INTERVIEWER:You don't object to my recording our conversations?
JORGE LUIS BORGES:No, no. You fix the gadgets. They are a hindrance, but I will try to talk as if they're not there. Now where are you from?
INTERVIEWER:From New York.
BORGES:Ah, New York. I was there, and I liked it very much—I said to myself: “Well, I have made this; this is my work.”
INTERVIEWER:You mean the walls of the high buildings, the maze of streets?
BORGES:Yes. I rambled about the streets—Fifth Avenue—and got lost, but the people were always kind. I remember answering many questions about my work from tall, shy young men. In Texas they had told me to be afraid of New York, but I liked it. Well, are you ready?
INTERVIEWER:Yes, the machine is already working.
BORGES:Now, before we start, what kind of questions are they?
Tonight? Tonight we’ve got Kenji Yoshino on Shakespeare & justice. If you were to make a Venn diagram about poets and lawyers, Yoshino’s book would the happy space in the middle.
Tuesday? Oh man, Tuesday. It might not be too late—though maybe it is!—to sign up for Susan Bernofsky’s translation workshop. If you’ve been forced by one of us to buy a Robert Walser book, chances are you were reading a Bernofsky translation. (She’s won awards for them.) And she’s running a introductory workshop on translation. You’ll need to rsvp to email@example.com, but you can click here for some more information.
Thursday? Francisco Goldman is here. Once, Sarah “The Bosslady” McNally—also known as Srsly McNrsly—and I were riding the train to DC for the big booksellery conference down there, and she was reading Goldman’s new Say Her Name. She was laughing occasionally, which is fine, everyone loves laughter, but also weeping! Maybe you wept when you read the excerpt that ran in The New Yorker with the swoony Bloomberg on the cover. When she was done with the book, Sarah said that we had to—had to—book him. And so we did.
If Jesus is anything like me, He is risen and drinking iced coffee. And rounding up the new books for the bookstore blog that He blogs at. It’s been a while—remember when these were actually weekly?—so forgive me as I get back into the swing of rounding up new and newish books.
Lydia Davis’ The Cows. This is a small chapbook about literal cows, literal cows Lydia Davis can see from her house. It’s a delight.
Speaking of exciting publishing houses (almost always), we’ve got two books from Red Lemonade on our table right now: Lynne Tillman’s stories, Someday This Will Be Funny (we recommend) and Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen.
It’s gotten a little less attention than A Visit from the Goon Squad, but according to me Here’s Looking at Euclid just won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Possible Title for a Book About Math.
Philip Connors’ Fire Season. You probably saw me blabbing about this all week, but I’d like to re-emphasize how good it is: like a dude Dillard with less alliteration. Read this essay by Connors, then read this review of the book, and then come buy a signed copy. You will be powerless to resist.
“Actually, the shittle in shittle-come-shites hints at a complication, because while shites is pretty much what you’d think, shittle is not. Shit history is full false cognates like shittle—which proves to be related to shuttle, in the sense of inconstancy.”—Paul Collins on the etymology of shitfaced. (via @maudnewton)
Guess what you guys. It’s Sunday, and you’re probably looking at tumblr on your iPhone while you’re out to brunch, taking occasional sips of your frigging mimosa. Well la-di-da Mr. or Ms. Comfybrunch. I’ve got news for you: I’m at work, and we’ve got events this week.
Tuesday: Thomas “I’m from Germany” Pletzinger is here for Funeral for a Dog. Tom Bissell—and I trust Tom Bissell—called it “a formally inventive, rigorously intellectual novel that also happens to be extremely funny and tender.”
Wednesday: All sorts of archtictural craziness for Aerotropolis.
And speaking of Philip Connors, n+1 recently put online an excerpt from Connors’ essay “My Life and Times in American Journalism,” which is one of the best things (if not the best (!)(?)) they’ve ever published.
“I’ve worked almost all my life, starting on the family farm where my brother and I helped our father castrate pigs and pick rocks from the fields. All through high school I worked six mornings a week at a small-town bakery, starting at three in the morning. It took me seven years to get through college, because I dropped out broke more than once and also transferred schools, and along the way I worked all sorts of soul-crushing jobs. I tended bar, fried donuts, unloaded semi-trailers at UPS, worked nights as a janitor at Kmart. The hours at those jobs tended to be terrible. I became estranged from the normal circadian rhythm. To have found a job that allows me to sit around looking at mountains, and even occasionally take a nap, seems to me an incredible piece of good fortune.”—Philip Connors, from his interview with Maud Newton up on the Paris Review. Connors is here 4/21 with Lewis Lapham—part of Fire Season is excepted in the latest issue of Lapham’s, Lines of Work. I read Fire Season, and it’s great. I recommend this review, which articulates pretty much all I’d want articulated.
“I’ve never really posted before, so this is a shot in the dark. I was the girl with the nose ring and the Brooklyn lager. I just thought you were incredibly cute. Wouldn’t have minded a chat. Maybe not too late?”
