Left Bank Books announces its new program whereby Amazon.com buys its books from us at a fifty percent markup over list price. They will also be charged shipping. We believe this will allow Amazon to be a part of the bricks and mortar experience that they can’t do without. Prior to this program Amazon was forced to make do with warehouses in tax free environments that did not leave their customers with that satisfied, ’I supported my local economy’ feeling they increasingly want. Now with the innovative Left Bank Books program they are easily able to stay relevant in a world that demands more integrity from its retail experience.
Samantha Irby graced us with her presence tonight to celebrate her new essay collection, MEATY. In conversation with Emily Gould, things got real and things got hilarious. What a great night!
There are no words. Everything about last night was perfect. Sam Irby got to meet her fans and Word sold out of her book. I FELT THE LOVE.
The New York Daily News has an excellent essay about remembering Lou Reed through the lens of Ellen Willis’ rock criticism.
“For the Velvets, the aesthete-punk stance was a way of surviving in a world that was out to kill you,” Willis writes. “The point was not to glorify the punk, or even to say f—k you to the world, but to be honest about the strategies people adopt in a desperate situation. The Velvets were not nihilists but moralists.”
If you’re not sure who Ellen Willis is, get yourself a copy of “No More Nice Girls" posthaste! She wrote about a lot of things—feminism, Judaism, politics—but her music criticism is particularly fine.
She could have established herself as the comic woman novelist of her period. I had no doubt that she had the equipment for it except for being crippled by her neuroses. She was intelligent enough, shrewd enough, self-composed enough, and talented enough, just lewd enough, that it could have happened.
So she decided to have an abortion, which was still then illegal. I went with her by train to Florida. The guy, I think, was not quite interested in the decision, and not interested in paternity, but I think he was financially quite sound and undertook the cost of all this. She took a train with me going to Florida to have the abortion with a respectable, needless to say, good physician. Then we took the train back, and the emotions coming back were even more complicated than going down. It took a day and a half, or something. One of us started talking about the book she was never going to write. And, I think it was on the train, I’m not sure of this, but she said, “At least I have a first line.” And I said, “Really? What is it?” And she said, “Claude left me, the French rat.
After Claude was on the list of books Ruth and I made in the summer of 2011, when we first had the idea for Emily Books. More than two years later, we have a much clearer idea of what “our thing” is: unjustly neglected one-of-a-kind books by women and other weirdos. But back then all we knew was that we wanted to sell books we loved via subscription; we hadn’t thought a lot, yet, about why we loved the books we loved, and what it would mean to share them.
Turns out, though, that After Claude is quintessentially “our thing,” though it’s not exactly neglected: as a beloved NYRB Classic, it’s already a “cult classic” by anyone’s estimation. When we got permission to feature the book, we set out to dig a little deeper into its appeal, and the biography of its author. Emily Praeger’s introduction to their 2010 edition gave some tantalizing hints: “I am honored to write this introduction for Iris’s book but I think you should know she and I were not speaking,” it begins, and goes on to explain why, a little.
We got a slightly better sense of the woman who created Harried Daimler after I interviewed her longtime friend, the writer and teacher Stephen Koch. In our interview, which is available exclusively via our iOS 7 app, Stephen described Iris’s early career writing pornographic potboilers for the notorious Olympia Press, explained what it was like to spend time with Iris, the “spell” she cast over her acolytes and friends, its dual emboldening and crippling effects on his work and life. He also describes a series of events that led him to become the “father” of After Claude, which I found stunning and fascinating. I’d also love to hear Iris’s side, but she died in 2008, leaving only this novel and one other, 1984’s Hope Diamond Refuses.
The book has aged extremely badly, in some respects: Iris’s Harriet is what people who want to excuse bigotry and racism often call an “equal-opportunity offender.” But in other respects it is strikingly contemporary, with its depiction of unequal sexual relationships and manipulative, Svengali-ish creeps. The 1970s doesn’t have a monopoly on those types of dudes, unfortunately. And the novel’s denouement in the Chelsea Hotel, with its hallucinatory description of sexual release, is … look, we tried. We really did. But all the context in the world can’t prepare you; you just have to read it.
If you don’t subscribe via our app, you can still read part of the interview via Brooklyn Magazine next week.