Jul 5

Jun 18

For the first time, we’ve made catching up with some of our favorite Emily Books easier by bundling them into discount-priced collections.  

Let’s talk about SEX, baby. This collection features four of our most sexually explicit books. They’re not pornographic, or even really erotic. They just get into the nitty-gritty of sex and bodies — sometimes hot, sometimes gross, sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, always the realest of the real.

Making Scenes by Adrienne Eisen: A novel about incest, experimentation, post-grad ennui, and beach volleyball. 
Inferno by Eileen Myles: This is one of our favorite books ever. In it, someone’s labia is described as like a “frilly mantilla.”
Notice by Heather Lewis:  Sex in every form, on every page. Both good and very, very, very bad.
Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger:A teenage girl comes of age, so much. 
If you missed any of these books, don’t miss this deal! It’s 25% off the cover price. 

Jun 11
emilygould:

An Introduction to How To Get into the Twin Palms by Anya Ulinich
This essay is excerpted from this month’s issue of the Emily Books Reader, our iOS app that includes each of our books plus interviews, essays and other extras. It’s free to download, $9.99/month or $99.99/year.  (You can still subscribe and buy the books online and receive the books via email, too.) 
A Facebook friend who’d moved to the U.S. from St. Petersburg in his thirties recently posted a frustrated status update in which he complained about a younger writer. This writer had immigrated from Russia as a child, and now wrote an overwrought (in my friend’s opinion) essay about her conflicted identity. His basic point was that since she’d grown up in America, she was essentially American. Her memories of the old country were childish and vague or, perhaps, even second-hand, based on photographs and stories. Not only did she speak English without an accent, she was more comfortable expressing herself in English than in her first language. The only experience of adulthood she’d had was an American experience. Most importantly, Americans didn’t perceive her as “other.” Because of this, my friend said, her identity issues, if not entirely made up for the sake of her readers, were greatly exaggerated. She didn’t face the daily oppression of being treated like a foreigner, of having to distinguish herself from a stereotype that rose like a wall in people’s minds whenever they heard accented speech. She didn’t experience the difficulty of navigating around cultural knowledge gaps that persisted in older immigrants long after they mastered the vernacular of everyday life. So why, my friend wondered, why was she being such drama queen about the difficulty of her bifurcated identity? My friend found it unseemly. Nabokov, he argued, had never made a peep about his identity troubles.
I’m not saying that Nabokov had it easy in general, but he had it easy in a certain way. He was so very clearly a Russian exile. He did not need to defend the notion that his outsiderness defined him. But assimilated immigrants, members of the 1.5th generation, carry their foreignness like a secret. It’s a very real part of them, yet somehow illegitimate. (I want to argue with myself here: “America, the country of immigrants, is made up of outsiders! There is no such thing as an ‘American’!” So, let’s forget the national specifics and talk generally about people who carry a phantom reality with them—not just a set of memories, but an alternate self. Let’s use the word “American” to mean someone who belongs and the word “foreigner” to mean, more generally, an outsider.) The alternate, foreign self of an assimilated immigrant is woefully incomplete, vague, half-alive. So when such a person travels to their country of origin, they feel like foreigners there, too. It’s often culturally, morally, and politically unappealing (there was a good reason for leaving the old country!) Yet it’s undeniably present. It’s not as finite as “baggage,” and it’s not as tangible as a “skeleton in the closet.” It’s more like a sinkhole that shrinks and expands unpredictably, triggered by emotion or circumstance—by a bout of insecurity or a period of loneliness, by a failure to communicate.
I have to switch into first person here, because I’m a member of the 1.5th generation myself. Or, more precisely, of the 1.3rd generation—I was almost an adult, but not quite, when I moved to the U.S. So anyway, occasionally the sinkhole gets big enough that it threatens to swallow our tangible, American selves. In those times, our residual selves seem like our most authentic ones. The sinkhole devalues our reality, undermines us, from the inside. We fear those moments, and we take appropriate measures.
