by Emily Gould, May 7, 2010 12:28 PM
is unquestionably the best independent bookstore in New York, in part because it is small and intimate and feels kind of like your apartment, if your apartment was covered floor to ceiling in pretty, well-organized bookshelves. The smallness, however, means that going to see someone read in Word's basement event space is a lot like going to a high school party in your friend's semi-finished basement. And last night, at my book launch and reading, it was like that high school friend's parents were not only out of town, but were ridiculous lushes: we drank seven cases of beer and several bottles of absinthe. I would estimate that I am personally responsible for at least half of that amount, judging from how my head feels like it about to fall off my neck. But whatever, on to the party report!
First, let's talk about boldface names. There were so many authors there it was like the books on the shelves had come to life, like in some trippy Disney movie that gave you nightmares as a child — except cool. Girl Power author Marisa Meltzer, I Don't Care about Your Band author Julie Klausner, Love, Mom author Doree Shafrir, Dear Diary author Lesley Arfin, The Melting Season author Jami Attenberg, The Blonde of the Joke author Bennett Madison, Adderall Diaries author Stephen Elliot, and All the Sad Young Literary Men author Keith Gessen were all there, as was Shoplifting from American Apparel author Tao Lin, who asked me to sign his copy of my book.
"I'm not sure what to write," I said.
"Then just draw a picture of a hamster," Tao said.
So I did, but I had forgotten what hamsters look like, especially tail-wise, and ended up drawing something that looked more like a cat/rat hybrid. This was around the time that Julia Allison walked in with her dog. Or possibly absinthe really does cause hallucinations.
Then I signed some books for people I'd never met. It was my first time doing this, so it was really exciting. I kept just sort of gibbering, "I hope you like it!" One of these people said she was going through a breakup; she, I feel confident, will definitely like the book.
After a quick reading from the book and a Q&A with music blogger Matthew Perpetua, we closed up Word and headed next door to the Pencil Factory to eat sandwiches and drink outside. I left shamefully early, around midnight, but people continued to party til 4am, I am reliably told.
So never let it be said that my book is pointless: it at least caused a handful of awesome (and, let's just be real, bizarrely motley) people to have one hell of a
by Emily Gould, May 6, 2010 10:58 AM
"Pub twins" is a coinage I am just trying out; it's not that great because it could easily be misinterpreted to mean the same thing as "Irish twins." What I am trying to mean, though, is that two remarkable books, Meghan Daum's Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House
and Will Leitch's Are We Winning?
, share a pub date with my book And The Heart Says Whatever
. What do all these books have in common, besides that they are awesome and you should buy them? Not much of anything, actually. They are all written mostly in the first person, there's that. I enjoyed all three of them very much (well, except my own book, parts of which I can't reread without crying or wincing in disgust). Meghan's and Will's books, though, are pure pleasures that you can either indulge in yourself or give to, in the case of Meghan's book, your most real-estate-obsessed friend, or, in the case of Will's book, your Dad for Father's day. If your Dad is obsessed with real estate, well, it's a double play! Or something; I read Will's entire book but I still don't remember anything about the rules of baseball.
Luckily, you don't have to know anything about or care anything about the game of baseball to read Are We Winning?, even though it's about fathers, sons and baseball. It's the story of Will and his father attending a specific game between two teams, one of which was their favorite and one of which was their least favorite, in some kind of major baseball event. Along the way, though, Will writes in very moving terms about how his relationship with his dad has shaped his life — all while keeping his masculine dignity and never being too emo. It's quite a feat.
Some of the themes of Meghan's book will be familiar to readers of her seminal essay collection My Misspent Youth, which, if you haven't read it, leave work or whatever you're doing, buy it, and don't talk to me til you've read it! When I think about My Misspent Youth I think of that thing people say about The Velvet Underground's first album — that initially not a lot of people bought it, but everyone who did went out and started a band (and, of course, later a lot of people bought it). I would substitute "wrote a book" or "started a blog" for "started a band" in this formulation. In these essays, Meghan reinvented a genre of writing that I have a hard time labeling; it's not exactly "confessional" but it is fearlessly honest. (We talked to Curtis Sittenfeld about this recently here). Now, with Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, Meghan has told her entire life story via the medium of real estate, taking us with her from the Midwest to New Jersey to the Upper West Side to Nebraska to LA — in search of various houses that may or may not be homes, and in search of a workable definition of what that latter word means. The book ends on a dramatic, unsettled note, leaving readers hungry for whatever Meghan's next book might be.
