Feb 14

Elanor McInerney started reading Emily Books with our first pick, No More Nice Girls.  We interviewed her via email. She is our first FEATURED SUBSCRIBER.

(Note: you don’t have to actually be a subscriber to be a “featured subscriber” — Elanor, like many of you, waits to see what our picks will be and buys them a la carte. That’s fine with us, it sometimes means you pay an extra dollar or two, but we understand that commitment is scary.)

Emily: Ok, so, you not only read our books, you read the other books we’re reading, and sometimes we end up reading books you read — I think you have recommended books to us as much as we have to you.  But we’ve never met you and you live in  … Melbourne?  I know nothing about you in one way, but in another way I feel like we know each other well.  I almost don’t want to damage the Elanor mystique!  But I will.

Elanor: Oh good I am always ready to damage “the Elanor mystique.”

Emily: What book/s are you reading right now, and how are you liking it/them?

Elanor: I usually read a few books at the same time. I like to have books on my bed and books on my phone. Right now I just finished a bunch of books, so I am at the start of a few new books but I haven’t really settled into any of them yet. These books I guess are part of other chains of books, so I’m going to talk about that, because books lead to books lead to books, etc. 

I just started Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, and this book is part of the ‘I’m going to read Villette' chain of books. Because I have been meaning to read Villette since that thing (years ago!) on the Hairpin about makingVillette happen. And I re-read Jane Eyre in preparation but like, I still haven’t read Villette. And recently I was reading Joanna Russ’ How To Suppress Women’s Writing and in it she wrote about finding Villette through Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, so I decided to read Sexual Politics in order to have that experience too, sort of. So Villette has been pushed back until I’ve read whatever Kate Millett is going to say about it that made Joanna Russ want to read it, because Joanna Russ enjoyed Villette after that, and I want to maximise my chances? I really don’t know why Villette is this loaded for me, that ‘I must like it when I read it’. Maybe it’s because I didn’t likeJane Eyre when I read it in school. And how that was a mistake because I later really liked the BBC version with Alice from Luther in it. Anyway, I’m only in Kate Millett’s “Introduction to the Illinois Paperback” of Sexual Politics where she talks about how trying to get the book back into print was “tedious, humiliating, and time consuming”. I like when she writes about being annoyed by others. Like how the lasting impression I got from her book The Loony-Bin Trip was how ANNOYING (omg so embarrassing) people are when they are trying to get you locked up. 

I am also reading Asylums by Erving Goffman. It’s maybe the culmination of the, uh, ‘asylums’ chain of books I’ve been reading, which started with Airless Spaces I think, and then Emily Books added to it with Promising Young Women, and Heroines was maybe in this chain a bit too, then The Loony-Bin Trip. Anyway I read Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life pretty recently – I think rgr-pop mentioned it on her tumblr and the title was irresistible to me (I was going through an “everything is drag” phase because of RuPaul/Judith Butler or something). Anyway, I liked that book, I liked some of the oddness in Goffman’s writing, “the world, in truth, is a wedding” etc and I liked that he was theorising receptionists. It seems weird to only be getting to Asylums now, chain-wise, when he so clearly lays out, in his preface, what this whole chain has been about: “the social world of the hospital inmate, as this world is subjectively experienced by him.” (“him” haha)

I’m also reading Plainwater by Anne Carson. I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Carson recently. Like, only last month I had read zero Anne Carson and now I have read a fair bit of Anne Carson. It started with Decreation which I LOVED. Then The Beauty Of The HusbandGlass, Irony and GodAutobiography of Red. She is just so excellent. Like, I have no interest in ancient stuff. I skip all that in museums, I’ve never read the Iliad or Herodotus or whatever. But she is so deeply read in it, and she makes all these lateral connections with more recent writers and her themes are like desire and I dunno a bunch of good stuff. 

I’m reading The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. I have also been heavily into Shirley Jackson recently and argh she’s amazing at how people talk to themselves while noting what’s going on around them. Interiority genius blah blah wonderful. I feel indebted to the internet for most of my reading, but god especially so in the case of Shirley Jackson, who I had never heard of and if I had any ideas about The Haunting of Hill House it was just something vague about Liam Neeson and a film I’ve never seen but assumed was bad (is it bad? Now I’m more worried that the film versions won’t get Eleanor Vance right but then how could they not get her right, she’s the whole thing?) Anyway, I read The Haunting Of Hill House because of undergroundbookbat on tumblr. And I’m pretty sure you mentioned We Have Always Lived In The Castle on twitter, so thanks. Thanks internet. I mean, Merricat going through all the things she buried and why. So great. Just everything Eleanor Vance and Merricat ever did or said or thought. So so great. Anyway since reading those books I’ve also enjoyed some other short stories like The Summer People, and The Tooth, so I decided to get this Penguin Lottery collection and it’s something I have been dipping in and out of and yeah, there are great stories in there. Also I think an ebook of Hangsaman is coming out in June so I am really looking forward to reading that.

Emily: What kind of work do you do? What did you study in school?

