"When there is a scarcity of depictions (in writing, but any realm, I think), the few end up speaking for the many by default, and the many, well, they would rather be able to speak for themselves. The frustration of being marginalized often gets misdirected at the most visible members of one’s own community, because they are more accessible than the real agents of marginalization."

Melissa Febos (in Guernica) (via Melissa Gira Grant) 

(Source: melissa)

emilybooks:

Elanor: I usually read a few books at the same time. I like to have books on my bed and books on my phone. Right now I just finished a bunch of books, so I am at the start of a few new books but I haven’t really settled into any of them yet. These books I guess are part of other chains of books, so I’m going to talk about that, because books lead to books lead to books, etc.

Elanor McInerney is our first featured subscriber. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, where it is already tomorrow right now.  And she is not kidding about chains of books. She listed 26 books she’d recently read in this short interview. 

Tags: lit books whoa

Yesterday was my first Book^2 Camp and my first “unconference” of any kind, so I had no idea what to expect. I imagined people sitting around in conference rooms, selling each other their respective agendas and spouting lots of jargon.  But none of that happened and by the end of the day I felt re-energized and thrilled to be a part of the sprawling, idiosyncratic, weirdo-genius-filled world of book publishing.  Also slightly drunk. 
The first session I attended was Ami Greko's session about what she learned from making her (wonderful) zine about her recent four month travel sabbatical from her job at Kobo.  We talked about the idea of creating media that's intended for a specific audience, who are then the only people who can have access to it, rather than setting the default mode of every interaction to “public.” This seems like a super specific theme, but the conversation went from there to everything to comment trolls to high-profile failed Kickstarter campaigns.  
The next session I went to was about what publishers can (and can’t) do for authors — basically, the person who initiated the session wanted us to tell her why she shouldn’t just self-publish her book.  This one pushed me up against my biases.  For a long time, I have been singing the gospel of “publishers still offer value to new authors that self-publishing can never match, except if you have shitloads of money to spend custom-recreating what happens at a publishing house via freelance labor or if you are the one in a million author whose self-published book is republished — well — by a major publisher.”  It was hard to maintain this belief, though, as I watched a room full of editors, designers and authors explain the less-than-logical aspects of the publishing process as though explaining the odd, vestigial tribal rites of a dying civilization.  As depressing as it was, it was also thrilling to hear editors being honest about this stuff. I hope the authors in the room could pull the figurative cotton wool of self-delusion out of their ears long enough to hear them.
Throughout the day, various people said various renditions of “publishers should publish fewer, better books” and everyone was consistently like “YES! EXACTLY!” I found myself thinking, though I know there are lots of contractual and practical reasons why this could never happen, about what would happen if it was possible for publishers to gently euthanize projects that weren’t working out.  One of the many things that’s hard to explain to authors is that there really are very few “sleeper hits” in publishing — if your book is going to completely tank, your publisher knows long before that first copy hits the shelves, based on presales.  Unless you’re very savvy about knowing which questions to ask, or have worked in publishing, or you have an agent who knows you can handle the truth, you’re going to keep holding out hope for way longer than is necessary. It would be sad but probably psychologically healthier for everyone involved, not to mention a much better use of resources, not to go through the motions of promoting the publication of — wow, I’ve been trying to dodge this metaphor but it’s really the only one that will do — a stillborn book. If publishing were like any other business and books were like any other product, that sales-conference “nope” would be the moment in the process when the problematic item could be sent back to the lab for testing and rejiggering. But books aren’t products, they’re art — except when they’re mostly just products, which is often.  Or when they’re to some extent both, which is always.
One huge problem, almost too huge to approach directly, is that we whisper in euphemisms about the distinction between book-shaped products — celebrity memoirs, cat calendars, point of purchase novelty books, packager-conceptualized YA series — and books that are, you know, real books. Big publishers need to sell book-products to subsidize literature, or so the conventional wisdom runs, but what if we acknowledged more openly that publishing Snooki’s novel involves a totally different process than publishing Alan Hollinghurst’s novel? What if we just stopped even calling the former thing a “book”?  
Obviously that’s exactly the kind of utopian/delusional thing that is never going to happen, but I liked that this was the kind of thought that Book^2 Camp made me think. I also liked hanging out in Workman’s offices all day and doing exercises like going around the room and saying what the last book we bought with actual money was and why we bought it.  Lucinella, a Terry Pratchett novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Code Name: Verity were some of the books people mentioned. Publishing people!! I love you! 
(photo via Guy LeCharles Gonzalez’s post about how discoverability is a problem for publishers, not readers, ding ding ding)

Yesterday was my first Book^2 Camp and my first “unconference” of any kind, so I had no idea what to expect. I imagined people sitting around in conference rooms, selling each other their respective agendas and spouting lots of jargon.  But none of that happened and by the end of the day I felt re-energized and thrilled to be a part of the sprawling, idiosyncratic, weirdo-genius-filled world of book publishing.  Also slightly drunk. 

