Sari Botton Interviews Samantha Irby. (I cried reading this)
Irby:My dad’s lawyer brings her dog to the animal hospital where I worked, and I was in Chicago magazine, which is like the type of magazine your Jewish lawyer orders for her office. My dad used to drive her to the airport, and he’d have me in the car with him. He was like her chauffeur. And one day she was like, “I checked out your blog, and oh, the language, and oh, whatever,” and you could tell that she was waiting for me to apologize. So I just didn’t say anything, and then we had an awkward silence, and I was like, “What do you want me to say? Sorry? Or I’m ashamed? Tell me what you want, ’cause I don’t have the deference thing because there’s no parents around to shame me, so I get to look you in the eye as an adult and ask you what it is you’re trying to do to me. How are you trying to make me feel?”
Rumpus:Wow, what did she say?
Irby:She didn’t say anything. She just stood there and was just like, “Well, it was shocking to me.” And I was like, “Okay, but what am I supposed to do with that? Do you want me to tell you I’m sorry? I’m not sorry. I’m sorry you read it. If you can’t be supportive, I’m sorry you read it.” I don’t want anybody to put their shit on me.
“The first time I did a paid reading was at a University in Albany. The reading was to last for 30-40 minutes. But instead of being excited about being paid for my poetry in a university setting I was terrified of having a panic attack. I get panic attacks when I’m in situations where I feel like it would be ‘weird’ if I just left or took a break. And this was a long reading. And I felt like because they were paying me, I couldn’t just walk away from the podium or excuse myself to the ladies room if need be. And in worrying about the panic attack I absolutely gave myself a panic attack. With the second or third poem came shortness of breath, heart palpitations and dizziness. By the ninth poem I was like in full unreality. I managed to power through to the end and no one knew. Afterwards, I felt like I was tripping. I then had to brave a long dinner with my host, another poet and their friends and families, which was terrible, because I was still anxious and having trouble swallowing. But I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a window of the auditorium where the reading was being held. The snow was coming down outside and it was dark out. I saw my reflection for a second and kind of gave myself a nod and thought ‘You said you wanted to be a poet when you were a little girl, and look! You’re a poet!’”—Emily Books: Laia Garcia interviews SCARECRONE author Melissa Broder
“I am so a girl at night on the internet. And all the time. But especially at night. I have a few twitter accounts but I don’t like to tweet from my primary account until after 7 PM PT. If I start before that, I will be on it all day. It’s like people who try not to have their first drink before 5 PM. So yeah, I don’t start tweeting on there till 10 PM ET when all of the East Coast nerds are in bed, hehe. I have a lot of other ‘rules’ when it comes to twitter that I often break.”—Emily Books: Laia Garcia interviews SCARECRONE author Melissa Broder
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room which had been temporarily converted into a hair salon/makeup studio in advance of a photo shoot for a UK women’s magazine, chatting with the photographer and makeup artist while they got ready for the shoot, trying to pretend to myself and to them that this was, you know, just an average day in my life. The shoot was going to take place at a restaurant nearby, and I’d been asked to rally a group of my friends to be in the background of the shots (because “friendship”). I felt gauche asking if they’d pay for us to have food and drinks at the restaurant so I was prepared to pay for the meal.
The photographer and makeup artist came over to my apartment two hours in advance of the shoot start time so they could look through my closet and pick an outfit for me to wear and of course apply an inch or so of spackle that rendered me somewhat unrecognizable (but very glamorous!). They put makeup on the bruises and cat scratches on my legs and arms. This, they explained, was to save the photographer time when he was photoshopping me.
I liked them both a lot. In my experience photographers and makeup artists are some of the most relaxed, happy people around. They get to meet a lot of interesting (though I’m sure sometimes monstrous) people, and they often seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs. They don’t work in an office or spend time online except for fun. I have often wished I had any talent at photography or doing hair/makeup, but I very, very, very much do not.
As fun as getting glammed up and then sitting in a restaurant ignoring the fact that the restaurant patrons are trying not to stare at you as a photographer tells you repeatedly to relax your mouth and look up, then down, is, it’s not exactly the way I would have chosen to spend my Saturday. But they did pay for our meal and when the shoot was over everyone came back to my apartment and drank more wine and I made these baked turkey meatballs which were really not bad at all.
