Though Garth made his first appearance yesterday with his post about the Illustrated Pynchon, I’d like to formally welcome him aboard. I’ve known Garth for a long time – at least a dozen years, I think – and we’ve always talked about books, so I’m glad he decided to join us. He’ll have other reviews and dispatches up soon. Let the hazing commence.
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.
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.
[Max: This is the introduction to a new monthly feature written by Corey Vilhauer who blogs at Black Marks on Wood Pulp]For the most part, I’m a young reader.I’m not well versed with years of thoughtful reading. I’m only 27, and in that time I’ve only read so many books in between finishing school, staring a career, and watching too much television.Now I’m struggling to catch up. Luckily for you, I’m broadcasting this struggle to the masses.Each month on my blog I recap everything I’ve read – a “What I’ve Been Reading” column. There’s a lot to be said about the paths a mind takes when selecting a new book, and part of what I do is try to make those connections. Why would I bother reading a George Orwell essay right after finishing Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island? It could be that I was obsessed at the time with English culture and wanted to continue riding the wave. Or it could be that Bryson mentioned a certain Orwell passage while recounting his three month jaunt around England.Or, it could be as simple as “I bought it and wanted to start it immediately.”Well, I can’t bring all of that to The Millions. What I can bring, however, is my favorite book of the month. Call it the Vilhauer Book of the Month club. Some months it’s going to be a classic, like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Others are going to be more obscure – think Jonathan Safran Foer’s The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning (a 70th anniversary Pocket Penguin released only in the U.K. and Canada).Regardless, I’ll bring it to you. You’ll get the background as to why I’m reading it. You’ll get the story itself. You’ll get why I like it. You’ll get what it led me to read next.All in all, you’ll get every stinking second I’ve spent on the book – from selection to completion – and you’ll have no one to thank but Max for allowing me to spout off on this site. Thank him later, if you wish.Corey Vilhauer
Today, we are officially adding a new regular contributor to The Millions. Those of you who have been reading The Millions for the last several months will be familiar with Sonya’s writing (collected here). Particularly recommended are Sonya’s essay on the complications of choosing a book cover design for her forthcoming novel and her clever piece about flirting with books. Her bio:Sonya Chung is the author of Long for This World, which will be released by Scribner in March 2010. She is currently at work on a second novel, Sebastian & Frederick. You can learn more about Sonya and her work at www.sonyachung.com.Welcome Sonya!
The Millions just got a little bit bigger. Longtime readers will recall the occasional post from Edan Lepucki over the years. She worked with me at the bookstore in L.A., so we’ve been talking about books since way back. I’ve always enjoyed her thoughts on books and I think the unique sensibility she brings to teaching, writing and reading will make the site even better. Here’s her bio (and her first official post will be up shortly.)Edan Lepucki is a fiction writer and instructor living in Los Angeles. She has an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her stories have been published in Meridian, the Los Angeles Times’ West Magazine, and CutBank. She likes cheese, dogs, and sleeping in.
The Millions is six years old today. We’re another year deeper, and as in past years it seems an appropriate moment for reflection.Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape and format of what we do here. The Millions is ostensibly a blog, a publishing format that seems to have had a brief heyday around 2005. Prior to that, blogging was maligned as some sort of barely human form of discourse, the rantings of madmen and -women or the laughably amateur efforts of the idle or obsessive.Gradually, the form matured, and was adopted and institutionalized in many corners. For The Millions, maturing meant bringing on regular contributors and working with publishers and publicists to wrangle interviews with and essays by notable writers. It also meant thinking of ourselves as a legitimate (even “mainstream”) publication.But now, suddenly, blogging is feeling a little old-fashioned. First Facebook, then Twitter and Tumblr, have fetishized brevity and broadcasting, leaving blogs looking ponderous and even insular by comparison.There is, no doubt, huge value in these tools. Facebook and Twitter offer connectivity, though with built-in limitations to communication. And add Tumblr to the mix and you have three incredible tools for filtering, or, as it is sometimes better better termed, curation.In the vast wildness of the internet, we rely on curators. Some people are very good at it. There are also algorithmic curation tools and community-driven curation tools, though their output tends to be robotic in the case of the former and reflective of a form of self-reinforcing mass peer pressure in the latter. Meanwhile, through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more prosaic means like email and chat, our friends and “friends” curate for us, shooting links our way to make us laugh or think.We do some curation here too. Over the last year we’ve regimented our “Curiosities” posts, with all of our regulars providing links, making for a curious weekly mix of goodies from around the web.But much more of our energy is devoted to something else: generating original reviews and essays, some quite short and others very long. Increasingly, it seems, this sets The Millions apart. It dictates that, though there are nine of us, we rarely publish more than one or two items a day. It also means that we tend to have a lot invested in each item we post. We invest time in each piece you see here, but each also bears the promise of The Millions’ survival and future growth – the more that people care about what we write, the more The Millions grows. And, of course, the opposite holds true as well.This isn’t meant to be rant of any kind. I wanted to bring it up because I value the work that the contributors here do and because I appreciate that all of you out there read it and all the professional and amateur curators who link to it. That is a big part of what makes running The Millions worthwhile.In thinking about all this, I spent some time skimming through The Millions archives of the last year, and while these aren’t the longest or most popular or even necessarily the “best” things we’ve run all year, they are, I think, a worthy sample of what The Millions is all about:This year, Garth cracked wise about novel titles. Garth and Kevin reviewed one of the most talked about books of the year, and later, the book’s author made an appearance. We had visits from other illustrious guests, as well. Andrew reviewed a quirky book and wrote about music. And Emily asked, “Why So Serious Batman?” Edan did many a great interview. Garth tried to make sense of tragedy. We did group posts and covered notable literary events and generally offered our own twist on things.Thanks for another great year, Millions readers. We continue to value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback.