Book Launch: Courtney Maum presents Costalegre with Marie-Helene Bertino

Thursday July 18, 2019
07:00 pm

Tags: Event


Grants entry for 1 plus $10 voucher towards any purchase at our bookstore.

Join us for the launch party for Courtney Maum’s Costalegre. R. O. Kwon calls it "a book for anyone who's ever loved and not felt sufficiently loved in return; and for anyone who's had to try to grow up; for, that is, everyone." And, in the words of Laura Van Den Berg, Costalegre is "a spectacular high-wire act that dazzles and devastates." Courtney will be in conversation with author Marie-Helene Bertino.




Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for except for a mother who loves her back. 

It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”―artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home. 

The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected 15-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves.



Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novels Touchand I Am Having So much Fun Here without You, which were both selected by such outlets as O Magazine, Time Magazine, the New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire, and others as one of the best books of summer. Her chapbook Notes from Mexico is part travelogue and part eulogy. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as the New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra. She currently works as a product namer for M·A·C cosmetics and other companies from her home in Litchfield County, CT, where she founded the learning collaborative, The Cabins which will take place again in the summer of 2020. Courtney has two new books forthcoming in 2019: Costalegre, a novel about European surrealists fleeing World War II, and Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book, a humorous guide to help aspiring authors navigate their debut publishing experience.


Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 a.m. at the Cat's Pajamas and the story collection Safe as Houses. Her work has received The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellowship in Cork, Ireland, The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize and two Special Mentions, The Iowa Short Fiction Award, fellowships from The MacDowell and Hedgebrook Writers Colonies, The Center For Fiction, and Sewanee Writers Conference, and has twice been featured on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” radio program. The former Associate Editor for One Story and Editor-at-Large for Catapult, she teaches fiction at NYU, The New School, and in the low-residency MFA program at Institute for American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe and lives in Brooklyn. In Spring 2020 she will be the Distinguished Kittredge Visiting Writer at the University of Montana. Her third book, the novel Parakeet, is forthcoming in Spring 2020. Her fourth book, the novel Beautyland, is forthcoming in Spring 2022. Her work has been translated and published in Ireland, England, Scotland, Turkey, France, Sweden, Russia, Japan, and forthcoming in Brazil.