I’d like to welcome another new contributor to The Millions. I worked with Patrick Brown at the book store in Los Angeles for a couple of years, and when I moved to Chicago, he moved to Iowa. Above this post, please enjoy the first of what I hope will be many contributions from Patrick.
Join us in welcoming our newest regular contributor at The Millions:Kevin Hartnett lives in Philadelphia with his fiance Caroline. He works as a community organizer for public education reform and enjoys his days most when they are full of people. He spends his off hours running along the Delaware River, and wafting from cannisters of loose tea at a store that recently opened near his apartment.You may remember the two reviews Kevin penned for us earlier this year. His next offering will be up shortly.
Thanks to all The Millions readers who have supported the site over the last several months. If you are heading back to school now, check out our Support page to see how you can support the site without taking any extra dollars from your pockets. Advertisers: We have been seeing some great ads on the site of late. Check out the Blog Ads Book Hive to advertise on The Millions and other great literary sites.
For nearly half a century, Elaine Kaufman ran a restaurant in New York City that was a haven and a clubhouse for writers of all hues — brand names, up-and-comers, wannabes, and unknowns, the gregarious and the lonely, the elegant and the scruffy, the prolific and the blocked. The one thing they shared, other than thirst, was the desire to get out of their own skulls and into an interesting conversation.
At Elaine’s, with remarkable regularity, they succeeded. They found not only fellow writers, but cops, actors, gangsters, comedians, tourists, celebrities, and colorful nobodies. A young New York Times reporter named Gay Talese started going there in 1964, when the place was in its infancy. Here’s how he described its allure in 1993, on the occasion of its 30th birthday: “Among other things, Elaine’s is a therapy center, a halfway house for husbands between wives, a late-night talk show without cameras and microphones or commercial interruptions, a place that caters to the nocturnal needs and nourishments of New Yorkers who, as evening approaches, are not sure with whom they wish to dine, or with whom they wish to sleep after they dine, or even if they wish to sleep.”
The glue that held it all together was Elaine herself, an outsize personality with a sharp tongue and a sharper wit, who was usually installed opposite the bar at Table 4, dressed in her trademark round eyeglasses and flowing dresses. She was a magnet, a matchmaker, a traffic cop, a den mother, and, yes, an unlicensed head shrinker.
She died on Dec. 3, 2010 at age 81, and less than six months later the restaurant, starved of the oxygen of her personality, closed. By then it had become apparent that there would never be another Elaine’s — or another Elaine.
“What we liked and enjoyed about the place for more than 40 years was that it’s not replaceable,” Talese told me recently. “In New York you feel everything’s replaceable. The reason Elaine’s is irreplaceable is that when Elaine died there was no one who could make you feel that there’s no place else you’d rather be. An empty place has existed in our hearts since the place closed.”
Several Elaine’s regulars, part of the diaspora of the dismayed and bereft, started discussing ways to repay Elaine for all the encouragement she gave to writers and other creative people. They decided to form The Table 4 Writers Foundation, which has just announced that it is giving out its first batch of $2,000 grants to writers who live in New York City.
“The grants are for all New York writers, not just young and struggling writers,” says Jenine Lepera Izzi, a jewelry designer who met her husband at Elaine’s, became a close friend of the proprietor, and is now chairwoman of the foundation. “My core belief is that I’d love to wave a wand and bring the Jack Kerouacs back. That creative energy was what New York was built on — until the 1980s and ’90s, before rents and costs got so high — and it’s pretty much been squashed.”
I was introduced to Elaine’s — and to Elaine — by Peter Khoury. He and I wrote for the same North Carolina newspaper in the 1990s before moving, separately, to New York. Khoury, now the night metro editor at The Times, became a regular at Elaine’s and, eventually, a close friend of Elaine. One night, as he and I walked into the restaurant together, Khoury received a hearty ovation from the crowd– because the Times‘s metro desk had just broken the story that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had a taste for high-dollar prostitutes. It was the only time in my life I’ve heard people applaud a journalist. No wonder Khoury — and so many other writers — liked going to Elaine’s.
“We’re trying to get the word about the grants out at places where writers congregate — writers’ rooms, libraries, bookstores,” says Khoury, who sits on the Table 4 Writers Foundation board of directors and has published several short stories in literary journals. “Elaine was a force of nature, a large, large personality. She instinctively knew if you needed a hug, a Heineken, or a kick in the heinie. We can’t replace her, but through the grants we can give New York writers a little recognition, a little leg up. It’s a way to celebrate and remember her.”
The foundation plans to award five $2,000 grants to New York writers, age 21 and up, at a gala in February of 2013. Entries, fiction or non-fiction, must be post-marked by Oct. 15, 2012.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
In case you haven’t noticed, we have successfully moved. As always the whole experience was rather disconcerting – a several weeks-long build of activity leading into a seriously draining 48 hours, and then, suddenly, it was over.The move itself involved no major disasters, but couldn’t be described as pleasant either. Our first setback occurred when we realized that Penske had rented us a truck with a nail in the tire. Luckily, they sent somebody out to fix it, but we lost a few hours of last-minute packing. Perhaps worse was that the guys I hired to load the truck the next day decided to take their sweet time, so much so that Mrs. Millions and I were forced to jump in and lend a hand. They also ripped the couch.Everything had to come down the rickety back staircase of our third floor walk-up; not fun. After five hours of heavy lifting, we set off on our 13-hour drive, sore, bruised, and sleep-deprived. Thanks to traffic on the way out of Chicago (the Windy City wouldn’t let us go without a fight), we lost some more time and we had to stop for the night rather than drive the whole way through, as we had hoped to do. We we’re somewhat constrained since we were traveling with our dog, and we ended up at an Econolodge in Youngstown, Ohio.Nothing against Youngstown, but I don’t think we’ll be back any time soon. The motel was situated next to the largest strip club I’ve ever seen. The place, which would have covered an entire city block, was called “Club 76,” named after the highway to which it was adjacent. Our motel was close enough that it could almost be mistaken for an annex of sorts.The guy manning the motel’s front desk was friendly enough, but was regretfully forced to inform us that the only room left had a leaky roof. We took it and kept our fingers crossed, and, thankfully were not awoken by a deluge. Of course, we probably weren’t there for more than five hours anyway. The next day we finished up the trip and the truck that it had taken the movers five hours to load was unloaded in half an hour with help from my family. So now we are settled into a temporary home, while we look for a more permanent spot – and hopefully that will be the last time we move for a long while.
First, the answer to the question you want answered: When will you publish your second-half preview? The answer: tomorrow! By this time tomorrow, you will be diving into our unparalleled preview encompassing dozens of the most hotly anticipated titles coming in the next six months.
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The Millions has been around for more than 14 years and has never made a living for anyone, but it has thrived. For a while there, it seemed to thrive almost against all odds. Even as economic realities closed in on other online magazines, The Millions had stayed a couple of steps ahead.
Last fall, however, we saw that these realities might soon catch up with us, as we became concerned that The Millions was becoming increasingly reliant on fewer and fewer revenue streams. Like everyone else, we saw that we were at the mercy of the usual suspects: Amazon, Google, Facebook. One small change from any of these giants could send The Millions hurtling to oblivion.
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To kick off 2010, we at The Millions are thrilled to announce that Emily St. John Mandel has joined us as a regular contributor. Emily lives in Brooklyn. Her first novel, Last Night In Montreal, was recently published by Unbridled Books; her second novel, The Singer’s Gun, will be published by the same press in May 2010. Her pieces for The Millions are collected here. Welcome Emily!