As I was getting my hair blown out I asked the photographer whether he’d shot anyone interesting recently and he said Martin Amis. He told me that Martin Amis let him into his house, told him “You have two minutes,” didn’t pose or smile, and then two minutes later promptly ushered him out.
we watched terrorists in love and the golden bowl or repression and gravity & grace
my favourite lines from gravity & grace were “feelings are shit” and “the teachings of Mrs Evans” and “sometimes I feel like a repository for hopeless bullshit” and all the songs the NZ alien flood cult sang…
“This book is entirely about the inner lives and creative ambitions and life decisions of women. The men are there but they are so peripheral in the face of friendship and identity and figuring out your own choices as to turn invisible by the end of the story. And I love it.”—
"I don’t like reading ebooks because I just love the way old books smell." If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one, Emily Books would be a lot closer to its goal of eventually publishing all our editions in physical as well as ebook format! Alas, no nickels. But I do have some solutions…
This is supposed to smell like the circus but … what even? The circus smells like cotton candy and elephant poop. The perfume smells like old books. Paper, musty library in a good way, sweet and woody.
“Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the Internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht and having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the Internet, and we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer and then talk back to that voice and say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. Being criticized is part of the job, but seeking it out isn’t. That’s our piece to let go.”—
Between working on various writing projects – some fill-in scripting for Batman ’66 (issue 13, out this July!) a few back-up stories for a different comic book based on a TV show, a new graphic novel, and a bananas monthly book/webcomic with the tougher than leather Nate Doyle – I’ve…
pinnacle of internet’s goodness/usefulness right here
[This is something I’ve had saved in my drafts for a couple of months. In light of #YesAllWomen I am just going to post it, even though it gives me heart palpitations to do so. I’d only told two people about the guy who sexually harassed me at work before tweeting about it the other day. I go into a little more detail about it below. I don’t know. I am so tired of living in fear, and so tired knowing that’s how I will have to live my whole life. My daughters too. I encourage everyone to read #YesAllWomen, #YesAllWhiteWomen and #CisGaze on twitter. Lots of illuminating, informative and heartbreaking commentary there.]
When I was in my early 20s I was sexually harassed by a co-worker. I was a feminist and a women’s studies major and had volunteered for a sexual assault response line, and yet when my co-worker commented on my breasts, when he started touching my back inappropriately at work and offering massages and talking about my breasts again and how they looked good in that shirt I was wearing and how I could pull off one of those pointy Madonna bras, I completely shut down. I didn’t report it to HR, even though I knew and liked our kind, quiet generalist. I didn’t tell my boss, who was a woman I admired. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, not for two years, not until we were two bottles deep at a wine bar and it all came up hot and fast like vomit.
I quit that job. It’s been almost ten years. I think about the harassment almost every day, and the shame I still feel over not telling anyone.
I know now why I didn’t tell anyone: I thought people would not believe me. I thought they’d be mad at me. We were all friends, my co-workers and I and him and I thought they’d think I was making it all up, misreading things, imagining stuff that wasn’t really there. He use to come up to me at my desk, in plain view of everyone, and do these things. I use to think I was crazy. How was no one else seeing this? And how was he not doing this to anyone else (or maybe he was?)? Why did he pick me?
And even worse: Why was I letting him? Why didn’t I tell?
When I was in fifth grade my best friend and I wrote a letter to our elementary school principal because we felt our gym teacher was sexist. He only ever picked boys to demonstrate athletic moves, treating them like experts when the girls were just as physically gifted. We delivered it to the principal, who promised not to name us to the gym teacher. But then a few days later the teacher ranted furiously about our letter in class and pulled us aside after, and was offended and rude and belittling. So maybe that is why I kept my mouth shut again, years later. Because we learn at a young age that when girls tell, we get in trouble.
I did say something to that guy at work once. He came over to my desk, and put his hands on my back like he always did. It would make my entire body burn and my stomach would rocket around my insides and my heart would pound. God I fucking hated it. It made me sick to my stomach. And so that time I said “Stop it. I don’t like that.” And boy, did that scare the shit out of him. He immediately began apologizing and talking about how he had kids and a wife, like that somehow meant that his actions weren’t completely creepy and wrong. That was the moment I realized my harasser was a coward.
When I was in college there was a 3-mile loop everyone would run along the road, and every time I was out there huffing along I would get honked at and cat-called, even in the dead of winter in Maine. My male friends looked at me with open-mouthed disbelief when I told them about it. They ran the same route and never heard a peep.
Yesterday the same thing happened while I ran around the Silver Lake reservoir.
Recently my husband forwarded me an email from an elderly neighbor. It was one of those list of safety tips that 80-year-old alarmists send - don’t park next to vans at the mall, etc etc. My husband thought it was hilarious and insane, which it was, I guess. “But,” I said to him, “I do a lot of these things all the time.”
