Hey there. I first drafted this newsletter from San Antonio more than two weeks ago but didn't finish it in time to send it before I went home and got swallowed up by the deadline for our summer issue. So now here I am, back in San Antonio, trying once again to write you all. I am really excited to share these recs with you—I've been gathering them for weeks. (And also eating Tex-Mex and barbecue.)
New research suggests that having books at home increases literacy, number-sense, and even technological competency. So keep buying those books, even when you know you have more than you'll ever be able to read!
1. I read last week that Tayari Jones sold the film rights to Silver Sparrow, her third novel, and we should all celebrate that. My book club read Jones's newest, An American Marriage, this month. I was peeved to miss the meeting (having been out of town), because I absolutely devoured the book. I stayed up until two or three in the morning the day I started the book and finished it the next night. The language, the dialogue, the story, everything about it grabbed me from the very first page. If you are looking for a novel you can lose yourself in, this is it.
2. Have I told you about my friend Michael Croley's book, Any Other Place? Mike has been writing for years—decades, actually, as he talks about here. His stories are excellent. He published this story with Catapult and I was so upset—not because it isn't good—it's great. But because he didn't publish it in VQR. He didn't even try. He never sent it to me. He wrote a really stellar profile of a genius golf-course designer for our sports issue. And then he went and published this kick ass story in a different magazine. I thought we were friends, is all I'm saying.
Anyway, his story collection is out now and we did an event at New Dominion a couple of weeks ago. It was so special to see him read from his first book, this debut that NPR said is a "remarkable book" whose stories are "understated and beautiful," that "successfully conjure the unease of ordinary people unable to shake the feeling that something in their lives isn't quite right."
3. The New York Times "Watching" newsletter tells me that Fleabag is back for its second and final [sadface emoji] season.
4. If you follow me on Insta, you know about my #deadlinecandles. I light them when we're within about two weeks of deadline, and I have them lit whenever I'm in the office. The goal, of course, is to make deadline before the candle burns out. Over the years I've used different types of candles, but for the past few years, I've favored celebrity prayer candles. I've had Judge Judy, Dorothy Zbornak (it was heartbreaking when my interns didn't recognize her, didn't know Bea Arthur at all), Anderson Cooper, Virginia Woolf, Ann Richards, Reba McEntire, and last summer when I asked the interns to choose, we had Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I get these from Illuminidol, a company out of Austin. Now the celebrity prayer candle industry is getting its own treatment.
Summer deadline candle: Nancy Pelosi clapping