We may try to brightly label the sinkhole, playing up our origins, placing ourselves inside the traditional immigrant narrative. But ethnic and cultural self-labeling makes us cringe, because these labels don’t really describe what’s going on with us. We are not the same as our parents. We don’t have a right to the classic immigrant story. Our nostalgia is for American high schools we attended, for the American TV of our childhoods. Sometimes, we try to pave the sinkhole with self-hatred. For example, Russian immigrants in New York love to talk about how much they hate Brighton Beach. But we can’t help coming back to Brighton Beach Avenue, to eat borscht under the train tracks and to just make sure we really hate it, just one more time. Waclawiak’s heroine, Anya/Zosia, is repulsed by the Polish restaurant, which reminds her of a roadside brothel. She looks at the proprietor and his young wife and speculates about their sordid pasts. Waclawiak’s writing harshly amplifies sour tastes and smells, tacky décor and painful history. It’s a stressful scene to read, and it’s my favorite one. At the end, Anya/Zosia looks around at the non-Polish patrons of the restaurant and thinks: “I’m sure they were laughing at this version of us, with all its kitsch and old-world charm. I was embarrassed that the owner pushed it this far. I felt a sense of pride and shame all at once. I felt like I had to tell them how it really was, but then, I didn’t really know at all.” This last sentence describes, very precisely in my opinion, the existential state of the 1.5th generation. Anya/Zosia doesn’t enjoy the food at the restaurant and can’t wait to get out of there. Yet later, she makes one of the dishes for her boyfriend. She makes it wrong, and it’s inedible.
Anya/Zosia isn’t a heroine in a traditional sense, and How to Get Into the Twin Palms isn’t really a book about a girl’s life. Anya/Zosia doesn’t make any sense as a character moving through plot. Why does she pretend to be Russian, why does she swim in an ash-littered pool, why does she hurt her hands, why does she drive around aimlessly? Eventually, you give up trying to make sense of all this, and just listen to Anya/Zosia’s voice. It’s the voice of a homeless soul, unmoored and increasingly panicked. The real plot arc of How To Get Into the Twin Palms is that of an existential crisis, and the book is set in Los Angeles, a classic setting for stories of alienation. Zosia passes for an American, to everyone but herself. While LA remains quite abstract and conceptual (the fires, the grid), the writing in the parts set in Poland is visceral and concrete—Zosia has best emotional and sensory access to it, yet she can’t even pass for Polish. So the homeless soul looks of a bit of neutral ground by pretending to be a third thing—a Russian, and changing her name to Anya. (I tried not to read this as political or historical allegory— what does it mean for a Pole to pretend to be Russian?—as a reader, I wanted to remain focused on the existential message of the novel.) But Anya/Zosia’s Russianness is a flimsy, temporary landing pad. As she crashes through it, she grasps at tangible things, spending a lot of time in near-forensic contemplation of body and skin, tub drains and soap scum, hair and blood, shit and chemicals. Alone, in an empty apartment, having literally lost everything, she searches for some firm ground to stand on. She doesn’t find it, but perhaps she doesn’t have to. The end of the book feels like a sudden burst of sunlight on a gray day. It describes a state of transition as the most hopeful, happiest one. It’s the only authentic state for the likes of Anya/Zosia—and, in an increasingly mobile world, more and more of us are like her. We’re escape addicts, compartmentalizers, chameleons. Living on a sinkhole, we pack light.
Anya Ulinich is the author of Petropolis and the forthcoming Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel, a graphic novel. She lives in Brooklyn.

emilygould:

An Introduction to How To Get into the Twin Palms by Anya Ulinich

This essay is excerpted from this month’s issue of the Emily Books Reader, our iOS app that includes each of our books plus interviews, essays and other extras. It’s free to download, $9.99/month or $99.99/year.  (You can still subscribe and buy the books online and receive the books via email, too.) 

