The Michigan Humanities Council runs a biennial program called “The Great Michigan Read”, in which a committee selects a book by a Michigan author and facilitates discussion on a statewide level to get Michigan residents, students, educators, etc., involved with reading. This year’s selection is Annie’s Ghosts by Detroit writer Steve Luxenberg. I have not yet had a chance to read this work, but expect a book review of Annie’s Ghosts, as well as more information of The Great Michigan Read, later in the year.
Get more information at http://www.michiganhumanities.org/programs/tgmr/
Literati Bookstore is the type of contemporary salon that still has a nostalgic grip on our past. The name itself is suggestive, perhaps even outdated, a bit pretentious, one of those chichi gibes that almost seems self-inflicted. The reason for that is pertinent though—-it is a straightforward acknowledgement of purpose. Literati is clearly the type of bookstore that succeeds in bringing a diverse selection of important canonized and contemporary literature, focuses on the significance of local Michigan authors, and openly admits to the desire to be well-read. The staff has great recommendations, is willing to talk about any book, and is constantly diving into new works. Moreover, the walls make plenty of space for Michigan writers, including a display for Westland publishers, Dzanc Books, and a section for Michigan literature. Therefore, the term Literati maintains the definition of aspiring towards communal intellectualism rather than merely being a book snob.
The emblem for Literati is the felicitous typewriter, of which they have several functioning throughout the store. I was downtrodden to find out they were not for sale. It is not surprising to find someone downstairs sitting in front on one at a small desk, typing away even though there is no ribbon, pushing down each key with ferocious gusto, imagining how the words would appear. Check them out at http://literatibookstore.wordpress.com/
The Ann Arbor Book Festival took place in late June, providing a plethora of poetry and book readings, lectures, and workshops. While I could not afford to attend the majority of the daytime festivities, a remarkable facet of the AABF was an expansive, three-night “Moonlight Book Crawl”. Thursday, June 20th, through Saturday, June 22nd, various independent bookstores and bars hosted readings by a number of Michigan authors, as well as some famous visiting authors. This was a remarkably esoteric experience, and I was surprised at the low level of people partaking in this event. Usually, I don’t write about past events, but I would love to see more people involved next year. It is a rarity to find an entire weekend dedicated both to booze and literature, and I highly recommend it. The breakdown:
- Thursday, Nicola’s Books hosted three phenomenal Michigan poets: Susan Hutton, Ellen Stone, and local legend Keith Taylor. Many of the poems discussed the motif of sustainability. All three read from their newest collections and held a Q & A session afterword.
- Patricia Smith and Bruce DeSilva both provided readings Friday evening at the University of Michigan’s Hatcher Graduate Library. DeSilva gave a gritty, unexpurgated reading demonstrating his chops as a hard-boiled author of mysteries. Patricia Smith followed him, and I can say without doubt her reading was the best poetry performance I have ever seen. Afterword, I grabbed a Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale at Sava’s State Street Café while listening to poets Brittany Floyd, Shira Erlichman, and renowned Chicagoan Kevin Coval.
- Saturday, Ann Arbor’s newest literary haven, Literati Bookstore, held an early reading that I unfortunately missed. Afterword, Bill’s Beer Garden hosted an outdoor reading, which despite light rain, gathered a full audience. Detroit native Jessica Care Moore enlivened the crowd, using a jazz-like, sprechgesang sound that was honest and impassioned. Ann Arbor’s literary behemoth Jeff Kass ended the set, sharing a thought-provoking, blatantly honest, uncensored piece about the challenges of teaching creative writing in a changing academic and social world. (That description does his piece injustice).
The book crawl weekend ended strong at Babo Market, with another outdoor reading featuring Alex Pan, Jon Sands, and Pushcart Prize winner Scott Beal. In a round robin style reading they collectively wowed one of the larger audiences of the weekend.
If you’re in Ann Arbor next summer, check it out.
There will be a guest writer for next month’s book project, so keep an eye out for that in early August!