Mary Mann is far from bored. Not only was her first book, Yawn: Adventures in Boredom, published May 16, she’s also been writing and schmoozing like a madwoman.
In New York Magazine’s The Cut, Mary wrote about boredom, marriage, monogamy, and forcing her boyfriend to accompany her to a sex store trivia night. In the piece, she touched on a huge anxiety for many couples:
To call a person boring is hurtful and demeaning. To call a relationship boring, or even to say that you’re experiencing boredom within a relationship, is often seen as the kiss of death. The magazines and books advising you to avoid being boring in bed or in conversation at all costs, the shows and movies that perpetuate this idea that love is a flame that’s either lit or out — all conspire to create a belief that boredom is a kind of pox, and you’re just not as good of a couple once it touches you.
But just because we experience boredom in a relationship, Mary explains, doesn’t mean it’s the end. In fact, it’s pretty normal.
Writing for Slate, Mary tackled a huge question: Can technology solve the 2,500-year-old problem of boredom in the classroom? The reality is, well, a double-edged sword. As Mary writes,
Archer (a professor) was addressing a common conundrum of educational technology: that it can end up contributing to the problem it was created to fix—an “endless feedback loop,” as a frustrated professor I know put it. Classroom distraction doesn’t just come from the phones in students’ pockets; it can also result from the very gadgets invented for the classroom, gamified educational tools that often aid and abet short attention spans by catering to the most restless.
And yes, Mary admits she got bored listening to the professor explaining the very theories she needed to write her own article.
Mary also write a piece for Outside titled “How to Turn Boredom into a Performance Enhancer.” If only it were that easy… Still, as Mary explains, the world’s best endurance athletes get bored, too. But instead of giving up, like us, they push through boredom to find flow, the coveted state of “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake”:
It sounds fantastic, but there is a downside: boredom and flow both tend to flourish under the same conditions—an extended period of time devoted to a single activity. Thus, by trying to squash boredom with, say, a good podcast, you’re decreasing the chances of achieving flow.
. . .
But [the sports psychologist] went on to explain that if runners who feel occasional boredom “can make it through those lethal first minutes to the other side,” they might find their mind starting to follow new and unexpected routes. This tracks with recent research finding that boredom actually helps us develop certain positive skills, like creativity and associative thinking. As Black Girls Run co-founder Toni Carey told me, “Running can be a spiritual experience, but I notice that those times when I can feel everything flowing together, every movement connected with my breath, they happen when I’m not running with music.”
Eh, we’ll stick to leisurely walking the treadmill while reading.
And if you still aren’t bored (no, we’re not done making bored jokes yet), Mary published two excerpts of the book online. The first, in Electric Literature, is an essay about how boredom and an enterprising Brit (Thomas Cook) gave birth to the modern tourism industry. And the second excerpt, published in Literary Hub, breaks down boredom in the office place. Finally, Mary did two fantastic interviews with The Atlantic and The Culture Trip.
Check it out, and get a copy of Yawn now!
It’s been a rough year, 2016. So at the beginning of this last full month before the official onset of the apocalypse, we’re grateful at least that everything’s coming up normal. As in Normal, by Warren Ellis. Which is, perhaps, appropriate—Ellis is after all the man now being credited for having predicted Trump, etc, twenty years ago in Transmetropolitan.
But Normal is actually a book of right now. And while we can’t promise that the future now looks incredibly rosy for us humans (and others), there are few bright spots for us to point out: The book made the Indie Next List for December (it’s “1984 meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” says Randy Schiller of Left Bank Books in St Louis—see, rosy!) and one of Amazon’s Best Books of December (“a mind-blowing morsel of paranoia…or prescience” according to Amazon’s Adrian Liang)—and, in fact, one of Amazon’s Top 100 Best Books of the Year!
But for all you internet nerds actually visiting our website, the brightest spot of all is the news that the one and only John Hodgman agreed to lend his dulcet tones to the audiobook edition of Normal.
In 2016, one of FSG Originals’ most ambitious and rewarding challenges was the publication of all four volumes of Lian Hearn’s Tale of Shikanoko across the course of the year. With the publication of Tengu’s Game of Go, the set is now complete. And—just to toot our own horn for a moment, excuse us—it is glorious to behold, utterly gorgeous and deeply satisfying, inside and out.
Mike Roberts is the author of Cannibals in Love, a novel published by FSG Originals in September. Mike spoke with Will Chancellor, the author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, at BookCourt in Brooklyn about the sense of paranoia and youth that drives the post-9/11 novel. Conversation then ranged from the import of physical movement in fiction to the underappreciated pitfalls of allegorical novels about cattle.
Sometimes the book is not enough. Through no fault of the author’s own. In fact, in this case, it’s a sign of just how good the book is. Jace Clayton’s Uproot is a guided tour of the global(ized) world of 21st-century music and digital culture. As he introduces us to the Moroccan Berber musicians who pioneered the outer limits of Auto-Tune and Mexican teens revolutionizing EDM by pushing cheap software past its “natural” uses, to Japanese noise artists and Indigenous Australian rappers (and to so, so many more), you can’t help but needing to hear it—even if you’ve already intuited that the good stuff’s not going to be on Spotify or iTunes. But Jace is on the case—with some enterprising use of Soundcloud and assiduous scouring out Youtube, he has been pulling together a deeply satisfying online Listening Guide to Uproot, fully of plenty of listening and even more to read. Join the adventure at uprootbook.com.
If that’s still not enough - if what you want to hear is not just the deep cuts from such an audacious listener’s library but what’s energizing him right now, he’s got you covered there, too, with a brand new mixtape known as the BOOK NRG MIX, just premiered by the The Fader. “Writing is such a strange activity. You sit at your desk for weeks, months on end,” he wrote them in an email. “After all that I needed to dance around and make a summer mix.” Give it a listen here.
If all this makes you just want a taste of the book (what, you haven’t read it yet?), Pitchfork has an excerpt up to help you out. That, perhaps along with a dose of Jace’s conversation with Kimberly Drew (aka @museummammy) from the book launch at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, should do the trick.
Maryse Meijer is the author of Heartbreaker, out today from FSG Originals. In an inversion of the prototypical author interview, here she asks her twin sister, Danielle Meijer, about fantasy, escapism, and finding the perfect reader. Welcome to the Twinterview.
Clay Byars is the author of Will & I, out today from FSG Originals. Here he talks with Drew Broussard about twinship as collaboration, his reluctance to sugarcoat, and what it’s like to be irrevocably changed by an event.