In fiction, the war is between two characters—Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, say—whereas in serious essays, there’s just as much war, as much “conflict,” but it’s within the breast, as it were, of the narrator/speaker/author. The essayist tries to get to everything that Macbeth does; he just locates it all within his own psyche. Every man contains within himself the entire human condition.
”—David Shields, from his piece “Life is Short; Art is Shorter" for the new LA Review of Books. Ah, yes, because fiction has nothing to do with "the world" and nothing to do with the author’s "own psyche." That’s not how fiction works at all.
Tonight? The McSweeney’s launch party explosion of funfestapolooza. Should be great.
Tuesday? More like snoozeday, am I right? Nothing.
Wednesday? Sloane “The Cros-town Bus” Crosley talks to Ed Park “and Recreation”—Crosley got her well-known nickname that I just made up for her because her essays are hilarious & winning, just like the crosstown bus! (In five years here, I have never been on a bus in New York City. Just assuming.) She’s talking to Ed Park because, in Sloane’s origin story, Ed is the radioactive spider.
Thursday? Arthur Philips (or “Arthur Philips”?) is here for The Tragedy of Arthur, which is getting praised all over town, and by “town” I mean the cover of the New York Times Sunday Book Review and praised specifically by Stephen Greenblatt, who is like the Shakespeare of Shakespeare criticism. But really all over the place. And by “place” I mean probably pretty much anywhere that’s running reviews of this book.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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?)