As you’ve probably noticed from the new byline attached to the review of Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land that I posted earlier today, we’ve been joined by a new contributor at The Millions. Noah is an old friend of mine whose book reviews have appeared in a handful of publications, and I’m glad to have him aboard.
You may have noticed that I spent the long weekend (which for me is one day longer thanks to the national day of mourning for President Ford) updating the look of the site. I hope it’s easy on the eyes. However, if you can’t find something you’re looking for, or if I’ve inadvertently broken something, please let me know.In addition to the superficial changes, I’ve also adjusted the site to allow for our contributors – there will soon be six of them – to post directly to the blog, which, I’m hoping, will up the level of discourse even further. So, all in all, 2007 should be a good year for The Millions. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.
I know that last year I expressed profound ambivalence about attending BEA, but in the end I’ve decided to go this year for a few reasons: It’s in NYC, giving me the opportunity to see the numerous family and friends I have there; I’ll get to meet up with some of the many cool people I met last year; Millions contributors Garth and Noah, NYC natives, will be along for the ride.So, with that out of the way, let me tell you where we’ll be. The Millions and many other litbloggers and literary luminaries will be at Kettle of Fish on 59 Christopher St. Thursday (tomorrow) from 8-11pm for the Litblog Co-op party. Come by and say hi.The rest of our schedule, as best I can tell, is fairly wide open, but if there’s an event we should know about, email me to let us know.
It was my pleasure to do a half-hour interview with Dorian on WFMU-FM’s “The Speakeasy” last night. Our talk ranged from A Field Guide to the North American Family to Julio Cortazar to print vs. online to James Wood (natch). Check it out at www.wfmu.org/playlists/SE, where you’ll also find interviews with Lawrence Wright and Charles D’Ambrosio, among others. (Segment starts at 27:00, following…that’s right…Ashford & Simpson!)
I do this every summer don’t I? If you haven’t noticed, posting has become a bit sparse at The Millions, and I expect it to be more sparse as the summer wears on. We’re leaving Chicago soon, and we’ll be heading to temporary digs in Washington, DC, before finding a permanent place to live (the final destination is as yet undetermined though we’ve narrowed it down somewhat.) So, essentially, I’ll have a lot of stuff going on and so blogging will take a back seat. And anyway, it being summer, I’d guess that most folks will be enjoying themselves outdoors and on the road rather than in front of the computer. So, look for just a couple of posts a week give or take until the fall months roll around, and maybe by then I’ll be unveiling some changes at The Millions. Or perhaps it’ll stay the same.In the meantime, here’s a small cache of links for your purusal.An old link, but new to me. Slate commisions pulp covers for classic novels. (via BoingBoing)The Book Critics Circle blog decries litbloggers linking to Amazon. (My response is in the comments.) The Literary Saloon weighs in as well. (via Scott)Alan Cheuse presents his “summer reads” at NPR and shares some background on the selections at the Happy Booker.
We’re welcoming a new regular contributor to the fold today. Lydia Kiesling has shared her “Modern Library Revue” project with The Millions over the last few weeks, and as of today The Millions will become its new home. As a regular contributor, Lydia will also depart from her project to offer up posts on non-“Best 100” books and on other topics as well. A bit more about Lydia:Lydia is a graduate of Hamilton College. She is an ardent book-lover and has spent the last two years working in the antiquarian book trade.We would also like to note that the addition of Lydia brings The Millions to near gender parity. And to think, not so long ago we were an all male shop.
Tonight’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction Series here in Brooklyn features Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision and Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances. Books will be for sale on-site, and drink specials will be chosen by dartboard. The reading starts at 7 p.m. at Pacific Standard. Hope to see you there!
The Millions was started on this day seven years, four urls, and umpteen layouts ago. Though it is now unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t visited since nudging their Internet Explorer 6 over to that long gone blogspot address, the core mission that I developed in that first year for this project largely remains unchanged.