[Editor's Note: Meghan > will be Powells.com's guest blogger for the week of May 24th-28th. Mark your
by Emily Gould, May 5, 2010 10:24 AM
"I am, for no discernible reason, wall-smashingly, knuckle-scrapingly PISSED. A quick survey of a few acquaintances reveals that I am not entirely alone in these feelings, but I am not sure to what degree this is a universal occurrence," my friend Alex
wrote on his Tumblr on Monday, so I promptly wrote to him, as he expected me to, to inform him that Mercury was retrograde and would be til the 11th. But even I'm not hippie enough to be wholly satisfied by astrology as an explanation for the weird vibes that everybody's been feeling in NYC this week.
The weather's been unseasonably hot and a guy tried to blow up part of Times Square with a car bomb over the weekend. It's understandable that people might be on edge. On Monday I was getting on the subway at Dekalb avenue, going through the usual mechanical motions, swiping my card to enter the system, when I realized that I was stepping into a crime scene. A fresh gout of blood on the ground, cops restraining a gibbering prisoner as a group of Brooklyn Tech high school students gathered to gawk.
I removed my earbuds just long enough to ask someone at the edge of the crowd if she knew what had happened; she didn't. I made the customary mental note to check the news when I got home, then forgot to, as is also customary.
You learn to shut out so much commonplace horror when you live in a big city, or maybe just when you live anywhere near other people. You learn to ignore so much ordinary thoughtless unkindness and rudeness. "Uh, the line's over THERE?" That kind of thing. It's possible to feel really inconsequential here; in a bad way but also in a great way — your problems and your pain are never the most problematic or painful in a 15-foot radius, you can almost always be sure. I had been feeling awful before I left the house on Monday, sorry for myself because my book — and let me just pause here to clarify that my critical take on my book is essentially DON'T HURT MY PRECIOUS BABY, YOU MONSTERS — has not, let's just say, been garnering universal critical acclaim. I don't want to get into that too much here, or anywhere — taking up arms against your critics is not a cute look for an author, though it is entertaining to anyone sitting on the sidelines. I liked Anna North's interview with me that ran on Jezebel yesterday, where she homed in on my refusal to write what I characterized as an "Oh goofy me, taking pratfalls" book. In And the Heart Says Whatever, I didn't hammer home my points or penitently explain which specific lessons my youth in New York has taught me, and I didn't end the book with a triumphant feel-good story about how I've found true love and now I'm a yoga teacher. This seems to have worked the nerves of a lot of the online reviewers who specialize in writing about what are called "women's books."
I try not to overtly mention this anywhere, though regular close readers of my food blog have extrapolated it, but the odd fact of the matter is that I have found true love and now I'm a yoga teacher. (For real.) And after I saw the bloody man's arrest, on Monday, I made my way to the Back Care yoga class that I assist every Monday night.
I made an informal pact with myself a while ago never to write about the yoga part of my life, and this promise has been surprisingly easy to keep. I know there are whole magazines devoted to yoga-related essays and journalism and that's cool but for me anything related to spirituality is deeply (ha!) private — and also maybe also essentially boring, in the same way that "a dream I had" and "a cute thing my cat did" are not super entertaining conversation topics. Also, I feel like there's a kind of doctor-patient confidentiality-type tacit agreement between me and my fellow teachers and students. So I will permit myself only to say that something happened in class on Monday and I was able to help someone who was having a hard time in a way that I wouldn't have been able to if my own life hadn't worked out the way it did.
It's rare for me to feel this way, but in that moment I felt like everything is working out for a reason.
I hope that's cheesy and homily-ish enough to satisfy my critics retroactively, but I suspect that it doesn't work that
by Emily Gould, May 4, 2010 10:41 AM
Recently my childhood friend Bennett, who is the author a great novel about teen shoplifting
, and I had breakfast — homemade egg sandwiches with bacon and cheese — and discussed my book in a totally not-contrived way.
Breakfast with Emily from Emily Gould on Vimeo.
