books

Even if you are entirely happy with the state of world affairs circa 2017, the idea of disappearing can be alluring - especially in the midst of a Wisconsin winter. But the disappearance at the heart of novelist Idra Novey’s new book extends beyond that romantic notion of disappearing for a while.

The name T Bone Burnett is almost synonymous with the word legendary. You could also use the words innovative, brilliant and visionary.

Burnett catapulted into the public consciousness with the soundtrack from the Coen Brother’s film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but writer Lloyd Sachs says Burnett had been hugely influential years before that movie came out - both as a producer and as a singer / songwriter in his own right.

Milwaukee writer Lesley Kagen has been a regular guest on Lake Effect ever since her first novel, Whistling in the Dark, was published a decade ago. In these past 10 years, Kagen has published another 7 novels, most set in Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

Istimages / Fotolia

It’s easy to type a word into Google and get a brief definition. However, using a physical dictionary is an entirely different experience. 

Steve Kleinedler can relate to both the online and the physical experiences as the editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, which recently issued its fifth edition with more than 400 heretofore undefined words. 

Much of writer Emily Fridlund’s new novel, A History of Wolves, plays out in a remote part of a lonely town in northern Minnesota. But anyone who reads it could probably substitute the north woods of Wisconsin as an appropriate image.

Check cashing stores and payday loan centers have a checkered reputation, to put it mildly. Critics say their high interest rates and fees take advantage of people who are already financially disadvantaged. But the truth is, these alternative financial systems are proliferating in Wisconsin and around the country.

Writer Lisa Servon wondered why. Servon is a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania and her new book is called The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives.

For someone who is not himself a combat veteran, Milwaukee writer Nick Petrie sure gets it.

Last year, his debut novel, The Drifter, came out to great acclaim. The book was a thriller, and featured fictional Wisconsin native Peter Ash, a veteran of multiple tours of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while he made it back to Wisconsin sound in body, his mind was less intact.

After a couple trips to Norway, Wisconsin writer Sandy Brehl knew she wanted to write a story about the Nazi's occupation of the country.

"I was sure that Norway had been neutral, the way Sweden was or Switzerland was, and it turns out that wasn't the case at all. And their stories just were so embedded with national pride and resilience and humor," says Brehl. "The humor particularly struck me, and I came away knowing that I'd want to write those stories."

Monkey Business / Fotolia

When you think back on your childhood, what did dinnertime look like? Many of us might think back on meals eaten around the kitchen or dining room table in idyllic terms: good food, conversation and togetherness. While the reality might have been a little more nuanced, there was a time when the family meal was a pretty typical shared experience in America.

Ken Hanson

There is a growing cultural conversation about gender identity in the United States. Shows like TransparentOrange is the New Black, and I Am Cait have all put transgender issues in the spotlight, and explored what it really means to be trans or gender nonconforming. But these concepts of gender diversity and identity weren't really talked about until recently.  

Courtesy of Algonquin Books

Of the many archetypes that exist in popular culture, the cowboy may be considered the most American.

From Hollywood movies to dimestore novels and the Marlboro Man, for many of us the image of the cowboy conjures up nostalgic ideas of old world charm and masculinity. Even today, people in other parts of the world sometimes stereotype American attitudes and personalities by using the metaphor of the cowboy.

Simon and Schuster Publishing

You may know Grace Helbig from her YouTube channel, It’s Grace. It has over three million subscribers to her brand of comedy-meets-satire-meets-social commentary.

This conversation originally aired November 11, 2016.

Like many mystery novel protagonists before her, if you come in contact with the character Chloe Ellefson, there's a good chance that someone is going to end up dead. 

Courtesy of Meg Rosoff

The British newspaper The Times once described Meg Rosoff's literary output thusly: "Searingly well written, her books read like Samuel Beckett on ecstasy." Perhaps best known for her first novel, How I Live Now, Rosoff's books often feature a teenaged protagonist exploring what it means to live in a world not of one's own making.

Earlier this month, writer and bookstore owner Ann Patchett shined a spotlight on Boswell Book Company as reason alone to visit Milwaukee. Her article in the New York Times included it as one of a handful of bookstores to visit in the country. Patchett singled out the store as "lit by the internal fire of one Daniel Goldin, a stupendously great bookseller."

Pages