Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wacky Bits of Sedaris, Trask, and Maltman

Today is Tuesday, and, to my surprise, I have gotten numerous semi-threatening notes asking what happened to the Monday blog. Look at my checkout counter! I have been playing crazy bookseller the past week. We started a small project, but it turned out to be one of those kneebone's connected to the hipbone deals, but in this case, it's more like the fiction case is connected to the biography case. So, books are piled everywhere, but mostly in inconvenient places, and I am a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of restoring them to their logical locations.
**********I am still slowly turning the pages of When You are Engulfed in Flames, the new David Sedaris essay collection. Slowly...only because I never want his books to end. He can't publish fast enough for me; it feels so good to laugh to the point of embarrassment. I had the chance to see David Sedaris in "concert" last fall. He read for about two hours at the performing arts center in Appleton. The theatre was packed. A podium and a few green plants were the only stage adornments - nothing the focus on when bored. My only experience hearing Sedaris read had been short takes on "The David Letterman Show" and "This American Life" on public radio. I couldn't imagine him commanding attention for two hours, but that's exactly what the slight man with the funny little voice did. The general consensus was that two hours wasn't nearly enough.
**********His first book, Barrel Fever, was released about the same time we opened the store. Not being an avid reader of The New Yorker, where many of his early essays were published, I had never heard of him, but the cover was disturbing, in a capricious way, so I dug in. I just didn't get it, so I gave up somewhere after a seething rant about his angry break-up with Charlton Heston. Nope, I just didn't get it! A few years later, while looking for a holiday play to direct, I ran across his name again and discovered an hysterical offering called The Santaland Diaries. I was a convert. I became a fan. I could easily be a stalker if he didn't spend much of his time in Paris. I'm going back to Barrel Fever sometime this summer...time to give it a second chance.
Since opening the store, I have had the privilege of meeting, working with a befriending some outstanding people. Tom Maltman (Left) and Kerry Trask (right) are two of them. Both are award winning writers, and both are making exciting life changes.

Kerry Trask is retiring from the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, where he has taught History to many fortunate students. He is also the author of The Fire Within, and Black Hawk, books that have garnered national attention and praise. Trask's credentials could have taken him anywhere, but he chose to stay here, making a commitment to our two-year campus and to Manitowoc. The legacy he leaves is strong and permanent.
**********I first met Kerry when his daughter, Emily, auditioned for a part in a Masquer play I was co-directing with my friend, Rick. The play had a small professor role, and we asked Kerry to play that part. He indicated that the small Act I part would be all he could do, since he was swamped at work. Before long, he offered to sing in the church choir scene in Act II, and then said, "As long as I'm in this deep, what can I do in Act III?" He worked himself into the whole show! He had some fun with the parts, and it was heartwarming to observe him in the wings watching Emily .
**********It goes without saying that Kerry will be missed at the campus. For the time being, he is staying in Manitowoc. Lucky for us. Congratulations on a fine career, Dr. Trask!

Tom Maltman has been instrumental in developing a Creative Writing major at Silver Lake College. His first novel, The Night Birds, earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly. It had been awarded several national honors. Tom has made quite an impact in the short time he has been in Manitowoc. He dove into the community full force, lending his name and expertise to a number of college and community projects. He is respected by his students and his colleagues. Tom will be returning to Minnesota, where he will continue teaching at the college level. He will also be closer to his family who will be on hand to enjoy watching the Maltmans' two young daughters grow.
**********Tom is currently at work on his second novel, a mystery, and he promises to make it back here for a reading and signing when it is published. I will hold him to that promise.