There are a lot of reasons we love end-of-the-year lists - in fact, the ever-funny Elif Batuman has made an end-of-the-year list of eight such reasons over at The New Yorker - but it’s pretty easy to see why we love the lists below. We also want to give a shout out to Raging Biblio-holism who tweeted “Coolest Book-Related Party of the Year: Any @FSGOriginals event.” Thanks for coming out @ragingbibliohol. We hope to see you at all of our 2014 events!
And now, to the list of lists:
1. Amazon’s Top 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013 - So maybe we’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s exciting! Both Laura Van Den Berg‘s Isle of Youth and Lindsay Hunter‘s Don’t Kiss Me make an appearance on this list.
2. Largehearted Boy’s Favorite Nonfiction and Favorite Short Story Collections of 2013 - Thank you Largehearted Boy for picking three of our books as your favorites this year! He’s got our very own Michelle Orange‘s This Is Running For Your Life in his favorite nonfiction, and both Laura Van Den Berg and Lindsay Hunter in his favorite short stories.
3. Flavorwire’s 10 Best Nonfiction Books and 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013 - We always love the picks over at Flavorwire, especially when we’re included. Once again we’ve got the Michelle Orange, Laura Van Den Berg, and Lindsay Hunter trifecta going on over at their best-of lists. Thanks Flavorwire!
4. The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2013 - The New Yorker contributor Nathan Heller cites This Is Running For Your Life as one of the best books of 2013, calling Michelle’s essays “stylish, rangy, [and] slightly weird” and the collection itself “as charismatic as a new rock album.” We humbly agree.
5. The Barnes & Noble Book Blog’s Top Books of 2013 - Cheers to Lindsay Hunter - B&N lists Don’t Kiss Me as a best book of the year, describing Lindsay’s stories as “the manifestation of the imaginary friends I wish I had.” Sounds about right to us.
Check out the rest of our picks after the jump.
You might think that Frank Bill’s books Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook would appeal to a particularly American sensibility, but it turns out les Français are just as into gut-punching tales from our nation’s heartland as the rest of us. Lire magazine just honored Frank with the prize for “Best Short Story Collection” for Crimes in Southern Indiana (or “Chiennes de vies”), and his inimitable French editor (and director of Gallimard’s prestigious Série Noire), Aurélien Masson, had a few words to share with us about the ceremony:
To assemble a puzzle, you first have to find its borders. Here’s Laura van den Berg on finding just the right order for The Isle of Youth, her collection of short stories.
Steve Gunn, who plays with Kurt Vile and has recently started releasing his own much-lauded solo, duo, and ensemble records, is joining us on Wednesday night for the next Originals Series event with Flavorpill, GQ, and The Isle of Youth author Laura van den Berg, hosted by Sloane Crosley.
As Fader says, “In the John Fahey-inspired, post-Jack Rose world of American-primitive-folk-meets-blues-meets-raga-meets-noise music, Gunn is quite simply the best, and he has a way of capping off an entire song’s worth of anecdotal finger-picking with the last-minute, bone-chilling, entry of his voice, hinting at a rare talent for songwriting without overstating it.”
He’s also seen praise from Pitchfork, The Village Voice, Yo La Tengo’s James McNew for The Talkhouse, and Spin magazine’s Chris Martins, who says, “Like his buddy and bandmate Kurt Vile, Brooklyn singer-guitarist Steve Gunn seems beamed from a different time. He plays a worldly form of ancient blues. He sings with a little bit of vintage Mick Jagger on his tongue. He unravels stories with a level of patience and detail often lacking in contemporary music.”
We are ridiculously excited to be publishing Catherine Lacey’s debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing, next summer. And we’re very happy to get a taste of Catherine’s gorgeous and haunting storytelling over at Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. Thanks to The Atlas Review for picking Catherine’s story, “The Healing Center.” Read why the editor-in-chief picked it: “The Healing Center” by Catherine Lacey had a mystical effect on me when I read it for The Atlas Review’s first issue almost a year ago. Each new reading of this story is like entering a room full of brilliant lamps and baubles. Lacey is able to cleanly combine the banal with the epiphanic, leaving us with a detached sincerity. From this place of detachment, she pivots with ease between humor and pathos. The image of porridge cooked to soot on the stovetop, the unreconciled dialogue of heart as machine and metaphor, the “airplanes of soon” looming over relationships are moments so eidetic we might find in our own porridge eating and unreconciled dialogues a similar banality, a similar epiphany.”
If you’re in NYC tonight head on over to our favorite reading series in the city. Laura van den Berg joins four other badass ladies at Franklin Park for what’s sure to be an electric reading: Susan Steinberg (Spectacle, Hydroplane), Vanessa Veselka (Zazen), Karolina Waclawiak (How to Get Into the Twin Palms), and T Kira Madden (The Kenyon Review).
618 St. John’s Place
We’ve built you buildings; we’ve dug you tunnels. But today, for the next in our Ajax Penumbra 1969–inspired posts, the topic is networks, and so we had to call in an expert. Watch out: It could get a little nerdy in here. Because today we’re handing the keyboard to the man himself: Robin Sloan.
I missed the Mother of All Demos by a year.
Doing research for Ajax Penumbra 1969—before I knew it was going to be 1969—I made a long list of interesting events that I thought I might weave into the fabric of young Penumbra’s life. One of these events was the computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart’s legendary demo in December 1968 (see bizarrely mesmerizing video above), in San Francisco’s Civic Center, where, in a little under two hours, he basically previewed the next three decades of computing. Up on a huge projection screen, his audience saw, for the first time: windows, hypertext, video conferencing, and—of course—the mouse.
Reading about this, I thought: wouldn’t it be cool if Ajax Penumbra was in that audience?
Well, the timing didn’t quite line up—at least not if I wanted to include the other events on my list. It was like solving a system of equations; I couldn’t maximize one thing without minimizing another. Ajax Penumbra couldn’t be at that demo. It just didn’t make sense.
And besides: if I pushed the timeline forward, he would be around for something even better . . .
When the young Ajax Penumbra first arrives in the City by the Bay, he finds that “the great central artery of Market Street is a trench”—a trench eventually to be filled by the Bay Area Rapid Transit, a thoroughly modern subway that would boast, when it started running in 1972, electronic turnstiles that took tickets instead of tokens, and some fancy, futuristic-looking cars. But in 1969, they were still digging away, and apparently promoting the hell out of the wonders that the BART would bring.
As part of our ongoing, Ajax-inspired tribute to San Francisco, check out this “Progress Report” video from 1968, which features a song with these decidedly 60s-era-optimism lyrics:
Over the hills and all along the way,
We’re building a dream for tomorrow (x2)
Where trains that cross the hills and land
Go through the town by night and day
And sunshine touches every hand
In parks where children play
And around 3:45 you’ll catch a glimpse of the very tunnels that Ajax finds himself scouring, deep below the ferry building where the BART snakes around the buried sailing ships that rest beneath the city. More on that later.