I wrote a list on my phone recently, of all the times I’ve been touched, followed, hollered at, screamed at, threatened and chased by men. All the penises I’ve been shown without giving permission. It is overwhelming to look at. One woman’s life, as told through sexual harassment. I thought about listing it all out here; I saw Maureen Johnson do something similar recently and it felt empowering and depressing to read. I thought about writing out each experience in detail, but honestly I don’t know if I have the energy.
Just know that one time a man followed me on a beautiful sunny morning and tried to pull me behind a building on the University of Cape Town campus while I was carrying a bunch of library books, and so I dropped the books and ran. One time I was kayaking with my friend Susan on the Charles River and we paddled under a pantless man standing on a bridge above us jerking off and shouting. One time I took a walk through New York City a few months before we moved to LA and guys in a giant SUV circled by me a few times yelling and then followed me down a side street before they drove away. Once in high school a guy I met in DC at a National Young Leaders Conference starting sending me harassing emails and would call my house relentlessly and kept threatening to come over to where I lived so I called the cops and they looked at me like I was crazy. Once a man screamed “cunt” at me over and again at a subway station and followed me and the other people on the platform just stood around and watched. Once a guy sitting next to me on the subway groped my thigh while covering his body/my leg with a giant coat and pretending to sleep. Once a man flashed his balls at me through his shorts and then got off the train hiding a huge erection behind a gym bag. Once a guy said “smile” to me on 7th Avenue and when I told him to fuck off he followed me down the street, screaming at me and calling me a bitch.
One time in college my best friend and I were walking to our dorm at night, and a car kept circling by us over and over again. Terrified and certain that something bad was about to happen to us, we took off sprinting. We made it to our dorm out of breath and terrified, and the car pulled up next to us. I felt a wave of vomit spill over me. This was it. The bad thing I’d feared and dreaded my whole life was finally here.
The car door opened, and a delivery guy got out with a couple of pizzas.
Three fragrances for people who love "old book smell"
"I don’t like reading ebooks because I just love the way old books smell." If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one, Emily Books would be a lot closer to its goal of eventually publishing all our editions in physical as well as ebook format! Alas, no nickels. But I do have some solutions for people who fetishize the smell of old libraries, so they can contentedly sniff their wrists as they read our latest pick on their phones, iPads, nooks or kindles.
Via my favorite book of all time, Perfumes: The Guide, I learned that old books smell like vanilla because lignin, which is in wood and paper, is closely related to vanillin. Old books smell like the light cold inedible aspect of vanilla, plus dustiness, sourness of glue in their bindings, maybe leather, maybe whatever other smells are present in the bookstore/library (stale cigs, recirculated air, cat, etc.) If you have a few bucks you can purchase the first part (just lignin). If you’re really loaded, you can smell like the basement of the Strand!
“Waterlily, Dewberry, Rose, Ylang ylang” are the notes this perfume claims to contain but I only smell a big dose of papery vanilla, maybe slight ylang but in a wilted, decomposing way that adds to the rotting-paper impression. In other words: GREAT and also a bargain.
I was deceived by this faux ami — “incensée” means “crazy” (colloquially, in positive sense, like “that’s so CRAZY!”) and not, as I’d thought, “vanilla incense.” Good, though, because vanilla incense smells like a cab. This scent is not crazy at all unless you find the stacks of a library conducive to wildness.
To me it smells exactly like the Pratt stacks in over-air-conditioned summertime. I.e. perfect.
This perfume is serious about all the other things in an old book besides paper; it even has some of the sourness of glue and the mustiness of old leather. It smells like a book you find inside of a purse you bought at a thriftstore. I have the same problem with it I have with a lot of CB smells which is that you smell them and you’re like “yup.” and then have no desire to continue smelling them. But for evoking an old book most straightforwardly, this is the clear winner. Perhaps a 2ml of it should be mailed to each of our subscribers.
“People who have commented on this book seem to appreciate one of two things: either its sly, brilliant, gossipy conceptualism, or the tender love story on which the book, and the world it documents, are founded. The feminist in me often resists narratives driving toward a resolution of coupled domestic bliss, and charmed as I’ve been by some of Gertrude and Alice’s weird turns on that ideal (their scatalogical love notes to each other are almost impossibly beautiful), even that version makes me uneasy, because its success seems predicated on someone’s subservience. But Filip’s Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart gives you a very different sense of the possibilities of working together, and it leaves you wanting only to spend more time with both of them, whether in the crowded but emphatically unsegregated living room at 172 Clinton Street, or in the pages of this book, where they appear, at least from here, to have figured out how to do precisely what I realized I wanted to do when I was sixteen—to be unapologetically in love with making art, and to do it with someone in a tender collaboration, that might result in something a little funny, or a little poignant, or a little, or even very, perceptive.”—Emily Books: Notes on the Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart
1. Start waking up 1 full hour earlier and instead of trying to “do something” with that time like write or exercise, just use that time to do everything you used to do in an hour over the course of 2 hours.
