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Posts Tagged ‘Tea Obreht’

The Ghost of Christmas Past

December 9, 2013 | by

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This Saturday marks the fourth iteration of what is becoming a beloved holiday tradition: the marathon reading of A Christmas Carol at the Housing Works Bookstore. From one to four P.M., a series of readers—including Jami Attenberg, Saeed Jones, Téa Obreht, and our very own Lorin Stein—will read aloud the classic tale of Christmas redemption. Caroling starts at noon!

 

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Pulling Teeth; Cold Calling

October 18, 2011 | by

Detail from 'Peasant Spreading Manure,' Jean-Fracois Millet, 1855, oil.

Most dust jackets list only literary accomplishments, but I’ve always been a fan of offbeat author bios. So I asked some of my favorite writers to describe their early jobs.

Clancy Martin: I worked at the buy counter at the Forth Worth Gold and Silver Exchange in Texas in the eighties. The only object there was to cheat people out of their jewelry, old gold, and sterling-silver flatware. If we paid more than ten percent of what we could wholesale the item for, we were paying too much: that was the rule. We kept dental pliers behind the counter so that people could pull out their gold teeth if they wanted to. This happened quite regularly, with very poor and homeless people who came in. They did it in the bathroom. They had to remove the gold from their teeth and clean it before we could weigh it. So that was my job. I was sixteen and still believed that the universe had an important moral order so I was constantly sending people—depending upon how they looked to me, if they seemed poor and deserving—to other jewelry stores where I knew they would be paid better prices. Often these people nevertheless took the price we offered. We ran such large ads and they waited in line so long to sell their items that all the fight had gone out of them.

Téa Obreht: One fiscally woeful summer, I decided to get some cash by teaching ballroom dance. The manager of the local studio, where I sometimes practiced, informed me that a new coaching position would open up within a few weeks, but in the meantime I could perform the equally important task of following up with past studio members and encouraging them to return. This entailed sitting in a subterranean office, going down a list of phone numbers in the student ledger, and saying things like, “Good evening, we haven’t seen you recently, can we interest you in more lessons?” There were, of course, the obligatory no-thank-yous and go-to-hells, but every so often, someone would say something like, “Unfortunately, my recent hip replacement makes that impossible,” or “As I explained to the young lady last week, my wife is still dead and we won’t be coming any more.” After about a week of this, I went to work in the stockroom of a furniture store.

Chris Flynn is the books editor at The Big Issue and the fiction editor at Australian Book Review.

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A Week in Culture: Sarah Burnes, Literary Agent

November 3, 2010 | by

Author’s Note: So as to not turn this into a kind of Caucasian Chalk Circle—that is, play favorites, pit one client against another—I am not going to mention any of my own this week unless they win an award or Lorin tells me to.

DAY ONE

6:56 A.M. Alarm goes off, blaring NPR. Sebastian gets up to wake the kids. I turn off the radio and go back to sleep.

7:34 A.M. The Middlest comes up to make sure I am awake. I turn on the radio and listen to the Morning Edition story about the NFL enforcing their own rules.

8:35 A.M. For reasons both Byzantine and boring, I am driving to work today, dropping off the Littlest at kindergarten on the way. We pass by a Wonder Bread truck as we walk to the car.

“Candy!” he shouts.

“No,” I reply. “That’s a bread truck.”

“A candy bread truck?”

9:45 A.M. At the office, I close my door to finish my weekend reading. I’m reading on a Kindle, which is convenient, but I haven’t yet figured out how to transfer my notes and highlights onto a document, so it’s not nearly as useful as it might be. Or as a paper manuscript is. But of course this makes me like this guy.

11:07 A.M. An offer comes in via e-mail! It’s going to be a good week.

1:00 P.M. Lunch with my friend Diane, Executive Director of the New Press. I tell her I think she should publish a book on the legal roots of the foreclosure crisis, and she looks at me quizzically. I realize I’m not explaining myself well1 and tell her I’ll give it more thought. We gossip about the kids in the sunshine at La Esquina.

2:35 P.M. Early for an appointment, I duck into B&N (there was no nearby independent!) and browse. I buy Gail Collins’s When Everything Changed, having just gobbled up Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry. I also buy the current issue of Vogue, which really I should just subscribe to.

4:48 P.M. I dive back into a proposal I am editing—on paper.

5:57 P.M. Pack up bag. Since it’s Monday, I have all my favorite magazines, including the NYRB.

6:20 P.M. Driving home, I listen to the end of All Things Considered and to Marketplace and shout at this guy who says that there should not be a moratorium on foreclosures. What if it were your paperwork that got lost, pal?

7:14 P.M. My beloved mother-in-law and the Eldest’s BFF are over for dinner. I make chicken and broccoli2 from dinneralovestory.com, and even the picky eater eats it.

8:24 P.M. The Littlest and I are reading Charlotte’s Web. They’re at the fair, and Charlotte has just created her magnum opus, her egg sac. My friend Sarah says that when she got married, CW was one of three books she required her husband-to-be to have read.

8:54 P.M. The Middlest reads me a chapter of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights while I flip through New York. After the kids have been convinced to go to bed, I realize the Eldest has stolen my New Yorker, so I read The New York Review of Books (Cathy Schine agrees with me on Jennifer Egan).

10:15 P.M. I read a couple of chapters of Sigrid Nunez’s Salvation City. I loved The Last of Her Kind, but this is a different—if equally accomplished—kind of book. The last one was saturated in envy, but this one seems to be about … love.

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Annotations

  1. But isn’t, like, MERS totally evil?
  2. Thanks, Andy and Jen!

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