Deals and Discovery

I go to bookstores. A lot. And part of my routine, in addition to aimless wandering in pursuit of discovery, is checking the stacks for new books by my favorite authors.

A few weeks ago I discovered four who all had new releases. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Michael Perry’s new book is Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting. If you know Perry’s work, that title makes perfect sense. If you don’t, please start.

Likewise, Tom Robbins’ new book is unmistakably Tom Robbins while at the same time unlike anything he’s ever done. It’s called B is for Beer, A Children’s Book for Grownups, A Grownup Book for Children. I typically describe Robbins’ writing as an acquired taste. I acquired it about thirty years ago.

Colson Whitehead is one of the best young writers in America. His fifth book is titled Sag Harbor, transparently autobiographical and further evidence of his remarkable talent.

And Jim Harrison is a writer whose work I devour in huge gulps. Except for his poetry, which I savor. His new book of poems is titled In Search of Small Gods and it feels like a long letter from a close friend.

Anyway, I bought all four. To me, books are both luxury and necessity with the value equation squarely in the realm of “luxe for less.”

Other than books I’m not much of a shopper. I’m easily frustrated by too many choices. But I do get this luxe-for-less thing. First of all it’s an appropriate response to the times. And I think it’s more than just making do with less. There’s an element of more responsible decision-making that has entered our culture that strikes me as a very good thing. We’re looking for value and quality, but more and more we want goods that are ethically produced and sold, as sustainably as possible, with an eye toward authenticity and preferably local in point of sale if not origin.

I think this change might be deep-rooted and last for a long time. Which will not in the least diminish the other appealing part of luxe for less: the thrill of discovery. Like my recent book store bonanza, discovering that little delight to eat or wear or simply enjoy is a delight made even greater if it’s a bargain.

If I can extend the theme of discovery, I had the pleasure of attending the public unveiling of the private half of the under-construction Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery/Morgridge Institute for Research. The reception at the also-under-construction Chazen Museum of Art had the delightful John and Tashia Morgridge and Institute board chairman Carl Gulbrandsen (delightful in his own right) highlighting the biomedical miracles just waiting to be discovered at the facilities and the extraordinary team of scientists and researchers who will do the discovering. The sense of hope, promise and excitement was a little overwhelming, coupled with appreciation and gratitude for the Morgridges’ stunning generosity.

I stop for a second and wonder how Madison, Wisconsin, got so lucky, then feel proud and fortunate to live in this wonderful city. The work that will be done at WID/MIR is the stuff of science fiction, real imagination-stretching stuff, made a little more real when you meet the mom of triplets who are alive today because of ground-breaking research already being done here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Amazing stuff. No less amazing is the way the good folks of Lake Delton dealt with a discovery of their own—that the lake that provides their livelihoods can in reality disappear. Last year’s disaster was terribly painful. But Maggie Ginsburg-Schutz tells the remarkable story of those who rebuilt their community and their lives.

So venture on into this month’s magazine. There’s a lot to discover.

Neil P. Heinen, Editorial Director

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