Posts Tagged ‘Housing Works’
December 27, 2012 | by Francesca Mari
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
I knew a kid in college who wanted so desperately to produce a book that he couldn’t stand the sight of their spines. He stacked them—ten or so brown and black books, library hardcovers—in his dorm room, titles to the wall, lips facing forward. He didn’t really buy books, either—at least I don’t recall that he did—but he never passed a bookstore without entering to read. These same stores have since displayed his books in their windows.
“‘You can tell how serious people are by looking at their books,’” Susan Sontag told Sigrid Nunez, long ago when Nunez was dating Sontag’s son. “She meant not only what books they had on their shelves, but how the books were arranged,” Nunez explains. “Because of her, I arranged my own books by subject and in chronological rather than alphabetical order. I wanted to be serious.”
There are many varieties of nerd, but only two real species—the serious and the nonserious—and shelves are a pretty good indication of who is which. “To expose a bookshelf,” Harvard professor Leah Price writes in Unpacking My Library, a recent collection of interviews with writers about the books they own, “is to compose a self.” In Sontag’s case, a very rigorous self. And, of course, that’s just the sort of self someone anxious about his aspirations might shy away from. “A self without a shelf remains cryptic,” Price notes. It’s like the straight-A student who says he hasn’t studied for finals: if you haven’t confessed to caring, no one can consider you to have failed.
There’s not a lot of anxiety about keeping libraries in this collection, however, because the adults featured—Junot Diaz, Steven Pinker, Gary Shteyngart, James Wood, Claire Messud, to name a few—are all solidly successful. Price’s interviews are less about each writer’s affairs and encounters with individual books than his or her shepherding of the whole herd—what’s treasured, tossed, bought twice, allowed to be lent. The interesting questions focus on each writer’s feelings about intellectual signaling and methods of overall arrangement. In other words, the stars of the pictures aren’t the books but the shelves. Read More »
December 16, 2011 | by The Paris Review
Stop by Housing Works Bookstore Cafe this Sunday afternoon to hear Emma Straub, Eileen Myles, Kurt Andersen, Joshua Cohen, Ira Glass, John Hodgman, and many others, including our own Lorin Stein, in the second annual marathon reading of A Christmas Carol. (Spoiler alert: Lorin reads the part where Scrooge renounces his Scroogey ways.)
Where: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012.
When: Sunday, December 18, 1 P.M.
June 29, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
Life of Pi, Yann Martel (F, 20s, long hair, worn black T-shirt, skinny jeans, brown purse, L train)
Any Man of Mine, Rachel Gibson (F, 40s, stripey tote, black pants, F train)
For those of us prone to paranoia, the tumblr CoverSpy has made the New York commute infinitely more harrowing. The site (which also has a Twitter arm) enlists a “team of publishing nerds [who hit] the subways, streets, parks & bars to find out what New Yorkers are reading now.” It makes for addictively voyeuristic reading. And it’s enough to make you long for the soulless inscrutability of a Kindle. Do they know this is for work? you think, and Why are so many people on the L reading Ayn Rand?, and How old would they think I am?
Judging others by their books—or, more charitably, forming relationships based on shared literary tastes—is also the guiding principle behind the online dating site Alikewise.com, which was conceived when one of the founders voiced his wish for a woman who liked The Black Swan. (One friend described it as “actually, a very convenient way to expedite the weeding process.”) As always in such situations, the question quickly becomes not whether people are lying but why and how well. In its way, it is every bit as harrowing as the roving judgments of CoverSpy. So it is perhaps natural that the two organizations should join forces and produce an event that’s either a bibliophile’s dream or a neurotic’s nightmare, depending on how you look at it.
April 11, 2011 | by Lorin Stein