A Facebook friend who’d moved to the U.S. from St. Petersburg in his thirties recently posted a frustrated status update in which he complained about a younger writer. This writer had immigrated from Russia as a child, and now wrote an overwrought (in my friend’s opinion) essay about her conflicted identity. His basic point was that since she’d grown up in America, she was essentially American. Her memories of the old country were childish and vague or, perhaps, even second-hand, based on photographs and stories. Not only did she speak English without an accent, she was more comfortable expressing herself in English than in her first language. The only experience of adulthood she’d had was an American experience. Most importantly, Americans didn’t perceive her as “other.” Because of this, my friend said, her identity issues, if not entirely made up for the sake of her readers, were greatly exaggerated. She didn’t face the daily oppression of being treated like a foreigner, of having to distinguish herself from a stereotype that rose like a wall in people’s minds whenever they heard accented speech. She didn’t experience the difficulty of navigating around cultural knowledge gaps that persisted in older immigrants long after they mastered the vernacular of everyday life. So why, my friend wondered, why was she being such drama queen about the difficulty of her bifurcated identity? My friend found it unseemly. Nabokov, he argued, had never made a peep about his identity troubles.

I’m not saying that Nabokov had it easy in general, but he had it easy in a certain way. He was so very clearly a Russian exile. He did not need to defend the notion that his outsiderness defined him. But assimilated immigrants, members of the 1.5th generation, carry their foreignness like a secret. It’s a very real part of them, yet somehow illegitimate. (I want to argue with myself here: “America, the country of immigrants, is made up of outsiders! There is no such thing as an ‘American’!” So, let’s forget the national specifics and talk generally about people who carry a phantom reality with them—not just a set of memories, but an alternate self. Let’s use the word “American” to mean someone who belongs and the word “foreigner” to mean, more generally, an outsider.) The alternate, foreign self of an assimilated immigrant is woefully incomplete, vague, half-alive. So when such a person travels to their country of origin, they feel like foreigners there, too. It’s often culturally, morally, and politically unappealing (there was a good reason for leaving the old country!) Yet it’s undeniably present. It’s not as finite as “baggage,” and it’s not as tangible as a “skeleton in the closet.” It’s more like a sinkhole that shrinks and expands unpredictably, triggered by emotion or circumstance—by a bout of insecurity or a period of loneliness, by a failure to communicate.

I have to switch into first person here, because I’m a member of the 1.5th generation myself. Or, more precisely, of the 1.3rd generation—I was almost an adult, but not quite, when I moved to the U.S. So anyway, occasionally the sinkhole gets big enough that it threatens to swallow our tangible, American selves. In those times, our residual selves seem like our most authentic ones. The sinkhole devalues our reality, undermines us, from the inside. We fear those moments, and we take appropriate measures.

We may try to brightly label the sinkhole, playing up our origins, placing ourselves inside the traditional immigrant narrative. But ethnic and cultural self-labeling makes us cringe, because these labels don’t really describe what’s going on with us. We are not the same as our parents. We don’t have a right to the classic immigrant story. Our nostalgia is for American high schools we attended, for the American TV of our childhoods. Sometimes, we try to pave the sinkhole with self-hatred. For example, Russian immigrants in New York love to talk about how much they hate Brighton Beach. But we can’t help coming back to Brighton Beach Avenue, to eat borscht under the train tracks and to just make sure we really hate it, just one more time. Waclawiak’s heroine, Anya/Zosia, is repulsed by the Polish restaurant, which reminds her of a roadside brothel. She looks at the proprietor and his young wife and speculates about their sordid pasts. Waclawiak’s writing harshly amplifies sour tastes and smells, tacky décor and painful history. It’s a stressful scene to read, and it’s my favorite one. At the end, Anya/Zosia looks around at the non-Polish patrons of the restaurant and thinks: “I’m sure they were laughing at this version of us, with all its kitsch and old-world charm. I was embarrassed that the owner pushed it this far. I felt a sense of pride and shame all at once. I felt like I had to tell them how it really was, but then, I didn’t really know at all.” This last sentence describes, very precisely in my opinion, the existential state of the 1.5th generation. Anya/Zosia doesn’t enjoy the food at the restaurant and can’t wait to get out of there. Yet later, she makes one of the dishes for her boyfriend. She makes it wrong, and it’s inedible.