The first session I attended was Ami Greko's session about what she learned from making her (wonderful) zine about her recent four month travel sabbatical from her job at Kobo.  We talked about the idea of creating media that's intended for a specific audience, who are then the only people who can have access to it, rather than setting the default mode of every interaction to “public.” This seems like a super specific theme, but the conversation went from there to everything to comment trolls to high-profile failed Kickstarter campaigns.  

The next session I went to was about what publishers can (and can’t) do for authors — basically, the person who initiated the session wanted us to tell her why she shouldn’t just self-publish her book.  This one pushed me up against my biases.  For a long time, I have been singing the gospel of “publishers still offer value to new authors that self-publishing can never match, except if you have shitloads of money to spend custom-recreating what happens at a publishing house via freelance labor or if you are the one in a million author whose self-published book is republished — well — by a major publisher.”  It was hard to maintain this belief, though, as I watched a room full of editors, designers and authors explain the less-than-logical aspects of the publishing process as though explaining the odd, vestigial tribal rites of a dying civilization.  As depressing as it was, it was also thrilling to hear editors being honest about this stuff. I hope the authors in the room could pull the figurative cotton wool of self-delusion out of their ears long enough to hear them.

Throughout the day, various people said various renditions of “publishers should publish fewer, better books” and everyone was consistently like “YES! EXACTLY!” I found myself thinking, though I know there are lots of contractual and practical reasons why this could never happen, about what would happen if it was possible for publishers to gently euthanize projects that weren’t working out.  One of the many things that’s hard to explain to authors is that there really are very few “sleeper hits” in publishing — if your book is going to completely tank, your publisher knows long before that first copy hits the shelves, based on presales.  Unless you’re very savvy about knowing which questions to ask, or have worked in publishing, or you have an agent who knows you can handle the truth, you’re going to keep holding out hope for way longer than is necessary. It would be sad but probably psychologically healthier for everyone involved, not to mention a much better use of resources, not to go through the motions of promoting the publication of — wow, I’ve been trying to dodge this metaphor but it’s really the only one that will do — a stillborn book. If publishing were like any other business and books were like any other product, that sales-conference “nope” would be the moment in the process when the problematic item could be sent back to the lab for testing and rejiggering. But books aren’t products, they’re art — except when they’re mostly just products, which is often.  Or when they’re to some extent both, which is always.

One huge problem, almost too huge to approach directly, is that we whisper in euphemisms about the distinction between book-shaped products — celebrity memoirs, cat calendars, point of purchase novelty books, packager-conceptualized YA series — and books that are, you know, real books. Big publishers need to sell book-products to subsidize literature, or so the conventional wisdom runs, but what if we acknowledged more openly that publishing Snooki’s novel involves a totally different process than publishing Alan Hollinghurst’s novel? What if we just stopped even calling the former thing a “book”?  

Obviously that’s exactly the kind of utopian/delusional thing that is never going to happen, but I liked that this was the kind of thought that Book^2 Camp made me think. I also liked hanging out in Workman’s offices all day and doing exercises like going around the room and saying what the last book we bought with actual money was and why we bought it.  Lucinella, a Terry Pratchett novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Code Name: Verity were some of the books people mentioned. Publishing people!! I love you! 

(photo via Guy LeCharles Gonzalez’s post about how discoverability is a problem for publishers, not readers, ding ding ding)

Tags: lit book2

"The illustrations are not identical, but still! The Hunger Games’s genetically modified mockingjay faces left and carries an arrow in its beak; Didion’s hummingbird-as-symbol-of-the-resilient-kernel-in-every-woman’s-soul faces right and carries nothing. Play It As It Lays is about giving up on the game; The Hunger Games is about not only volunteering for the game but also winning it, humiliating its despotic referees, and getting a second boyfriend.”
In which Emily Witt, with signature dryness, implicitly posits a mashup titled Play The Hunger Game As It Lays

"The illustrations are not identical, but still! The Hunger Games’s genetically modified mockingjay faces left and carries an arrow in its beak; Didion’s hummingbird-as-symbol-of-the-resilient-kernel-in-every-woman’s-soul faces right and carries nothing. Play It As It Lays is about giving up on the game; The Hunger Games is about not only volunteering for the game but also winning it, humiliating its despotic referees, and getting a second boyfriend.”

