Apr 17

An Interview with Beth Lisick: “I have always defined myself by the things that don’t go right as much as the things that do.”

by Meaghan O’Connell

I started reading Yokohama Threeway with no context whatsoever and the process of getting my bearings was part of the fun. What I first took to be some kind of Lydia Davis-style compressed fiction thing I soon realized were true stories—“small shames”—from the author’s life. Shame! My favorite topic. I carried my phone with me around town and found myself laughing out loud on the subway and reading parts of it to friends.

I was excited to meet Beth, laugh with her about all the weird people you meet in her book, and then try to force her to be my friend and mentor, but she has been tour all month with the legendary performance art group and San Francisco institution Sister Spit. The group recently started a feminist publishing imprint with City Lights Books, and Yokohama Threeway is one of their first books. Beth’s roommate was still asleep when we scheduled our interview (so legit!) so she called me from a hotel lobby in Toronto.

Meaghan O’Connell: So you’re on a wild tour right now, huh?

Beth Lisick: Oh my god. Well, I used to tour with these guys when I was in my 20s and it was really wild back then. But we went out last night for maybe the second time on the tour and um, we went to a bar called Zipperz. With two z’s.

MO: Oooh! Are you reading from the book on the tour?

BL: I am! We have a merch table set up at these things so we can sell enough books to buy food or drinks or whatever the next day. So I thought okay, I should read from the book. Though actually last night I did a sort of performance of going through the Table of Contents really rapid-fire and that was actually really fun.

MO: Oh man, because yes there are very many short pieces in the book—how many are there total, actually?

BL: There are 48 but when I started I had about 63. I do have more horrible moments that I have already written about but I left those out. Then the other day I realized, Shit, I’m making more of these every day that I live. So I keep adding to the list.

MO: It’s a life project.

BL: Yes. So anyway there are 48!

MO: I was wondering that as I read. Did you sit down and make a list of the stories you included or have you had like a running document going—?

BL: Well, I had just finished doing this book called Helping Me Help Myself, about the self help industry, and it ended up more personal than I wanted it to be and I couldn’t figure out that hard question of how much to reveal and how much to keep to myself. And after that I was just like, Forget it I’m never writing non-fiction memoir stuff again.

So I started writing a novel, and then all these things started popping into my head like, Oh my god I never wrote about that time I almost killed everyone in the Winnebago or, I never wrote about the Yokohama threeway! So I started making a list on an airplane, my flight was going from San Francisco to New York, and by the time I landed, I had the whole list. And it was so easy for me to come up with it, because these are the things that I think about all the time.

MO: So once you basically gave yourself permission to never write memoir again, all of this stuff came rushing in.

BL: Yeah, almost. I feel like this book is me signing off on writing about myself ever again. Like, Okay, this is all there is to be said. I feel so much more liberated now after trying to write myself, to be honest about myself, but also the stuff you have to do when writing memoir which is like, construct this character of Beth Lisick, that I just find difficult. So I thought you know what? Fuck it, I’m just going to write about everything I can possibly think of and then when I write a novel I’m going to have to come up with new stuff. I can’t reuse or use shit that happened to me, I’m going to have to put myself into a position where I’m pretty tapped out for personal experience at this point, so I have to start coming up with new stuff.

MO: And go even darker, basically.

BL: Yeah!

MO: So I have to say that when I saw that there was an essay called “Fuck You Stephen Elliott,” I was a little disappointed it didn’t end up being this super-scandalous thing.

BL: Oh I know. I emailed him to tell him I wanted to call the essay that and he replied saying I should just call the book that. And I was like, Of course you do. He’s one of those people who I just love to give him shit. I try to do it gently. I kind of got out my feelings just by giving the essay that title.

MO: Stephen Elliott aside, have people been emerging and contacting you after recognizing themselves in the stories? I guess the couch guy is who I’m really thinking about here.

BL: Oh my god, the couch guy. Right. Oh my god. That. I really want him to read that because I felt so bad about that incident, and he apparently lives in San Francisco and is some hot shit advertising guy. Yeah, that would be a good one. I haven’t heard from Po Bronson either and I know that he knows about it.

MO: Oh yeah! Po Bronson whose face you threw a napkin at while he gave a speech at a fundraiser.

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Apr 16
Beth Lisick is the undisputed master of the small, strange personal story, but in this collection she transcends punchlines and gets real. Yokohama Threeway is a lot weirder and, we think, even awesomer than her earlier collections of funny anecdotes.  Lisick has a knack for telling a story quickly and then getting out, just stopping, before drawing any fake-profound conclusions. Shitty jobs, the Bay Area’s influx of rich assholes, Stephen Elliot, the humiliations of childhood,  an alcoholic coworker, the ex-boyfriend who wanted to teach her how to wash her ass properly — no one is spared in these subtle, perfectly rendered, hilarious and true snapshots of the artist’s life. 

"This book is fucking great."—Kathleen Hanna
Download the book as .epub or .mobi (for Kindle), or get it via our iOS app.