Anya/Zosia isn’t a heroine in a traditional sense, and How to Get Into the Twin Palms isn’t really a book about a girl’s life. Anya/Zosia doesn’t make any sense as a character moving through plot. Why does she pretend to be Russian, why does she swim in an ash-littered pool, why does she hurt her hands, why does she drive around aimlessly? Eventually, you give up trying to make sense of all this, and just listen to Anya/Zosia’s voice. It’s the voice of a homeless soul, unmoored and increasingly panicked. The real plot arc of How To Get Into the Twin Palms is that of an existential crisis, and the book is set in Los Angeles, a classic setting for stories of alienation. Zosia passes for an American, to everyone but herself. While LA remains quite abstract and conceptual (the fires, the grid), the writing in the parts set in Poland is visceral and concrete—Zosia has best emotional and sensory access to it, yet she can’t even pass for Polish. So the homeless soul looks of a bit of neutral ground by pretending to be a third thing—a Russian, and changing her name to Anya. (I tried not to read this as political or historical allegory— what does it mean for a Pole to pretend to be Russian?—as a reader, I wanted to remain focused on the existential message of the novel.) But Anya/Zosia’s Russianness is a flimsy, temporary landing pad. As she crashes through it, she grasps at tangible things, spending a lot of time in near-forensic contemplation of body and skin, tub drains and soap scum, hair and blood, shit and chemicals. Alone, in an empty apartment, having literally lost everything, she searches for some firm ground to stand on. She doesn’t find it, but perhaps she doesn’t have to. The end of the book feels like a sudden burst of sunlight on a gray day. It describes a state of transition as the most hopeful, happiest one. It’s the only authentic state for the likes of Anya/Zosia—and, in an increasingly mobile world, more and more of us are like her. We’re escape addicts, compartmentalizers, chameleons. Living on a sinkhole, we pack light.

Anya Ulinich is the author of Petropolis and the forthcoming Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel, a graphic novel. She lives in Brooklyn.


Jun 10

An Entirely Queer Plane of Existence

by Indiana Seresin

When I was little and in the beginning stages of an obsession with novels, I used to narrate the affairs of my own life in my head. She opened the cupboard, glancing around nervously for signs of her mother, I would silently recite. Confident that she was alone, she removed the chocolate from its wrapper, folded the wrapper into a tiny square, and slid it under the sofa cushion. I used to visualize the gigantic product of this endless stream of narration, a book hundreds of thousands of pages long that would magically appear on the event of my death. Nobody would read it, I humbly acknowledged, but still, it would exist. 

In 1933 Gertrude Stein decided to write herself into history with the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Last year, the Belgian conceptual artist Filip Noterdaeme did the same, lifting concept, structure, style, and even whole sentences from Stein in his Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart––a bold move befitting a tribute to the woman who liked to describe herself as a “first-rate genius.” Noterdaeme—who was kicked out of Hunter College for “plagiarizing” the work of other artists—clearly finds great pleasure in appropriation, and readers of the Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart will find this pleasure contagious. 

Read More


Jun 9
Come see Trisha Low, Beth Lisick and Filip Noterdaeme read on Wednesday at Housingworks Bookstore Cafe at 7! Free wine til it runs out! 

Come see Trisha Low, Beth Lisick and Filip Noterdaeme read on Wednesday at Housingworks Bookstore Cafe at 7! Free wine til it runs out! 


Jun 2
Omg, wait, this is NEXT WEDNESDAY? and there’s FREE WINE? AHHHH you better mark your calendars. 

Omg, wait, this is NEXT WEDNESDAY? and there’s FREE WINE? AHHHH you better mark your calendars. 


