulating a kind of fantasy baseball league of his own creation wherein every action is determined by throws of the dice. Even if the book wasn't your cup of tea, you would still be fascinated by the complexities of the baseball league and the lives of its players.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Tonight @ the Mequon Schwartz Bookshop - 7 p.m.

Set in a small, southern town in the 1970s, Mequon author Lesley Kagen’s second novel, Land of a Hundred Wonders, follows a young reporter struggling with her profession as the result of brain damage she suffered after a childhood car accident that killed both of her parents. She figures she’s found her big break . . .
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Preview

When the Japanese army invaded Burma during World War II, 10-year-old Prem Sharma and his family were among the thousands of refugees who fled to safety in India. Not long afterwards they found themselves embroiled in another bloody conflict: the violent partition of Pakistan and India and the latter’s hard-won independence from century-long colonial rule.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Singer to Be Reckoned With

Take out the amateur, needlessly placed poems by Tyehimba Jess in mawkish, embarrassing praise of Lead Belly and we have a perfect book. Lead Belly: A Life in Pictures (Steidl) is not merely a picture book at all, but is rife with brilliant essays and era-specific memorabilia that portray the complexity of the man who just might be America’s finest folksinger – because he sang anything and was no purist. Every song that came his way turned into his version and, in many instances, his copyright, from “Happy Birthday To You” (covered by the world) to “Good Night, Irene” (covered by Frank Sinatra and hundreds more).

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