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Authors Josh Weil and Mike Harvkey at Bookbug

Bookbug is thrilled to be hosting author Josh Weil for the release of his book: THE GREAT GLASS SEA, which builds upon tales from Slavic folklore to tell the story of a family in an alternate dystopian Russia where the pressures of adult life—heightened in a world of perpetual light and constant productivity—threaten to destroy the love between two brothers. Like the best fables, his story is both timely and timeless, drawing its truths from both the real world and the author’s personal life.

In 1991—in the last 6 months before the Soviet Union collapsed—Weil traveled as an exchange student to Petrozavodsk, the small Karelian city in Russia’s far north upon which the setting of THE GREAT GLASS SEA is modeled. He lived with a host family for a month, and was deeply affected by his time there. At the end of the term, he never quite left the USSR, and it never quite left him.

In 2010 he returned to Russia to research THE GREAT GLASS SEA. The country he landed in was profoundly changed from the one he’d left twenty years earlier, and this tension—between what was and what is—became central to his novel. In Moscow, he stayed with a former high school classmate who’d moved to Russia in the turbulent nineties and made a fortune. Retired by his mid-thirties, he picked Weil up in a Porsche and showed him the New Russia: the power of the oligarchs in the unfettered cowboy capitalism that had run wild before Putin’s regime, and the way the autocrat had harnessed it to serve him now.

But it was outside Moscow that he experienced the Russia that most strongly shaped the novel’s soul. Traveling northeast, twenty hours by train, he returned to the city he’d lived in as host student two decades earlier. He stayed with the same Russian teacher who’d brought her students to America in that long-ago exchange. Over meals, they talked of the way life had changed, what had been better under Communism, what had been worse, what she missed. Everywhere he encountered a yearning for things lost with the Soviet Union held in tension with an appreciation for the ways life had improved—the same conflict at the center of the novel.

Searching out a deeper understanding of the world in which he’d set his story, he embarked on numerous adventures, embracing the birch-branch beatings in a traditional bathhouse; attempting to camp on a remote abandoned island of churches in Lake Onega, from which he was forcibly removed by soldiers; and hitchhiking down dirt roads on the rural eastern shore of the lake, where he was taken in by a peasant family in a logging town who fed him and drank with him and gave him a glimpse of life in a part of Russia that the Kremlin-focussed West simply doesn’t see. Many of these experiences have colored the portrait of the richly-imagined alternate Russia that he presents in THE GREAT GLASS SEA, which, though it is a work of fiction, not only sheds light on the Russia that occupies our headlines, but also touches on the universal theme of what is left behind in the name of progress.

Josh will be making tour stops in San Francisco, Nevada City, CA, Portland, Seattle, Danville, Kalamazoo, Chicago, New Orleans, Jackson, MS, Oxford, MS, Charlottesville, VA, Washington, DC, New York, South Hadley, MA, Boston, Mystic, CT, Stonington, CT, and Roxbury, CT this July and August. I hope you will consider THE GREAT GLASS SEA in July. And please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in setting up an interview or need anything else.
Event date: 
Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
3019 Oakland Dr
49008 Kalamazoo
3019 Oakland Dr.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

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