May 19

Notes on the Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart

by Barbara Browning

When I was fifteen, I began my first significant epistolary relationship. It was with a Canadian boy of my age that I’d met during the summer. Our correspondence wasn’t romantic—or at least it wasn’t moving us toward any kind of typical boyfriend/girlfriend situation. We didn’t talk about it then, but he was pretty clearly gay. We were both in love with writing, and that was what we did together—or rather apart, but addressed to one another. He was some kind of boy genius and he went to Harvard the next fall when we were both sixteen. I went to visit him, and we went to the Harvard Coop where we bought Gertrude Stein’s How to Write because we liked the way it looked—a fat white paperback with plain black serif type on the cover. We took it back to his room and stayed up late reading it like a primer. We took the title literally. And that’s how I learned to write—in an intimate collaboration, guided by Stein’s weird and yet completely sensible observations about how language works, and how to reflect on those strange truisms even in the act of putting words down. The famous one is: “A Sentence is not emotional a paragraph is.” But there are so many good ones.

A sentence should be arbitrary it should not please be better.

It should not be disturbed. 

A sentence has colors when they mean I liked it as selling salt should be very little used in dishes.

That is one of the best I have done.

That taught me that it was okay and maybe even sometimes charming to acknowledge that you’d just made a pretty good joke, or written something a little poignant, or perceptive. Please excuse me if you don’t find that particularly funny, or poignant, or perceptive. I find it a little of all three, though not a lot.

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May 14

Permanent Creation: An Interview With Filip Noterdaeme

This interview was commissioned for our iOS app, which you can download (free) here. 

Erin McMonagle: What came first—the idea of doing something along the lines of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, or the idea of doing a memoir?

Filip Noterdaeme: For quite a while, I had felt that the story of my life with Daniel was worth telling. It’s when I stumbled on The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas that I knew I had found a structure to tell our tale. Daniel, when I told him of my idea, thought I was completely out of my mind.

EM: But then he came around.

FN: Eventually he came around, but in the beginning there was an active resistance on his part because he didn’t think it was possible to do such a thing. Personally, I loved the challenge of working within the structure of an existing book. John Cage said, “We need a structure in order to get lost.” The restraints of writing my memoir this way gave me license to dare to do the impossible. It’s how I wanted to celebrate that part of my life with Daniel, and I couldn’t think of a better model than the strong relationship of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

EM: When you say you needed a structure to get lost in, did you really lose yourself and start to pull from other things?

FN: Oh, I did. It was just so exhilarating to let memory somehow guide and misguide me. All of a sudden, things come back to you that you never thought would ever matter. Daniel is my memory, in a way. I’m always dazzled that he remembers things with minute details that I’ve completely blocked out. Maybe that’s also one of the reasons I chose him as the narrator and vehicle for the story.

EM: In some ways, it sounds like he’s the structure that allows you to be free, within which you can create.

FN: Yes, and that mirrors very much our shared life and distinct personalities. In Nabokov’s last novel, Look at the Harlequins!, the protagonist recounts the moment someone gave him license to invent reality, urging him to “Invent the world! Invent reality!” I read this as an invitation from one writer to another to carve out a space for adventure, to defy genre and convention, to be subversive, and to welcome contradictions and paradoxes. For me, what’s often lost in the equation of writing a memoir is the pleasure that lies in the playfulness, in the freedom of inventing a life that happens to mirror your own, almost as if by coincidence.

EM: Let’s talk about how your art project, The Homeless Museum of Art, came into being.

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"Wanting to kill yourself is so banal."

believermag:

image

Ben Fama Talks to Trisha Low

Trisha Low’s first book, The Compleat Purge, came out last fall from Kenning Editions, and when the package came in the mail, I expected to find it bound in sandpaper. I’d seen Trisha perform on the Lower East Side around when the book came out. She drew out long-damaged feelings and confrontations, which all showed through her apparent manic nervousness as she wept onto the floor. I introduced myself to her after she’d finished while she was cleaning up after herself (she’d politely declined my help). She had not published the book by then, though still my interest in it bloomed.

