Hey there. It's the first anniversary of this newsletter. Have you been here since the beginning? Thanks! Are you a newer subscriber? Thanks! Here is the first letter. I titled it "Let's see what happens, y'all." A lot has happened: we're hovering right around 300 subscribers (can you help break 300? Share this with a book lover in your life!); there have been three guest posters (thanks, Amy, Anna, and Garnette); this is the twenty-fourth letter I've sent. In one year! What should we do to celebrate? As always, I accept gifts of coffee, pencils, books, and bubble wrap. But only the kind with the small poppable bubbles. The giant bubbles are bullshit.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about reading—what makes something a "good read," why we (I) avoid reading, that sort of thing. Like many of you, my TBR (to-be-read) piles are only growing larger, threatening to overtake my coffee table (which is really an overstuffed ottoman, so that means there is no place to rest my feet, and hasn't been for quite some time). Send more bookcases. My friend Anna and I were talking about how every non-essential thing we choose to do is just another book we're not reading. Would I rather read this book I just got than go out with you? Probably. (Fine, maybe not you. But you know what I mean.)
1. Emma Straub has a new book out right now: Modern Lovers is the story of college friends who form a band and then grow up, move on with their lives (sort of, mostly), and then have to confront the ghost of their past. Two years ago I read Straub's novel The Vacationers when it came out, also in early summer; it, too, features family and marital strife and teenage virginity, albeit in a very different setting. Straub's characters inhabit a world that is just familiar enough as to be noticeable but not so familiar that you feel the need to look away—and, in fact, you can't. You know the scene but you don't know it. You're watching through beveled glass. Both of these novels should be adapted to screen, either as films or miniseries. (Other People We Married, Straub's debut story collection, is also well worth your time.)
2. I'm increasingly impressed with David J. Morris's thoughtful writing on veterans and PTSD. This article at Foreign Policy on the importance of reunions to combat vets will give you an idea why. But his work is not specific to vets. A former Marine infantry officer who worked as a reporter in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, Morris's book, The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a feat of research and reporting, unforgettable in its voice and narrative control.
3. I went to the beach for a few days last month, to an idyllic little town on the coast of Delaware. My host gave me a Paddywax candle scented "Ocean Breezes." I'm not ashamed to admit that candle didn't last the week once I got home. What I won't admit to is the amount of time I've spent online trying to find a replacement. I've even searched their online store database and found two retailers here in Charlottesville—supposedly—but one of them no longer exists and the other doesn't carry the line. (Actually, this is what you can get me as an anniversary present.) These soy wax candles are my new obsession. Specifically the Ocean Breezes scent.
4. Bonus! I am thrilled to announce that Kaveh Akbar will be writing the next newsletter. Don't know Kaveh's work? Start by visiting Divedapper, his site devoted to interviews with contemporary poets. It is remarkable.