On March 28, 2019, Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli attempted to interview David Shields at a NORMS Restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. Later he attempted to interview Shields by a hedge and at a bookshop. Later he attempted to interview Shields and Bret Easton Ellis at the latter’s nearby apartment. Luckily, Borgli’s cameras were rolling, and The Millions is proud to present its readers with what is likely the most awkward author interview in the history of American letters.
With the literary and publishing landscapes in near-constant states of flux, once-familiar terms have come to seem unfamiliar (saying that you’re “reading a book on your phone,” for example, would, not so long ago, have been evidence of madness). With that in mind, we offer these baseline definitions for our ever-changing reading world.
Political Autobiography: An autobiography, often released during a campaign cycle, meant to portray its author as something other than the craven, amoral, failure-prone, friendless, cash-whore shitneck that he or she actually is.
Celebrity Autobiography: A way for a given celebrity to relate fascinating, behind-the-scenes stories in the inimitable voice of his or her disgruntled freelance ghostwriter.
Young Adult (Genre): Narratives that highlight their teenage characters’ struggles with totalitarian societies, supernatural creatures, and sustaining readers’ interest over three or more installments.
Historical Fiction (Genre): A literary genre in which authors may write about historical figures without remaining faithful to historical fact. (See Einstein Gleams the Cube, by E.L. Doctorow (Random House, 1991).)
Horror (Genre): Stephen King.
E.L. James: An inexplicable phenomenon, usually affecting one’s vision, which makes Stephenie Meyer look like Joan Didion.
Knausgård: To brood incessantly over seemingly trivial matters. (“Jim is in the study with the lights off, Knausgårding about the Celtics game.”)
Gladwell: To make a forceful, if tenuously supported, claim. (“Wait, you’re saying that Roe v. Wade led to the rise of independent hip-hop? Don’t Gladwell me, man.”)
Wuthering Heights: A method of killing any nascent interest in reading that a high-school student may have.
Go Set a Watchman: To reap an unscrupulous profit from the elderly and infirm. (“Gary sent his rich aunt a get-well card, but he’s just trying to Go Set a Watchman her.”)
Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore: A type of small business so unique and charming that Amazon.com — online purveyors of dishwashers, tube socks, and lice shampoo — is now attempting to make inroads in the market.
Library: A structure, often found in schools and municipalities, that houses rows of outdated computers, often surrounded by books.
Audiobook: A method for allowing John Lithgow to pay the taxes on his second vacation home.
Library Book: A system of delivering old receipts, ancient ketchup stains, and dry, flattened boogers from one patron to the next.
Hardcover Book: A product that encourages consumers to pay 14 extra dollars for two pieces of heavy cardboard.
Borrowed Book: An item which, when loaned to a friend or family member, will be returned as often as four percent of the time.
Epigraph: A chosen quote that appears before the first chapter of a book, generally written by a more skilled writer than the book’s actual author.
Blurb: Praise, often appearing on a book’s back cover, written in prose so purple as to distract from the fact that the blurb’s writer merely skimmed the book while watching television.
Author Photograph: A promotional image of an author, meant to portray its subject as something other than the sallow, computer-bound shut-in that he or she actually is.
Aspiring Novelist: A person often seen frowning worriedly into his or her sticker-covered laptop at any number of urban coffee shops.
Voracious Reader: A phrase meant to inform you of its speaker’s endless appetite for knowledge, learning, and being perceived as intelligent.
Internet Humorist: A person who overestimates his own propensity for humor, and is grievously enabled by the Internet’s need for cheap, disposable content.
Image Credit: Flickr/greeblie.
I was looking at the list of “Top 10 Most Irritating Expressions in the English language,” which was linked to in our recent Curiosities installment (and which is culled from a new book, A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare), and a thought occurred to me. The Millions has been around for nearly six years. Over our exactly 1,800 posts (not including this one), just how annoying have we been?Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, I performed some searches. Here’s what I found:At the end of the day – We’ve used this clunker just three times, including way back in 2004 when it crept into a post called “Books of the Boom“. In my defense, I was referring to an actual day, and not the hypothetical one that is the target of those Oxford wordsmiths’ ire.Fairly unique – I’d never thought about it, but that is a fairly silly phrase. Thankfully, we’ve never used it at The Millions.I personally – Another redundancy, and this time I am guilty. I’ve used it twice, though not since 2004 when it crept into this roundup. I blame Kakutani.At this moment in time – That one hurts my ears, and indeed it has thankfully never made it into print at The Millions.With all due respect – A classic, used but once in 1,800 posts. The guilty party is Garth who was clearly struck briefly mad by a slight against his beloved Bolaño.Absolutely – This one, in that it is not a phrase, strikes me as a bit unfair, pernicious as this adverb may be. We’ve used it 41 times over the years, and I feel absolutely no guilt about that.It’s a nightmare – No nightmares here.Shouldn’t of – That’s just bad grammar, and we’ve never used it. Phrases like that keep us up at night.24/7 – We’ve used this one twice. Contributor emeritus Patrick gets a pass because he used it as part of this phrase: “24/7 mingle mode.” I can think of no better way to describe BEA in LA.It’s not rocket science – we’ve never used this one, but “rocket science” was used in one of my all-time favorite Millions posts, Andrew’s “Distinguished in a David Niven Mustache.”