Maybe not too late! Spring is in the air! Monger some love! It’s been so long since a McNJ missed connection has popped up in the google alert! What are you people doing if not making lots of eyes at pretty people at bookstores and then returning to your apartments to write missed connections! That’s how you do it!
“Probably all of us, writers and readers alike, set out into exile, or at least a certain kind of exile, when we leave childhood behind. Which would lead to the conclusion that the exiled person or the category of exile doesn’t exist, especially in regards to literature. The immigrant, the nomad, the traveler, the sleepwalker all exist, but not the exile, since every writer becomes an exile simply by venturing into literature, and every reader becomes an exile simply by opening a book.”—Roberto Bolaño, Exiles (via nybooks)
Don’t miss Cormac McCarthy on NPR’s “Science Friday” tomorrow (4/8, 3-4pm ET) on Connecting Science and Art. Science and art often seem to develop in separate silos, but many thinkers are inspired by both. Novelist Cormac McCarthy, filmmaker Werner Herzog, and physicist Lawrence Krauss discuss science as inspiration for art and Herzog’s new film on the earliest known cave paintings.
He was here at this bookstore last night for The Free World—bunch of signed copies floating (not literally floating) around the store. Come to the bookstore, remind yourself how many people have written novels, buy this one.
“To disguise nothing, to conceal nothing, to write about those things that are closest to our pain, our happiness; to write about my sexual clumsiness, the agonies of Tantalus, the depths of my discouragement—I seem to glimpse it in my dreams—my despair. To write about the foolish agonies of anxiety, the refreshment of our strength when these are ended; to write about our painful search for self, jeopardized by a stranger in the post office, a half-seen face in a train window; to write about the continents and populations of our dreams, about love and death, good and evil, the end of the world.”—John Cheever, from The Journals. Quoted by Geoff Dyer in his essay on The Journals in Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. (Did you hear that he—Geoff, not John—is reading here May 9th, talking with Sam Lipsyte?)
hi! I asked you about your out of print favorites when what i ought to have asked you is: what relatively unknown/unread/obscure books do you LOVE. like, your favorite book that no one else has ever heard of. sorry, i'll stop asking annoying open ended questions after this.
Hello again Anonymous! This is hard: once you read a book, once you know it that well, it’s hard to remember that it may be a different kind of unknown. And this is particularly true when it’s something you love, and you tell all your friends about it, insist, insist, and make them read it, and then everyone you know is tired of you talking about that book that no one’s heard of—you bore—and suddenly this book feels like it’s reached saturation, at least in your own little market of friends who hear you blab about books. (The nice thing about working at a bookstore is that you can blab at people and never see them again. Thanks, customers!)
And also, since quiet anti-epic is not exactly my wheelhouse, my selections there tend to be the obvious ones. Also I’m young enough that a bulk of my reading tends to be The English Major Classics and whatever I felt I missed. Certain obscurities feel like an indulgence; I still haven’t read so much! Though my original recommendations still stand. Anyway, I’m not sure how long you’ve been participating in the McNally Jackson Internet Experience, but here are some things I blab about here and on the twitter because I think they’re under-read:
Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, a poem-essay about the color blue, and William Gass’ On Being Blue, an essay-poem about the color blue (though mostly sex & writing). These two paired together are known as the bluefer-twofer.
Ander Monson’s weird and wonderful Vanishing Point, which didn’t get talked about enough. Contains the single best close reading of Doritos I’ve read.
Short stories! I purchased Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy a few years ago and have since bought copies for four other people...can you recommend a new great short story writer?
Can I admit something shameful, something I’m not proud of, as an employee of McNally Jackson? I’ve never read him. (Simon wrote a bunch of his first collection in our cafe, which is why being a McNJer and leaving Simon unread is doubly bad.)
But I have read some short stories! One of my favorite collections is Jason Brown’s Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work. You can read my staff pick.
And! Andre Dubus! Not to be confused with his same-named son, Andre Dubus’ collected stories is another all-time favorite: the longer ones set in New England are particularly great. (He’s not, however, exactly new. But still. He could be new to you.)
And, of course, the ever-lovely Emma Straub’s Other People We Married, which makes for a funny kind of sequel to Love Begins in Winter based on their titles. Lorrie Moore (!) says, “In these stories of grief, love, loss and transplantation, Emma Straub demonstrates her brilliance, her humor, her sharp observational powers, as well as her lyrical gifts and affection for the world. She is a terrific new talent.” Which I’ll ditto.
To walk into a modern-day bookstore is a little bit like studying a single photograph out of the infinite number of photographs that cold be taken of the world: It offers the reader a frame. Within that frame, she can decide what she likes and doesn’t like, what is for her and not for her. She can browse, selecting this offering and rejecting that, and in this way she can begin to assemble a program of taste and self.