In which Emily Witt, with signature dryness, implicitly posits a mashup titled Play The Hunger Game As It Lays

“I have been back to New Orleans just once. It was autumn again, and I stayed in the French Quarter, just as we three had done twenty-eight autumns before. What brought me there the second time was a literary conference. I was on a panel: the topic was “Writers and Masters,” and I spoke about Susan as one of my mentors. The next month, she died. It was 2004. How the devastation of the city she loved, just eight months later, would have pierced her.
 I never wore that dress again, but I kept it for years—long after I would have been able to get away with wearing it. The book, of course, I still have. He thought of his friends. He thought of his lost companion,….….….….….….….….….….….He wept for remembrance.….….….….….….….….….….….Love. Love. Love.”
Read more Sempre Susan here. 

I have been back to New Orleans just once. It was autumn again, and I stayed in the French Quarter, just as we three had done twenty-eight autumns before. What brought me there the second time was a literary conference. I was on a panel: the topic was “Writers and Masters,” and I spoke about Susan as one of my mentors. The next month, she died. It was 2004. How the devastation of the city she loved, just eight months later, would have pierced her.

 
I never wore that dress again, but I kept it for years—long after I would have been able to get away with wearing it. The book, of course, I still have.
 
He thought of his friends.
 
He thought of his lost companion,
….….….….….….….….….….….
He wept for remembrance.
….….….….….….….….….….….
Love. Love. Love.”

Read more Sempre Susan here. 

"I wanted the characters to be willing to casually say “fuck” and “omg” on the page of a book not to get a rise but because this is how we really speak. I wanted to read about academics doing something else (having affairs, writing dirty emails, browsing YouTube) to avoid doing the work they’re supposed to be doing. Like so many of us do. Like you might be doing now."

Emily Books: A State of Fiction 

Zan McQuade on I’m Trying To Reach You

marginalutilite:

Reading this now, wishing I’d read it as a teenager (it’s all about exaltation, apparently):

Few books in US history have provoked more outrage and debate than The Story Of Mary Maclane did when it was first published in Chicago in 1902. With unprecedented frankness, the 19 year old author…

Melville House is republishing it with a new Introduction in March.  Also I, Mary MacLane, her third book, with a new Introduction by me, as an ebook. For my money, the latter book is better (steal wisely!)  Also, the formatting of the free edition, as you mention, is super irritating and wonky. This has been an advertisement. 

emilybooks:

We are so proud and excited to announce that in February, Emily Books will make Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth available for the first time as an ebook. These essays — about debt, about leaving New York, about online dating, about adulthood, about carpet — are some of our favorites of all time. And soon, you’ll be able to read them on your phone (iPad, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc).
We usually keep our picks secret until they’re in subscribers’ mailboxes, but this time we’re announcing early to give you time to mark your calendars for Emily Books’s first L.A. event!  
On February 20th, join Emily and Meghan at M Bar, where Emily will ask Meghan questions and then Meghan will read and then you’ll ask Meghan questions and then we’ll all drink. Also please be nice to Emily, this is only her 2nd visit to L.A. of her lifetime.
RSVP HERE!  (login via FB or create a profile)

Everything about this is thrilling. Also, please send me your L.A. tips/tricks/treats

emilybooks:

We are so proud and excited to announce that in February, Emily Books will make Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth available for the first time as an ebook. These essays — about debt, about leaving New York, about online dating, about adulthood, about carpet — are some of our favorites of all time. And soon, you’ll be able to read them on your phone (iPad, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc).

We usually keep our picks secret until they’re in subscribers’ mailboxes, but this time we’re announcing early to give you time to mark your calendars for Emily Books’s first L.A. event!  

On February 20th, join Emily and Meghan at M Bar, where Emily will ask Meghan questions and then Meghan will read and then you’ll ask Meghan questions and then we’ll all drink. Also please be nice to Emily, this is only her 2nd visit to L.A. of her lifetime.

