I've been trying to attend book events in NYC, and it's really hard to find a list of things happening around the city without going to each individual bookstore/publisher's site. Do you have any tips to help find book or author events going on?
Oh hm! This is hard. There used to be Book Boroughing, but it looks like they’ve gone quiet. Surely though we’re forgetting something—and so we open it up to the world. World?
“These books taught me a lot about what it must be like to be a young man, and gave me some terrible ideas about the kind of woman I didn’t want to be, in order to not be thought dull or needy by the intelligent, masturbating young men I liked, but they did not help me understand my life.”—Emily Witt, on reading coming-of-age novels by men. From No Regrets, the new short book from n+1, and excerpted on the Cut.
“New Directions was somewhat in the doldrums when I first joined, and so was [James Laughlin], who suffered from depression. At my first editorial meeting, I cracked a joke that my friends called the press “Old Directions.” Nobody laughed. But then JL discovered Prozac, and also Guy Davenport and Anne Carson. It became a much happier place.”—This interview with Barbara Epler of New Directions is A+.
“And I will be that corpse for infinitely longer than I have ever been an individual woman with feelings and ideas and arms and legs, who sometimes looks at paintings. It’s not me. But it will be me.”—Zadie Smith, in the NYRB, on corpse-carrying, Knausgaard, Tao Lin, your phone, and being alive.
I’ve never really connected with a wordless picture book—I talk way too much to understand any person or entity who refuses to do so entirely— but this one just blew me away. It’s impressive when a children’s author can craft and present a clear narrative in 32 pages, so when one does as much without even using the alphabet, it’s unreal.
Bob Shea is my favorite living picture book illustrator full stop. This is a very simple book about a goat and a unicorn being silly, but also a very complex story about how we define ourselves in the context of others (no, seriously! Go read it), and a gentle, playful, meaningful lesson on first impressions and friendships.
Equal parts creepy, wistful, and charming, Doll Bones gives us three young best friends trying not to outgrow each other as they near the end of their respective childhoods. Also, they’re being terrorized by a china doll possessed with an evil spirit. We talk about this one a lot at my Children’s Book Buyers Who Happen To Also Manage The Horror Section group meetings.
I usually dismiss plots like this one as being too Newbery-pandering, like when really beautiful actresses play ugly people to get an Oscar. It has everything librarians go for: child with a complicated home life + troubled period in American history (Memphis, 1959) + a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to happiness (a crippling stutter). I read this predicting that I would dismiss it as another Newbery MadLibs title (I’m lookin’ at you, Wonder) but instead became immediately entranced by it. I was completely wrong in all of my assumptions on this one and am uncharacteristically fine with that because it was such a joy to read.
The fact that Anne Ursu didn’t with the Newbery for her previous title, Breadcrumbs, is a black mark on the soul of the American Library Association and would be enough on its own to make me root for The Real Boy this year for the medal. On top of that, this book is effing unbelievable. The price that we collectively paid for the gift of Harry Potter is that it is now next to impossible for middle grade novelists to write about magic without embarrassing themselves; I am fine with that trade off because we live in a world that has Anne Ursu in it, and she’s an amazing champion of middle grade magic fiction in our post-Hogwarts society.
The last time a graphic novel got the Printz was the first time a graphic novel got the Printz, when American Born Chinese shockingly beat out The Book Thief in a stunning display of dopey graphic novel tokenism by that year’s award committee. I still haven’t gotten over it, clearly. Now it’s 5 years later and this reimagining of Frankenstein is teaching me to stop worrying and love YA graphic novels, which, it turns out, is actually pretty easy to do when they’re as great as this one.
As a YA trade paper original from an adult publisher this one already has an uphill battle in terms of getting awards attention. I would love for it to be a real contender because it’s amazing- an Orpheus myth take-off that exactly captures all of the passion and intensity and foolishness of a teenager falling in love, hard- and also because I think the industry needs to catch up to the audience in dropping the format bias in YA (teenagers love paperbacks. Quote me).
You know that thing where you dislike an author so you read their new book because you think it’ll be fun to hate on, and then it’s a great book and you wind up questioning the very foundations on which you’ve constructed your life? I understand that this happens with Jonathan Franzen somewhat frequently? That was me with this one. You win, Meg Rosoff.
“Unless I write “and then his Galaxy 4’s battery died” no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating site, or do anything that doesn’t eventually have them picking up a phone. So I’m stuck writing about an era where Ethan Hawke was considered the pinnacle of manliness.”
Wait, can somebody explain why you can’t say “and then his cell phone died”? That the cell phone has changed how we communicate—in a way that we completely take for granted until our phones die—is exactly what the novel should be figuring out. Nothing is “mind-numbingly dull” unless you make it so.
Here’s some good fiction that involves cell phones:
He works here at McNally Jackson and he is the single best piece of proof we have that bookstores will always be important. Let me explain.
Landon does our web orders at work. If you’ve order something via the McNally Jackson website you probably got a confirmation email from him and it was definitely helpful and kind and funny and signed “Web Human,” which is his self-ascribed and entirely perfect job title here.
We recently did a web preorder campaign for Veronica Roth’s Allegiant offering signed copies to our online customers (you can still get signed copies, while our supplies last) wherein Landon wound up communicating with half of Brazil, a nation demonstrably filled with Divergent fans. One customer wrote back asking if Veronica Roth herself was really going to sign her book. After Veronica’s visit to the store on Sunday, Landon sent her the below two pictures.
He got this email back within 25 minutes:
OH MY GOD LANDON I CAN’T EVEN AKSKAKKDJDJAKQMMDL THANK YOU SO MUCH SERIOUSLY I’M HYPERVENTILATING AND CRYING AND OMG I LOVE YOU GUYSSS!!! YOU’RE THE BEST OKAY? OKAY. ❤️❤️❤️ Btw, is that you behind Veronica??? Haha
Your move, Amazon.
Also, now seems like a great time to mention that every copy of Allegiant within the walls of McNally Jackson right now is signed by Veronica. Have at it.
McNally Jackson Bookmongers: Warming Brazilian Hearts Since 2013™.
“In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.”—Eleanor Catton just won the Booker for The Luminaries. We haven’t read the book yet, but we like the cut of her jib.