I definitely tried to write a book that had some wit to it so it wouldn’t just be a horror show. I wouldn’t have been able to write it if I didn’t, much less ask people to read it. But the humor is reserved directed toward the police, or the do-gooding women who remind me of people out of the 1800s. The criticism of the book has mostly been from people trying to qualify my right to tell this story on that trajectory. It’s not a story of abject victimhood, and it’s not my funny-wacky-time-as-a-sex-worker story. That was the most radical thing I could think of to do: to make it ordinary.

Chain letter

Kathleen Hale tagged me in this chain letter thing and I love Kathleen’s writing and can’t wait to read No One Else Can Have You so I did it.  

  • What am I currently working on?

Today is my one full day at home between trips so I am trying to do a lot of baseline life maintenance stuff, like laundry and cleaning and moving files around on my computer and trying to get health insurance. In order to try and sell the film/TV rights to Friendship I’m supposed to put together a little proposal about how I would like the putative TV show to be, which would probably take 30 minutes if I could just make myself sit down and do it.  I am still trying to be ambitious about my recently published book even though most people are on vacation. It’s hard to stay enthusiastic about promoting your book, even if you like your book and some other people do too. There’s a sense that nothing you do will ever be enough and that there’s something crucial you’re forgetting at all times. I’m also meeting with Ruth about Emily Books's August, September and November titles later in the day. I was going to also try to get my armpits waxed but now that seems like a foolish dream. 

Oh, you mean like “have I started another novel yet?” Lol. 

  • How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Limiting books by enforcing strictly defined “genres” and having books compete with other books in that “genre” is silly and  book marketing is flawed in general. But instead of going into that here I will limit myself to pointing out that in his recent episode of KCRW’s Bookworm podcast, Edward St. Aubyn said the word “genre” and it gave me goosebumps. He said it like this: “sshhhanrrrr(whisper of “uh”).” I can’t even express how well he said it. I would like a .wav file of Edward St. Aubyn saying genre as a ringtone or something to fall asleep to at night.

  • Why do I write what I write?

I can’t write anything else. If I could write GRRM-style epics that take place in an Otherworld I would totally be doing that, trust. 

  • How does my writing process work?

I don’t write anything for a long time and I feel guilty and bad. Then I write some. Then (repeat). 

I like to write in a library because just having a lot of other books around is inspiring. I also like to have deadlines for a lot of other things and to feel a certain amount of financial pressure. Well, I don’t “like” it but I seem to need it. Ugh, will someone switch brains with me?

That was fun! I miss my therapist. The next person I’m tagging for this thing is Jami Attenberg. Jami, I hope you don’t mind! 


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!

1. Love&Toast “Paper Flower" perfume ($28) and hand creme ($9)

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.

2. Atelier Cologne Vanille Incensée  (30ml, $75)

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. 

3. CB I Hate Perfume “In The Library,” $17/2ml, $120 15ml

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. 

Paid part-time Intern wanted!

Dear Emily Books readers,

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 emily@emilybooks.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. 

Thank you! We look forward to hearing from you! 


Reading Notice through my friend Sarah’s eyes, I saw an argument for misandry. Reading it after seeing Nymphomaniac, I sensed the root trigger of addiction. Reading it in the context of current news media, the book became, last week, about the trauma of child sexual abuse.

Reading alone, it was the blankness of my notice that above all appealed to and appalled me.


No Regrets


Yesterday I gave an informational interview to a woman who went to Carleton, just like me.  She’s rebooting her career at age 28 by moving to New York and attempting to get into agenting. It kind of cracks me up that I could be considered an “expert” in anything, except having a lot of different jobs, but as a matter of fact I am an “expert” at this exact activity, having done it myself six years ago.  We talked about that and a few other publishing matters and then I said, “Honestly, if I could go back in time ten years, I would tell anyone trying to get into publishing not to do it, and I feel like I should say that to anyone trying to start now. Do anything, anything else.”  She asked me a good question then, which is, knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently? and I gave the trite answer that goes something like Nothing I suppose as the experiences of your mistakes and bad decisions are necessary to create the current incarnation of yourself and that self’s successes as well as failures.  I’m not sure I really believe that.  But it’s true that had I not moved to New Zealand, I would have never figured out I want to write, and without attending and then dropping out of grad school and also without getting fired from a job for terribly dumb reasons, I would never have started Emily Books, and those are things I like about this current self, so.  