RSVP HERE!  (login via FB or create a profile)

Everything about this is thrilling. Also, please send me your L.A. tips/tricks/treats

The best (book-event-related) time of my life … and the worst.

togatherinc:

We love good events. And, even more, we love helping readers and authors produce good events. It’s fair to say that we’re obsessed with solving the mystery of what makes an event really darn great — or beyond awful.

With that in mind, we’re wondering: what’s the best event you’ve ever been to? What made it so awesome?

I have been to a WHOLE LOT of literary events. I was hoping I would be able to set my ego aside and come up with a #1 favorite event that I wasn’t involved in, in any way, but alas, no dice.  Though I can think of many, many events I’ve enjoyed as an audience member and a couple I’ve enjoyed as a participant, there’s only one event that springs to mind where I’ve had an amazing time as both.

Melissa Febos and Rebecca Keith have been hosting MIXER for over 5 years, and from what I can tell they aim to be true to their name, “mixing” very renowned and experienced writers and performers with exciting new voices.  The venue, Cake Shop, more typically hosts bands, and watching someone read on a dark, glamorous spotlit stage there always makes me wonder why more bookstores don’t aim for this kind of ambiance.  Red spotlights make anyone look like a rockstar.  Put Philip Roth in that context, he’d look like Lou Reed.  And I think it makes the audience respond in a more uninhibited, “WOOO!” type way, too. Oh, and they also close out the set with a band, typically, and they pick great bands. 

I spent some time after my first MIXER experience trying to suss out the ingredients in Melissa and Rebecca’s special sauce. You’d have to ask them (note to self: do that) but I suspect that part of what makes MIXER great is that Melissa and Rebecca are dedicated readers who put a lot of time and effort into curating a list of readers whose themes and styles complement each other.  The genuine enthusiasm they have for what they’re doing is infectious. They also take care of their readers, making sure they know what to do when and what to expect, getting them drink tickets, hanging out and soothing their nerves.  The audience knows the organizers have great taste and trusts them, and thus is a great audience. And here’s the best part: while the audience gives veterans of the page and stage due respect, they also don’t all leave the room at once to get another drink the moment a newbie takes the stage.  That is rare as hen’s teeth, reading-series-wise.  Being able to pull that off on a monthly basis can only be explained via magic. Perhaps the organizers are witches.

If you prefer ranting to raving, which was the worst event you’ve had the misfortune of attending? Why did it disappoint you?

Because I’ve worked in publishing and had to attend many command-performance reading events, this is like a million-way tie for me — so much so that the bad events kinda blur together.  A unifying factor that many bad events have in common is when a reader — or, god, READERS — vastly overestimates the audience’s stamina/interest and reads for a long time.  This is even worse when poetry is involved.

I feel like if I single out any one event I will be doing a blind item and will get in trouble, so I will limit myself to saying a more general thing about performance.  If you are about to do a lot of speaking engagements/readings and have zero performance background, take just one improv class.  ”But the author’s job is to write!” you say. “Just to sit behind a desk and write. The crass work of sharing my work with the world is a burden I must face, but would rather not.”   I think this is a totally valid way to feel, and if that’s you, you can figure out a different way of doing author events (your favorite performer reads in your stead! A playwright friend rejiggers a scene from your book as a one-act! a panel discussion about the issues your book raises!) that work around it.  But if you DON’T feel that way — if you want to personally connect with an audience and feel like that would be a great way of sharing your work — you have nothing to lose by learning some techniques that will make you great at it.  

One last thing. I once went to a reading (okay, I’m doing the blind item now) and left with a bad taste in my mouth.  ”Why did I hate his reading so much?” I asked a comedian friend who’d been there too.  ”Oh, it’s because he violated the first rule of comedy,” she said.  ”Never mock someone less powerful than you.  He mistook himself for the powerless person in that story, but actually, by telling that story in front of that big crowd, he’d already become the powerful person. But his self-concept hadn’t caught up with that yet.  It’s an easy mistake to make.”    

Tags: lit

"We might have a small quibble with the implied wave of the hand given to publishers of “long-dead” writers, but otherwise, we say, Bravo!"

A Different Stripe: How YOU Create a Sustainable Book Culture 

Oops. I just meant, if you’re on a budget, it could make sense to prioritize your new-book purchases so that you’re supporting the careers of authors who are still alive.  But supporting innovative publishers is just as important.

Tags: lit