Beth Lisick is the undisputed master of the small, strange personal story, but in this collection she transcends punchlines and gets real. Yokohama Threeway is a lot weirder and, we think, even awesomer than her earlier collections of funny anecdotes.  Lisick has a knack for telling a story quickly and then getting out, just stopping, before drawing any fake-profound conclusions. Shitty jobs, the Bay Area’s influx of rich assholes, Stephen Elliot, the humiliations of childhood,  an alcoholic coworker, the ex-boyfriend who wanted to teach her how to wash her ass properly — no one is spared in these subtle, perfectly rendered, hilarious and true snapshots of the artist’s life. 

"This book is fucking great."—Kathleen Hanna

Download the book as .epub or .mobi (for Kindle), or get it via our iOS app.


Emily Books SPECIAL APRIL DEAL for Seagull Clients! (And Vice Versa!)

seagullhair:

We are THRILLED to announce a special cross-promotion for April with EMILY BOOKS, our favorite ebookstore and literary subscription service! Seagull clients receive 10% off all Emily ebooks or a (HIGHLY recommended) annual subscription! AND Emily Books subscribers receive 10% off all hair services from SEAGULL stylists LauraKristinSarah, and Shaun! APRIL ONLY.

Here’s how it works:

If you’re a Seagull client you can come in and get a card with a secret discount code (we’ll have them at the front desk or with our stylists). Use the code when you check out at the Emily Books site.

If you’re an Emily Books subscriber looking for a Seagull deal, let us know when you book your appointment and we’ll make a note to apply the 10% discount. EASY.

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SEAGULL VIPs Emily Gould and Ruth Curry are the collaborative force behind Emily books. As Ruth writes, ”Emily Books, the online feminist bookstore I run with my best friend, was started as an attempt to create a tiny, but serious, competitor to Amazon.” YES! As BFF’s also in business together Shaun and I love their renegade entrepreneurial spirit. And as feminist bookworms, we live for their “difficult” picks. Subscribers receive a download link every month, insuring that they’ll add at least one provocative and important book to their e-nightstand each moon cycle. (One time, I was a featured subscriber.) xo Johanna

  

Books


Apr 15

Say Anything

by Haley Mlotek

There are some things better left unsaid. Let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t open up a can of worms. There are a lot of different idioms that remind us to zip it—to shut up, sit down, keep quiet, keep it to ourselves.Yokohama Threeway by Beth Lisick is whatever the inverse of all those clichés would be; all the things said, a pack of awake dogs, an oil drum full of worms. Lisick has made a career as a professional worm-can-opener, which is hyperbole (the actual truth is that she is a writer, comedian, and musician) but after reading Threeway for yourself you’ll understand why I’m inclined to believe that if someone was literally offering a job opening cans of worms, Lisick would be first in line.

Yokohama Threeway is a collection of stories, essays, and poems about the most shameful experiences of Lisick’s life. She once tried to sell a dryer to a man who seemed very nice, only to have him open it and discover a discarded dildo stashed inside. She once lost a spelling bee to Stephen Elliot and her feelings about that experience are pretty clear from the title of the essay (“Fuck You, Stephen Elliot”). She went on a date with a man who was stalking her. Of course, there’s the titular threeway, which is not a euphemism, but instead exactly what it sounds like: a threeway that happened in the city of Yokohama, Japan, and one she doesn’t feel particularly good about. “Huh, so when the last bit of my flesh chars in the crematorium, I will have been a woman who helped a mediocre man live out a classic scenario from Penthouse Forum,” she says, and that’s that.

In the magazines I read as a teenager, there were columns where readers were invited to send stories of their most humiliating moments—getting their period while wearing white jeans in front of their crush, et cetera. Yokohama Threeway is like if someone made a book of all those YM Say Anything letters, but they were all from one person, a person with no shame regarding bodily fluids or objects of affection. Reading them, you don’t think, “that could happen to me.” You shake your head and say “that could only happen to you.”

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YOKOHAMA THREEWAY by Beth Lisick is our April pick!

YOKOHAMA THREEWAY by Beth Lisick is our April pick!



Apr 10
“It had lately been a problem that poems didn’t make money, you couldn’t sell them, so what were they worth… . When I was younger I watched [poetry] become money and that saved me. It became my work. Now I was just standing in the day. Had I ever considered what this was worth. Just standing in the goods. If the words I plucked out of standing here were incomplete then probably they were not “it.” And maybe this was. The thing was existence itself.” Eileen Myles, from Inferno (A Poet’s Novel)

(via secretinterference)


Apr 9
elanormcinerney:

The Perforator God by Ariana Reines | Mercury | Emily Books (this poem also contains “Of cheese with a lion rampant.”)

elanormcinerney:

The Perforator God by Ariana Reines | Mercury | Emily Books

(this poem also contains “Of cheese with a lion rampant.”)

(via arabellesicardi)


Apr 4
“I remember a long time ago, when we first started sleeping together and I told Kirsten, way before we even talked about twisting loosely as lovers, or desiring from afar, that you’d probably break my heart. I said “he doesn’t even know it yet, but he will and I’m not sure he’s ever had his heart broken. That scares me.” Have you ever had your heart broken? It’s something that instills a great sense of dread, and it colours everything that happens afterwards in an endless, linear, slow motion. And I hate linearity. It bores everyone. It changes colors, and you can’t really remember what it was like before.” Trisha Low / the compleat purge (via arabellesicardi)

marginalutilite:

_The Compleat Purge_ by Trisha Low

marginalutilite:

_The Compleat Purge_ by Trisha Low


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