The “I” of The Compleat Purge functions in a lineage that includes Simone De Beauvoir, Kathy Acker, Elena Ferrante, and Ariana Reines. A production in three acts, Purge is filled with suicide letters to friends, articles of her will as written during various stages of her life, and fantasized rough sexting between Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes and Anthony Rossomando of The Dirty Pretty Things. This is an awkward time to be a Poet, no?

I had the chance to talk to Trisha once the book came out, and we discussed her relationship to craft, her writing on Hello Kitty band-aids, tattoos, Fabrizio Moretti and how “pop culture is all about ‘being in love.’” The result is as follows.

—Ben Fama

I. SACRIFICE AS SELF-CONSTRUCTION

THE BELIEVER: Can we talk about craft? In the first part of The Compleat Purge you’ve embedded epistolary form within the structure of a will and testament. Is suicidal ideation a big part of your life?

TRISHA LOW: Actually, let’s talk about The Craft (the movie) because, unlike craft, suicidal ideation is not something you perfect, it’s something that becomes you, like really good red lipstick. There’s this part in the film where Fairuza Balk decides to force the other girls to do this spell called “Invocation of the Spirit,” after which she becomes super greedy for power. As she gains more and more spells, her body also begins this weird process of molecular declension. Her eyes get wilder, her fingers and her joints get looser, and her hair gets limper and greasier.

The Craft is really about scapegoating. About becoming yourself vis-à-vis destroying yourself; the ultimate sacrifice-as-self-construction. Of course, that sacrificial economy always turns its back on you. It’s the same kind of reversal in Purge, only there’s one Trisha Low that’s Fairuza and another version that’s Robin, the witch who kills her. 

I like vacillating between victim and aggressor. Wanting to kill yourself is so banal.

BLVR: Purge starts with an epigraph from Jack Spicer’s Admonitions, which reminds me of the occasions when you invoke it during the first section of Purge. What’s your relationship to Admonitions?

TL: Oh well, Jack Spicer is one of my one and onlys—he’s truly the whore’s whore. Rather than Robert Duncan’s giving oneself up to love, Spicer is more insistent about how love ate the red wheelbarrow, it’s all-consuming—and yet he positions it as a formal device. Love for Spicer is ultimately an artificial framework, a posture to manipulate. He’s a total liar in the strength of his flip contempt—he hates everyone but will say anything to get them into bed. 

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May 13

The Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart by Filip Noterdaeme

I want to address the elephant in the room: yes, this is the first Emily Book by an author who identifies as male. Scandalous!  After two years, though, we thought it was time to become slightly more inclusive, and we look forward to picking and publishing books by people of all genders.  :)

Filip Noterdaeme’s work came to my attention via his friend and mine, Bennett Madison, who assumed, correctly, that I would love to read a book about how two artists in love have dealt with working life and real estate in New York City during the last couple of decades. It’s Filip Noterdaeme’s playful homage to Gertrude Stein, though, that makes this book more than an ordinary memoir.  As Barbara Browning writes in her essay about the book, included in our iOS app edition, Noterdaeme not only pays homage to Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, he improves upon it:

The feminist in me often resists narratives driving toward a resolution of coupled domestic bliss, and charmed as I’ve been by some of Gertrude and Alice’s weird turns on that ideal (their scatalogical love notes to each other are almost impossibly beautiful), even that version makes me uneasy, because its success seems predicated on someone’s subservience. But Filip’s Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart  gives you a very different sense of the possibilities of working together,

In an interview, also included here, with his friend Erin McMonagle, Noterdaeme elaborates on that idea, explaining how his relationship with Isengart informs his life and art:

 What is most important, what I hope comes through in terms of a message in my book, is this common desire Daniel and I have to nurture each other’s talent for life. In the act of performing this autobiography—because it really is a performance—it dawned on me that everything I’ve learned about the secret to permanent creation, these tools of innocence and imagination, is supported through my relationship with Daniel. He is the one who’s nurtured these essential tools and helped me refine them. I like to think of the book as a love letter. When you’re in a partnership, you can’t go around every day, saying, “I love you. I love you.” It would become a banality. So you have to find another way of saying it. This is my way.

<3

I hope you love this book as much as we do.


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