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.
We don’t. That said, we do occasionally offer jobs—part-time ones, too, if you’re a student. We’re not hiring right now, but who knows when something might open up. You can either come through and drop off a resume or email it to info [at] mcnallyjackson.com with a little note explaining why you’d want to work at this independent bookstore. Perks include touching the books, alphabetizing, and explaining that the Paris Review is not, in fact, reviews of Paris.
My aunt loves... you know... "those" books. The Help. The Pirate's Daughter. White Oleander. Water for Elephants. Am I making sense? Maybe not. Maybe I shouldn't even be asking someone with such good taste. Anyway, she's 63, she used to be a discoqueenfaghag and was the first person to ever say the word "fuck" to me. Help?
First things first, there’s still time! Sort of. We’re open from 10-6 today (closed tomorrow). Anyway, onward!
The fuck-saying discoqueen throws me for a bit of a loop, but, ignoring that, she might go for Cutting for Stone or The Invisible Bridge—both have that “those” just-want-a-good-story vibe book that I’m getting from her choices. Also they’ve both been read—and loved—by McNJ staffers.
“So it was decided that Emma would be prevented from reading novels. The project did not seem an easy one. The good lady took it upon herself: on her way through Rouen, she would go in person to the proprietor of the lending library and inform him that Emma was terminating her subscription. Wouldn’t one have the right to alert the police if, despite this, the bookseller persisted in his business as purveyor of poison?”—From the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary. McNally Jackson: Poisonmongers.
Hoping you can help. Looking for a book for a father-in-law type figure. He's from Spain, very liberal, very brainy. I scored big last year giving him Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, which he loved, and he followed up reading House of Holes, which delighted him. I showed him a Javier Marias short story once, and he was not as smitten as I was. Sometimes he talks about wanting to know more about classic American literature. Seeking your wisdom!
I’m not sure how well you know me—probably not at all—but if he’d like to know about American literature, you could—surprise!—get him this edition of Moby-Dick, i.e. the best and most classic of American lit. It’s a paperback, but it’s big and beautiful enough that it’s as substantial and gifty-seeming as a hardcover. Also, as a companion volume, D.H. Lawrence’s hilarious Studies in Classic American Literature, which is apparently literally what he wants to know about. (It’s one of those nice Penguin classics with the green spine.)
I'm having a pre-Christmas panic attack over what to get my dad. Usually I get him non-fiction, generic coffee-table books on "war" or "history." This year, I want to give him something he'll really love and actually READ. He likes non-fiction + history, is a veteran, and has little patience for pop culture or pretentious writing. Also, he's Southern and used to be a cop. Heeeelp.
Late gift giving Q. My husband is a weekend fisherman, doesn't read a ton, but likes a good non-fiction book with a story line (loved "Cod", for example, enjoyed "Perfect Storm", likes Everest adventure type books). Any suggestions?
It’s been out for a little while, but Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea is another one of those great adventure histories—this one involves cannibalism and whales.
And because you mentioned Everest, I thought of Wade Davis—you may remember his zombie-hunting in Haiti, The Serpent and the Rainbow—and his new one, Into the Silence. Everest! War! Death! Mallory! Davis is “National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence” which is a funny oxymoronic dream job to have.
So, I have a gift-giving issue, if you're still taking those. I have a friend who is really into obscure literature from countries whose literature may not be well known here in the States. I could go on, but I do know she likes Scandinavian and Hungarian (she's currently reading the latest Nadas), but I also know that the recent passing of Vaclav Havel has gotten her to want reading some Czech books as well. Oh, and she's from Canada, and she loves books from her native land. Suggestions?
She might like the very strange Michal Ajvaz. Plus you get to feel a little uncomfortable everytime you try to say his last name. Ajvaz. The Other City is a strange and wonderful—by which I mean it’s full of wonders—book. Dustin, I think, prefers The Golden Age.
Hi Sam! Any gift ideas for someone whose 2011 favorites included Stone Arabia, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, The Family Fang, and A Good Hard Look? Bonus points for books set somewhere other than New York City. Also, this someone may or may not be my mother, so I'm going to preemptively veto House of Holes. Many many thanks. xA
Hmmmmm. If your mom is the type of mom who watches Friday Night Lights, then she’d like The Art of Fielding, I’m sure. But you probably knew that.
I haven’t read but I’m intrigued by Salvage the Bones, which takes place in Mississippi. Also I’ve heard nothing but good things about Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox.
I'm looking for a good read over winter break before I head to Paris for the semester. Any suggestions?
Yes! Enrique Vila-Matas’ Never Any End to Paris is narrated by a Hemingway-loving young man wandering around Paris wondering why his experience isn’t more like Hemingway’s. Very good. (Also A Moveable Feast, of course.)
Edmund White’s The Flaneur should be next on your list.
I do have a question, if it's not too late! What recent novels might be good for someone who loves every word F. Scott Fitzgerald ever spewed?
First question! Have you read every word of F. Scott F.? I recommend The Crack-Up, since it contains “My Lost City”—a near perfect piece of writing, if you ask me. Also Hesperus Press just put out The Cruise of the Rolling Junk—a collection of pieces written for Motor (!) magazine about driving from Connecticut to Alabama.
You might also like Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. It’s perhaps not quite as high literary as Fitzgerald, but you’ll get your jazzy social-climby New York fix.
Since you guys aren’t taking advantage of the Ask box for your thorny giving problems, we put together a list of books for all the people you might need to buy for. They’ll be posted here today and tomorrow. Gird yourselves!
A gentleman named Farhad Manjoo just posted a proudly contrarian article on Slate explaining why independent bookstores are not only irrelevent but maybe even harmful. I work at an independent bookstore, so that’s an argument I’d be very very curious to see made well. Honestly, I know the failings of small booksellers as well as anyone, and it’d be good to see them articulated. But that’s not what this essay was. Let’s look at it. All of it. In detail.
I’ll be interjecting my thoughts into the text of the essay itself. I know that’s a pretty ungenerous way to go about it, but as you’ll see, Mr. Manjoo is kind of an asshat, so I’m not feeling generous.
I was going to write a point-by-point rebuttal of the deeply annoying Manjoo piece on Slate (which I will not link to, because I am not a Slate affiliate), but then Dustin went ahead and did it for me. You should read this.
My brother is a prematurely balding baby-faced graduate student in his mid-twenties. He calls me #sixbooks; I call him Professor Pants. Our favorite books are basically identical to Sam's, but we prefer smart-stupid stuff.. We have an informal competition at each holiday to see who can find the campiest book or card, e.g. his Father's Day Hallmark selection "You're my hero -- Olive ya, Dad!" in the shape of a sandwich. How to outgift the smartest man in my life? (Maureen Miller)
Okay! I have an idea. It’s not exactly that kind of campy, but: there are many hilarious things in the public domain, and we can turn those hilarious things into handsome little volumes (or epic tomes, I guess, depending) on our book machine. For example, I don’t know your brother’s interests, but I searched for “medicine” for 2 seconds and found this, Alcohol: A Dangerous and Unnecessary Medicine: How and Why (published 1900):
So it shouldn’t be hard to find an “interest”—hair loss, for example—he has and get him some horrible, illuminating book.