2. If you’re too lazy to change the sheets, just change the pillowcases.
3. Get off the G, go up the stairs, cross Metropolitan, and go back into the subway on the other side of the street to get on the L instead of walking in slow motion underground in a giant herd for ten miserable minutes. (This only works if you have an Unlimited Ride metrocard. Sublifehack: just get one, life is too short to miss trains cause you ran out of money on your metrocard.)
What do you do when you get a Facebook message from a man you don’t know who is 51 years old (which is 24 years older than you are) and it says “You seem interesting ….. and a little damaged. I think I’d like that” ?
I thought I meant that question rhetorically, exasperatedly, at first, but actually I really want to know.
I have gotten a lot of creepy messages from men I don’t know during the last few years I’ve lived my life partly online/in print, but especially in the last few months. When my book came out, a few excerpts were printed online. I am very grateful for them and mostly it was for the good. The downside was that people who didn’t read the full book and had no plans to had access to my name, my picture, and a narrow window into my romantic history, which, basically, was that I didn’t have one. And a number of THOSE people, all male, took these excerpts as invitations to email me, tweet at me, and Facebook message me to do one of a few things:
1. Ask me out (sometimes confusingly in other states/countries??)
2. Accuse me of friend-zoning or otherwise wronging men
3. …. ?? I’m not sure what?? But there’s definitely a third category, and the above message falls here. (So does the one I got the other day that was like “hey I read something about your book, you should check out my photo albums—I’ve traveled the world.” ??? Like, congratulations on having a camera and being able to find an airport?) I guess the best name I can think of for this category is “Announcement of My Male Existence.”
Haha. But seriously.
I have dealt with these messages and things pretty well I think, which is to say that I’ve almost exclusively ignored them. But, I don’t know, sometimes I wonder if I ignore them too much. Sometimes I really want to respond! I really wanted to respond to PUA McReddit up there—not because it’s even that bad on this totally shit relativity scale, but just because today I felt like punching back—and I even wrote out “cool message to send to a stranger half your age who doesn’t give a shit!” in the little reply box. But then I deleted it and reported him as spam instead.
Partly that is because responding would do nothing, and I know that even if I took the time to craft the BEST and cleverest of all possible wounding insults, it would do nothing. He’s nothing to me. It’s nothing.
But all TOGETHER, among all the women writers I know and talk to and read about, it’s … a lot! It’s not even just “hate mail.” I don’t know what to call it, even. It’s just mail we get for being women. And sometimes I wonder if there should be a place to put all of it and then make every man who works for or reads the internet (so, all of them) look at the log for, I don’t know, an hour a week. That seems fair to me. I just worry sometimes that men—even the ones who are kinda paying attention—have a vague idea that they understand the extent to which this happens. But they don’t really? I mean, how could they.
Every time I get an unwelcome/harassing/mean/rude/bizarre message from a man I don’t know, I have to decide whether to be proud that I can ignore it and say nothing, or to be aggressive, and make it known somehow, and give it (and therefore him) attention. These are terrible options. I think they are both brave (because it’s brave to believe you’ll always have skin this thick, and it’s brave to believe other people will care to hear about something that seems wrong to you), but I don’t know if either feels all that good. What it feels like, at this point, is a routine.
I have a thick skin the way you must when you’re a woman with an internet presence. (Or a woman in general.) Sometimes I feel like I’m (or we’re) not supposed to acknowledge our toughness. There have been times I’ve wanted to publicize something like this and didn’t because it somehow felt like bragging. But I AM proud of it, even if it’s fucked up that’s a skill I ever needed to develop. I guess I think vocal pride has to be part of this raw deal we were handed. If I don’t get to team-brag with other women about how tough we are, and how the mail/tweeting/messages/comments media guys consider “hateful" are, like, Edible Arrangements compared to what we deal with, then I don’t know what recourse is left.
After my friend Christine’s dad died, she gave everyone who worked with her at the soup kitchen a plastic bag filled with birdseed. The bags had a little tag on them with a picture of cardinals and a note about how her dad loved feeding birds, so we should feed them in his memory. I had never met her dad and I only knew Christine from the hours we spent together every Wednesday afternoon cooking alongside a lot of other volunteers, but it was also impossible to be anywhere near her and not know her. She let everyone in to her world, which was fascinating, larger than life. She had been so many places and known so many interesting people. All the New York things I’d read novels about, Christine had experienced, and she also knew the people who wrote those novels. Now she worked as an art restorer and spent a lot of time cooking and dishing out food in a soup kitchen in Greenpoint.