Elanor: I am a receptionist. I work at two places - a sexual assault counselling/advocacy service, and a rehab hospital (rehab like physiotherapy, not drug/alcohol rehab). I kind of fell into being a receptionist because I used to do community radio and I was part of a feminist/women’s radio show and would do a volunteer reception shift once a week to help out at the station, and then one time a friend of the station’s programming coordinator rang, and this friend was a counsellor at the sexual assault counselling service and she asked if there was anyone around who was nice and feminist and could answer a phone and they looked at me and I got the job. I’m like the girl friday there, and have been for about five years. It’s a great place to work. And then when I finally decided to stop being the worst university student, I needed another job to fill up my days. And so last year I started working at the rehab centre and I have a uniform and everything. As far as study goes I started three degrees, finished none of them. First I did ‘Arts’ (the humanities - history and english, gender studies and so forth), then after a few years I dropped out. Then after a few years I got into a Journalism school, then after a few years I dropped out of that. Then after a few years I went back to Arts at a different university, then after a few years I dropped out of that. I am not good at being a student (o rly) and I tend to be not good at it for years at a time. The pattern is, for the first five weeks of semester I am a student, and then I just disappear, because an essay is due, and you’ll never see me again except for maybe at a party sometime because eventually people my age became my lecturers and tutors. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and it is possible to do this, badly, for a long time, without amassing a crippling debt. But that’s all over now because I decided to stop. Because I am 31. And because I was bad at it. I mean, I think I was okay at the radio stuff for most of the seven years I did it, but the last year I really dragged my feet, and it just feels really good to be guilt-free and not shirking my responsibilities anymore (because I gave them up – so mature?). I recently got out the hard drive that contained all my radio interviews and recordings and shows etc, and when I plugged it in it made a clicking noise and died. So now that doesn’t even exist. And I am a receptionist. And I have more time for reading.

Emily: How did you come across Emily Books in the first place?

Elanor: This tumblr post, but I don’t know how I got to it. I must have already been following you. And like a month later I was in New York when you had your party, and I planned to go, but then flaked because of shyness or seamless or something.

Emily: What has your favorite Emily Book been? Least favorite? Be merciless!

Elanor: I still haven’t read all of them, like, I have the Eileen Myles tote bag but I haven’t read Inferno, and I haven’t read Sempre Susan or the one about selling cheese or the Muriel Spark one. But my favourite I think is Mercury by Ariana Reines. I love it, it’s amazing. It made me read all the Ariana Reines. And I read more Dodie Bellamy because of the buddhist, and more Barbara Browning because of I’m Trying To Reach You. I wish there was more Emily Carter to read (is there?). So I really love most of the Emily Books, really really I do. But my least favourite one is, definitely, the most recent one, My Misspent Youth. I just felt like, I wouldn’t read these magazine articles and don’t want to. I also like floorboards but I guess I don’t care about them really? I liked the last essay the most, where her friend died, and she had ugly feelings, but even with that one I mostly wasn’t down. I mean I recognise that work can make you feel like a stable person, but people don’t need work to be a person to other people. I liked the parts where she talked about lying. 

Emily: What other book clubs or bookstores do you participate in?

Elanor: I am in a book club where my friends and I read Karl Marx’s Capital Vol.1 out loud to each other every Sunday evening. It’s really fun! I haven’t been in a book club before (except for Emily Books) and whenever my friends who are in book clubs tell me what book they are reading for their book clubs, it seems like something I would hate and they also seem to hate it. But I never dread Marx Club. We started Marx Club because of a Kate Zambreno blog post where she “began to worry that I needed to be someone who KNEW Marx, well, or KNEW all of psychoanalysis quite well” (this has been a weirdly influential blog post even if what we’ve done is actually not the point she was making, and uh, yes we do have plans to do Freud Club next). I put a link to that post on facebook and one of my friend’s boyfriends was like, well maybe we should know Marx, well. And then we asked a few other friends if they wanted to read Capital as a group, and they were like yes actually I have been meaning to do that. And it’s been great. I recommend weekly-reading-out-loud book clubs. It means we get to Marx’s jokes at the same time and can laugh at them together, it means we can stop and make sure we understand the point he is making, it means we have someone designated to read the footnotes which we would never read otherwise and that’s great because the footnotes are where he keeps his shit list, it means we get to eat cheese and dip every week and talk about what else we’ve been reading/watching, swap books etc. Plus we’re all like jesus christ surplus labour are you serious we’re giving away our time for free and it’s the basis of capital. 

whispering p.s. I buy my books at bookdepository.co.uk

Emily: What are some of your other favorite things on the internet? They can be any kind of thing.

Elanor: I like tumblr. The more pro-Kimye the better. And I like it when other people screencap their books because if other people are doing it I feel less annoying, because really I have lost control of that. I like reading Dear Television about Girls. And Scandipop is an english-language website that keeps me up to date when it’s Melodifestivalen time or Så Mycket Bättre time, and those are important times.

If you would like to be a featured subscriber, write me at emily AT emilybooks.com.  Oh, and subscribe

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