In those early months, when I was nearly broke and working at a bookstore, before I was married and went to grad school, and before I had much notion that this site would be anything at all (let alone what it is today), I wrote what would probably be the closest we’ve ever come to a manifesto (going against my subsequent preference to let The Millions’ larger purpose be self-evident). The nut: “Given that you and I will only be able to read a finite number of books in our lifetime, then we should try, as much as possible, to devote ourselves to reading only the ones that are worth reading, while bearing in mind that for every vapid, uninspiring book we read, we are bumping from our lifetime reading list a book that might give us a profound sort of joy.”
I’ve probably not lived up to that lofty goal in the years since, but it’s a nice sentiment to aspire to.
Funnily enough, at the end of that piece I wrote something that nearly seven years later is like a time capsule from an internet stone age: “Anybody know of any decent book blogs or websites about books?… I haven’t been able to find any besides Arts & Letters Daily and the various newspaper book sections, of course.”
Granted, this could be partially chalked up to my being an online neophyte at the time, but by any measure the last seven years have been a period of proliferating discourse about books and arts. And though the gloom in many corners of the publishing and media industries is sometimes warranted, I maintain that there’s never been a better time to be reader in terms of access to books and communities of fellow readers.
While this is a big day for The Millions, it’s nowhere near as big as August 16, 2009 was. That was the day that we relaunched The Millions in this new incarnation and the site, almost overnight, grew up and became something different (and thankfully our loyal long-term readers came along for the ride, in no small measure because our designer Sean Tice understood what The Millions was all about when he embarked on the design.) In future years, we may point to that date as when The Millions really came into being, everything up until then being a long period of gestation for the site you see today.
I wouldn’t have expected this, but two things happened right away after the redesign. First, the more magazine-like look unconsciously pushed us farther in the direction of focusing on standalone, long-form content. With the Curiosities section offering the perfect repository for interesting links and one-off observations, our writers set themselves to the task of putting out essays and reviews that (in my biased opinion) are with few peers in the world of cultural coverage. The Millions has never been shy about posting longer (if not always weightier) pieces, but this year the site seemed to find its calling as a regularly updated font of such things.
Second, pitches from writers all over the world began flowing into my inbox. It was as though the redesign was also a huge “writers wanted” sign. The Millions has long had a tradition of publishing terrific guest contributions, but since the redesign especially we have posted many dozens of thoughtful pieces by both talented “beginners” and established pros. A look at our “About” page reveals The Millions as a place where precocious college students (and younger) can be published alongside National Book Award winners. I don’t know what this means, necessarily, but it makes me happy.
With the redesign, the securing of our domain name just prior to that, and our ongoing commitment to paying our regular writers, this year also represented the first year of significant investment back into The Millions. Without caveat, this was made possible by the generous patronage of our readers and we sincerely hope that you’ll continue to lend your support going forward. Click here to find out how.
Finally, because anniversaries are a nice moment to look back, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite things from The Millions over the last year. Garth updated his “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores” and we joined readers in taking the tour. Fun was had by all. We hope to do something like this again one day. Garth and I put together a three-parter on the future of book coverage online (starting here). We named our favorite reference books. We learned about finding Indie opportunity on the Kindle, the overseas frenzy over Haruki Murakami’s forthcoming opus, and what goes into getting your book cover designed. We tallied up the prizewinners and wrote an open letter to Kanye West. We asked, what’s your “just one book?”
We tried to determine the best book of the millennium (so far) and our readers helped. Edan ogled author photos, Emily M. worked the double shift, and Emily W. prized apert Twilight. We had our Year in Reading. I interviewed a book pirate and Anne interviewed John Banville. Kevin reflected on his parents’ bookshelves, Andrew his grandfather’s papers, and Edan her own. Lydia reviewed Pamuk and won a prize. And Patrick, once and for all, devised a unified theory of reality TV.
Look for more in year 8. Thanks for reading The Millions.