I didn’t have a backyard or birdfeeder, so I just put the seed out on my windowsill. Birds came and ate it, which seemed slightly miraculous. How did they know to come? After the bag ran out, I bought more. More than a year later, I still put some out every morning. Mostly mourning doves come, but occasionally also juncos and finches.
Christine took her own life last Friday — I’m now hearing she had a bad chemical reaction to newly prescribed antidepressants, which makes the senselessness of her death extra horrible. It seems impossible. She was so much more alive than most people.
This morning I heard the unmistakable metallic chirp of a cardinal and went to watch him eat the seed. He sang as he ate, loud and full of life, with his majestic crest flaring in the early sunlight. Christine, I thought.
I know the idea that someone who has died comes and visits you in some reassuring form is silly, childish wishful thinking. I believe that at the same time that I believe that Christine’s spirit is in the world still, in birds and cats and people, in everything that sings loudly and proudly and is absolutely always purely itself.
Emily Books, the online feminist bookstore I run with my best friend, was started as an attempt to create a tiny, but serious, competitor to Amazon. To our surprise, the publishers who will talk in private about how much they hate Amazon did not want to do business with us. When I approached the VP of what I’ll generously call the “Digital Development” department of one of these publishers about selling one of her books via Emily Books, she was dismissive. She won’t do business with retailers who can’t offer digital rights protection (DRM), she explained. OK, I said, that software is far too expensive for most independent booksellers, and for Kindle devices, it’s proprietary to Amazon. What sort of non-Amazon branded digital protection would they require? Was there a viable workaround, an alternative? What if we were able to come up with something? As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how stupid they were. Surely such a thing—an Amazon workaround!—would be incredibly, obviously valuable. Surely many people far smarter and wealthier than me were working day and night on it. Well, the Digital Developer reiterated, acknowledging my gaffe by speaking as if to a very slow child, they would need the software required for a Kindle. Never mind that these arbitrary criteria exclude basically all retailers who are not Amazon, never mind that DRM does little to prevent a determined book pirate, never mind that a real-life retailer was literally asking for her business, money on the table. It’s rare to witness someone line up such a perfect shot to their own foot, unless you work in publishing, I guess.
That was two years ago. Meanwhile I’ve waited to see what these well-resourced and well-connected publishing insiders were working on to challenge Amazon. Large publishers have websites, of course, but they generally don’t use them to sell books. In 2010, several of the major publishers banded together with Apple (illegally, as the Justice Department later determined) to forge a better pricing arrangement on ebooks; they agreed to settle the resulting lawsuit (Apple went to trial). In 2011, a few of the top publishers got together (legally this time) to fund a website, Bookish.com, that was supposed to offer a “recommendation engine,” feature reviews, and sell books directly to consumers. After two years and several million dollars, the site finally launched to general apathy and was soon sold, for an undisclosed but apparently small sum, to a startup called Zola.
Publishers create rules that hobble them by forcing them to depend on Amazon, which has had the effect of permanently changing the way books are published. For worse, so far. But alternative publishing models that exist outside the corporate ecosystem as much as possible offer hope for the future.
We’re looking for an intern to start June 1 and continue through September 1. We’d like you to be currently enrolled in college, ideally in the NY metro area. The position entails a maximum of 5 hours of work per week that you do at home, or wherever you like to work, and pays $10/hour. You’ll also check in with me (Emily! Hi!) once every few weeks about ongoing projects and we’ll have a quick coffee. Responsibilities include:
*reading books and telling us whether you like them
*writing about books
*acquiring books (we’ll reimburse you promptly, of course)
*proofreading (basic HTML required)
*SPECIAL PROJECTS that can be your own initiatives
Still interested? Please email email@example.com with the subject line INTERN. Include your resume in the body of the email (no attachments), any relevant experience, and please feel free to share links to your tumblr or twitter. If you’ve read Emily Books, tell us which is your favorite and why.
“like my room, Trisha Low’s The Compleat Purge is strewn with artifacts that coalesce into a portrait of a person. Purge is a confessional, fatalistic diary, a portrait of the teenage girl, earnest but deeply troubled. The narrator “Trisha Low” commits suicide annually. Through legal documents, a series of cybersex fantasies, and an excerpt of an 18th century romance novel, “Trisha” lives and dies, exploring the many masks of feminine identity in a twisted textual performance.”—Emily Books: The Compleat Purge: A portrait in artifacts and text