One of Bennett's questions was about the book's title, And the Heart Says Whatever. Why is it so crazy? What does it mean? I had to reveal that it is a lyric from the uptempo Stevie Nicks ballad "Think About It," which is on her solo album Bella Donna. The actual line is repeated twice in the song, once as part of a longer sentence: "And the heart says 'danger'/ and the heart says 'whatever/ it is that you want from me...'" and once at the end, just by itself: "And the heart says 'danger'/and the heart says 'whatever'/'Think about it, think about it before you go.'"
(What, you don't sit around parsing Stevie Nicks lyrics all day?)
Anyway, Bennett's question got me thinking. Why do I like Stevie Nicks, and Fleetwood Mac, so much? I mean, besides the fact that she and they are awesome (I'm talking about the Rumours lineup, not the early British bluesy iteration of the band or the '80s-'90s Nicks/McVie/Buckingham-less versions). It does seem like an odd favorite band for a person who was born after they'd already recorded their best albums. While you can make a case for Tango in the Night and Mirage, especially the Christine McVie compositions "Everywhere" and "Little Lies," let's just be real that the overall takeaway, from that era of F. Mac, is that cocaine is good in the short term for creativity but not in the long.
The other day I was perusing their Wikipedia page, as one does, trying to unearth more information about the Tusk documentary, and I realized that their big Rumours-lineup reunion — that highly charged, A Mighty Wind-esque tour that resulted in the album The Dance — happened in 1997, when I was 16. Their VH1 "Behind the Music," which is the definitive and best "Behind the Music" of all time, obviously, was in constant heavy rotation on that channel, and the song "Silver Springs" was always on the radio.
Nicks had originally written "Silver Springs" for Rumours, in 1977, but it wasn't included on that album because of rising tensions in the band and maybe because it describes the end of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham in such wrenching, unsparing (not to mention witchy and mystical!) terms. Then in 1997, the live version she recorded for The Dance became a huge hit — maybe because of the way she turned to Buckingham, her long-ago lover, in front of a stadium full of thousands of people, and sang, "I'LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN TILL THE SOUND OF MY VOICE WILL HAUNT YOU! YOU'LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM THE SOUND OF A WOMAN THAT LOVES YOU!"
Anyway, I don't want to get too self-therapeutic here, but that's the kind of thing that could potentially have a big impact on a 16-year-old, especially one growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland. Sixteen-year-olds think every song on the radio is about them
by Emily Gould, May 3, 2010 11:06 AM
Dear Powell's blog readers,
Hi! Welcome to my week-long guest blogging stint. I don't want to take up too much of our time here by talking about my inexpensive paperback book And the Heart Says Whatever, available wherever books are sold but obviously also via Powell's — I mostly want to talk about karaoke and post photographs of my cat — but I did just want to mention quickly that if you're curious about how part of this book sounds as read aloud by me, and you're not going to be able to make it to any of my book events, you can download a FREE audio chapter here. One highlight: I do a great imitation of a cat vomiting about halfway through.
Sooo. This Powell's gig marks my triumphant return to daily compulsory blogging; it's been a while! I used to work for Gawker, but that was three years ago so I'm sorry if it takes me a moment to get my blogging legs back. Hey, did you know that Sandra Bullock adopted a SECRET BABY? Okay, that should take care of search engine optimization. Just in case it didn't: Twitter! Oil spill! Stolen iPhone Times Square Car Bomb!
By the way, here is a cute photo of my cat, Raffles.
He's stopped vomiting as often now that I give him special kidney-maintenance cat food, but that stuff is expensive so please do go ahead and buy my book. I think that's all the guest blogging I've got in me today, but please make sure to check back tomorrow when I will be answering questions from early readers of ATHSW, some of which I will probably make up a la Edith Zimmerman. In the meantime, if you find yourself craving more of my blogging style, you can visit my main blog Emily Magazine, my "food blog" Things I Ate That I Love (where in the past 24 hours I have posted about an early somewhat obscure Velocity Girl single, the Fleetwood Mac Tusk documentary, and how to make biscuits (the oven temperature is more important than you'd think)). I also wrote a post about trying to quit drinking coffee which, well, clearly that's not going particularly well.