“When Jezebel launched in spring 2007, I myself was keenly interested in being a woman. I was 20 years old: being a woman was a relatively recent development, and I was curious about the ways it could be done. And I had always enjoyed reading about being a girl.”—While we’re closed, we recommend this piece by Molly Fischer on the ladyblogosphere over at n+1: So Many Feelings.
General Liddament pondered this assertion for some seconds in resentful silence. He seemed to be considering porridge in all its aspects, bad as well as good. At last he came out with an unequivocal moral judgment.
Today is the publication date for Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, a collection of his early stories set in Berlin where he followed his elder brother in 1905, all in original translations by Susan Bernofsky. We thought we’d share the first story in the book, titled “Good Morning, Giantess!”:
It’s as if a giantess were shaking her curls and sticking one leg out of bed when—early in the morning, before even the electric trams are running, and driven by some duty or other—you venture out into the metropolis. Cold and white the streets lie there, like outstretched human arms; you trot along, rubbing your hands, and watch people coming out of the gates and doorways of their buildings, as though some impatient monster were spewing out warm, flaming saliva. You encounter eyes as you walk along like this: girls’ eyes and the eyes of men, mirthless and gay; legs are trotting behind and before you, and you too are legging along as best you can, gazing with your own eyes, glancing the same glances as everyone else. And each breast bears some somnolent secret, each head is haunted by some melancholy or inspiring thought. Splendid, splendid.
I want to read Anais Nin but I don't know if I should start off with her fiction, her diaries, or her biographies. What do you think I should try first?
First things first, I’ve never read Nin, but heavens! Don’t start with the biography. You’ll only read her fiction as symptoms of her life—diminishing it, somehow, if you ask me (which, ha ha, literally you are). If you end up loving her, go to the bio later. That said, having consulted a few who have Ninned a time or two, everyone says start with Henry & June.
For the person looking for Atwoody, epistolary romances-- they may like AS Byatt! Possession is epistolary, in part, and although there is romance it is very unromantic. The Biographer's Tale is excellent, too. Maybe even better.
What would you recommend for a reader who enjoys Margaret Atwood, "House of Leaves", epistolary novels, and modern fantasies that don't center around romance?
There’s a big flood in Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital—and angels, some sinister, some not, and a pervading sense of doom. It’s a favorite. Kelly Link’s short stories are definitely modern and definitely fantastic—surprisingly sweet, but certainly not romance. Tatyana Tolstaya’s The Slynx is one of the weirdest and least romantic novels I know.
(And of course the epistolarily horrifying Dracula. And Borges! Borges, of course.)
“I prefer women like books — very good and not too long.”—Things I didn’t expect to find in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady: An “I like my women like I like my ______” joke. (It couldn’t be the first ever? There must be one in Chaucer: I liken mine wimman lyk I liken mine ______.)
“It was impossible, while living there, to avoid all of the people who knew how I’d messed up on my way to personhood, or teach them that the versions of me they knew were not accurate versions. Once a particle is inside the horizon, moving into the hole is as inevitable as moving forward in time and can actually be thought of as equivalent to doing so. Yu specializes in saving people who try to travel back in time to correct their mistakes. It’s impossible, he says.”—Our own Sarah Gerard, on the BOMBLOG, writing about Florida, Charles Yu, and black holes.
Our friends at Full Stop are polling authors on the situation in American writing, an update of a 1939 questionnaire sent out by the ye olde Partisan Review. We recommend (Maud Newton, Marilynne Robinson, Gary Shteyngart, George Saunders, etc. etc. etc.)!
Do you currently have part-time positions open for the McNally Jackson cafe?
We might? Most of what I know about what happens over there is me shoving the raspberry scones (made by the great Pickle Petunia) into my face. But you should give us your resume, in case anything opens up. You can come through and drop it off, or email it to info [at] mcnallyjackson.com—just make it clear you’re aiming for the cafe.
pity about the internship. sooooo, any tips for other possible places (apart from NYT and the obvious) for internships in the city then? should one of them be happening, i make sure i spend half the money of my student loan in your store. ALL the books.
n+1 offers internships, and they let you bartend parties and maybe you’d get to become very famous on their twitter. Our friends over at Lapham’s Quarterly offer internships too, and you’d get to think about all the books by theme—a fun activity.
But well—I was about to list a bunch of magazines and publishers (Norton, FSG, the Observer, etc. etc.) that I’ve heard positive things about, but Anonymous! I know so little about you. It’s impossible to know what you’re interested in. Figure out what you like, or might like, and then try figure out a way to be there, doing that thing.
What about your top-sellers list was McNally-specific in a way we might not know about? Anything on there because of staff picks, special events, a certain staffer being nuts about it, an author living next door, etc?
In the top 20? No, not really. It’s a definite reflection of our neighborhood, which I think we know well—the pretty edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald on booze at number 3 feels exactly right. Simon Van Booy has a long history with the store. Blood, Bones and Butter was a staff pick, and the book has a local hook. I recommended The Art of Fielding hard, but I don’t think I was a lone voice there. I am proud of pushing Leaving the Atocha Station: we sold a lot of copies of that weird little book, which I loved, before it really took off, largely thanks to the James Wood review in the New Yorker.
We have really smart customers, and we can trust that when we put, say, Leve’s Suicide on the table, that it will sell itself—which it did. We also have very many customers, which means that not everything is right for everyone and that those books that do find their audience (with our help!) might not be able to beat Goon Squad, which all types of readers are reading. So the stuff we do well—the stuff that really matters, putting the right book into the right hands—might not be so visible in the numbers.
We the Animals, Justin “Former McNJ Staffer” Torres
Other notables (i.e. books I like that were not far down the list): Rich People Things, The Ask, Emma Straub’s Other People We Married, which we had in stock way too infrequently. Leaving the Atocha Station is in the Top 100 (another title that would’ve been higher if it hadn’t fallen out of stock everywhere just before Christmas). Lydia Davis’ The Cows—a chapbook about literal cows—is just outside the 100. Actually, though, our bestselling item-type thing by far was the set-up fee to publish on our Book Machine.