Read More

READ MORE. (I cried)

I felt like I had to try to stay with the narrator, with the dead author, with the book that had been too terrifying to publish while she was alive. Like the women in the book, I wanted to protect her. And it didn’t even occur to me to distinguish between the author and the narrator. To see the work that went into getting the voice so perfectly right. The bluntness that seems to hold nothing back, but that still leaves so much unsaid. The way the narrator can’t seem to keep her attention focused on things that are physically or emotionally dangerous. The sex scene with her therapist-turned-girlfriend where instead of describing the sex or even what her girlfriend looks like, she slips into a pages-long meditation on all the ways her defense mechanisms are failing her. And I realized I had never read such a good description of dissociation.




We’re excited to be a part of the publication of n+1’s No Regrets, a book of conversations between women about reading that’s at once funny, educational, deeply personal and revolutionary in both its form and its content. As Dayna Tortorici writes in her introduction, this book is part of an experiment that began in 2007, when n+1 published its first book of conversations between writers about the books that formed them, What We Should Have Known.  The decision to focus solely on female writers this time, and to exclude the word “should” from the discussion, was Tortorici’s. She explains: 

the word should has a special place in the lives of women, as it’s been a tool of their subjection through social strictures (“women should be X”) and their emancipation through feminism (“women should reject the authority of anyone who says they should be X, or Y, or Z, or anything else”). Should, in other words, gives us both The Rules and the injunction to break them. I wanted to know how these pressures on women as women did or didn’t intersect with their lives as readers, writers, artists, and thinkers; how the shoulds that stalk women through life influenced the should of what we should have known.

I was excited to be invited to participate in one of these conversations, not only because it was an opportunity to talk about how books and reading influence women’s lives — something that, if you’ve been following, reading, or subscribing to Emily Books, you already know interests me a lot. I was also excited for a more personal reason, which is that I had a highly public and somewhat regrettable (ha!) response to What We Should Have Known in 2007, when it was published. I’d just turned 26. That’s not an excuse, just, you know, context. Back then, I wrote:

The pamphlet is 126 pages long. However, it only takes 5 minutes and 52 seconds to listen to the song “Common People” by Pulp in its entirety.

by which I guess I meant, how dare these public intellectuals say that they regret having gone to college! What a ridiculous and privileged pose!  Of course, being knee-jerk disdainful of people who are well-educated and unafraid to talk seriously about books they’ve read because that must always in some sense be pretentious is also a ridiculous (and somewhat privileged) pose. We were both right, and wrong. 

The other thing about that pamphlet and the world that seemed to surround it, at least the first time I walked into n+1’s office, to attend its publication party — was how male it was. Or at least, how it was dominated by slightly older men and very young, very attractive women, and how much that dynamic it reminded me of frat parties I’d attended. I, too, have some college-related regrets, not exclusively reading-related.  

Six and a half years later when you walk into n+1’s office you will likely see only women, aside from one or two male interns. Not only the magazine’s staff but its interests have shifted, and they’re publishing radical and fascinating work by and about women all the time: issue 17 featured both Chris Kraus’s Kelly Lake Store and insanely great fiction by Rebecca Curtis, a one-two punch for the ages. Dayna Tortorici’s examinations of feminism, art, and labor activism and archive of memorial writing on Shulamith Firestone also point to an overtly feminist, overtly radical future for the magazine. 

I’m still thinking about many of the issues raised in these pages — the thoughts I don’t agree with, the assertions that irritate me so much that there must be some truth in them. And I’m also thinking of the books I now feel I must read, which are handily listed in an appendix to the book; Tortorici asked all the participants to list books that changed their lives.  I also asked every Emily Books author I could get in touch with to provide a similar list; those are featured in our iOS app and, for non-app subscribers, we’ll make some of the lists available online (they’re great!) 

Here’s to more reading and more talking about reading in 2014. This book is a fantastic jumping-off point.