Tomorrow, March 11, at 7 p.m., readers who find themselves in or near Brooklyn are invited to come here two of our “Year in Reading” participants, Lydia Millet and Martha Southgate, read at the Pacific Standard Fiction Series. The series (which I host) was just named “Best New Literary Event” of 2008 by New York Magazine, and this latest installment should be outstanding. Hope to see you there. (Pacific Standard is located at 82 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, between Bergen St. and St. Mark’s Place, convenient to most trains).
I've never been big on social networking sites. In fact, until Friday I'd never joined one at all, but the rising clamor of millions of Facebook fans convinced me to finally check it out. After a couple of days I can see the appeal. The site can offer hours of mindless entertainment, checking on updates from dozens of friends. And while it'll be interesting using the site to connect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I quickly saw that one of Facebook's features might offer some fun for us here at The Millions.I've gotten to know quite a few Millions readers over the years via email and comments on the site. The very nature of the blog, however, does not provide much of a forum for Millions readers to interact. Those who aren't frequent commenters, meanwhile, rarely make themselves known at all. And so, to provide this sort of forum, I've created a group on Facebook called The Official Millions Fan Club. If you read The Millions and are a Facebook member, please join the group. I'll be sure to keep the group updated on Millions-related news, and members can use the discussion boards and "the wall" to shoot the breeze. See you there.
We're welcoming another regular to The Millions. You'll recognize Jacob Lambert from his ongoing series "The Road (A Comedic Translation)," and he'll be doing more humor pieces for us as well as whatever else he comes up with. Jacob has written for MAD Magazine for several years. He also has a regular column in Philly Weekly and freelances for various other publications. Welcome Jacob!
The NYC Walking Tour is this Saturday, May 2nd, and we've got an update to the itinerary and a couple of other notes. First, the itinerary - we have swapped McNally Jackson and Housing Works because Housing Works opens at noon that day. The times listed here are our best guesses, so if you are hoping to meet up with us partway through, keep that in mind. Here is the updated itinerary:11:00 - 11:30: Three Lives (154 West 10th Street at Waverly Place) - we'll meet at Three Lives at 11am.25 minutes walking11:55 - 12:25: McNally Jackson (52 Prince St. between Mulberry and Lafayette)12:30 - 1:00: Around the corner to Housing Works Used Book Cafe (126 Crosby St. between Prince and Houston) Housing Works is generously offering a free cup of coffee from their cafe with the purchase of any book.10 minutes walking1:10 - 1:25: Bluestockings (172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington)1:25 - 2:35: Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (about 3 miles - folks who are daunted by the distance can take the F train from Bluestockings to BookCourt)2:35 - 3:05: BookCourt (163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean)3:15 - whenever: And we'll wrap things up at Freebird Books & Goods (123 Columbia St. between Kane & Degraw), which will host a little backyard party with refreshments.A note on the weather: Right now, the forecast is for "showers." Unless the outlook worsens considerably, we will most likely go ahead with the tour as scheduled on Saturday and brave a few raindrops (if it's bad enough, we can take the F train from Bluestockings to BookCourt instead of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.) I'll post a last update late Friday or early Saturday, and if you want to be sure to get the info, RSVP to [email protected], or join our Facebook group.
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. Birthdays Past: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions, Four Years of The Millions, Anniversary: The Millions Turns 6.
Millions headquarters moved last weekend. We only went a few blocks, so it was far less trying than some of our past efforts (though being first time homeowners has brought its own set of challenges.) Long time readers of The Millions may demarcate the "chapters" of the blog by the various moves I have made over the last four and a half years. There was Los Angeles to DC, DC to Chicago, Chicago to DC, and DC to Philly. After almost a year in Philly, I'm happy to say that we're enjoying it. We've got friends in walking distance, friendly neighbors, and then there's the food. Right now, we live about two blocks up from the north end of the Italian Market, a many blocks long stretch of meat and cheese shops, butchers, spice shops, and other purveyors of goodness. On the sidewalks, hawkers sell produce from stalls. The atmosphere is gritty and raucous most days. There's lots of other things to like in Philly too - the usual urban lifestyle perks, good restaurants, art, and music.Meanwhile, inside the house, the books are still in boxes, but they'll soon be out (all of them!) ensconced on new bookshelves conceived of and constructed by Mrs. Millions and her dad. There's a lot to do here in Philly, but the books should make for good company on the days we stay home.Housekeeping Note: Publishers, if you've got me on a mailing list and need my new address, email me and I'll get it to you.