As usual, no one asked me what I read this year, but I’m here to tell you anyway, the internet. Fifty three books so far, and only three of them by men. It’s not Ben Lerner’s fault that I read 10:04 in a haze of sunshine and bourbon and heartrending grief after my friend’s baby died, but let me tell you, being in the grip of intense, near-unbearable emotion really makes over-intellectualized novels-about-novels feel indulgent and, frankly, kind of cutesy. I mean really what I read this year was Ferrante, and the rest is fucking commentary. A. just texted me “I feel personally victimized by Nino Sarratore” and I wrote back GOD I KNOW RIGHT????
But the commentary was good commentary, mostly. I don’t mean to diminish it by saying it’s not Ferrante. What else could be? And as much as I admire her seclusion, her will to privacy and her confidence in the strength of her work, the idea that it doesn’t need her presence to communicate or succeed, I appreciate the women whose writing I’ve read this year who’ve also put themselves out there, on Twitter and Tumblr and whatever other social media, and guided me towards more women to read. That would be Sarah McCarry, who led me to May Lan-Tan and Sofia Samatar, and Emily Gould and Ruth Curry, who get credit for Chelsea Hodson, Maggie Nelson, Heidi Julavits, and Jillian Tamaki. Can you make a list about women and books and the internet and not say Rachel Fershleiser’s name? Rachel introduced me to Angela Flournoy and Rufi Thorpe. I forget who got me started on Rachel B. Glaser but Paulina and Fran was so great. Some of it just in the air, or whatever the internet version of that is: Claire Vaye Watkins, Kate Atkinson, Mira Jacob, Wendy Ortiz. I read Rebecca for the first time this year! Guys, it’s really good and weird!
The best, though, is the steadily growing stack of books by people I actually know, or have gotten to know since I read them. I went to college with Kate Hattemer and Becky Dinerstein and high school with Steph Cha. I’ve been slooooooowly interviewing Kevin Fanning about fanworks and creative work and “real work;” I wrote about Karolina Waclawiack’s first novel for Emily Books last year and have felt incredibly smug watching the rest of the world catch up to how good she is. I had dinner with Katie Coyle in San Francisco! And I’m so glad to have fellow pop cultural conspiracy theorist Catie Disabato on my bookshelf and in my phone.
It’s just cool, you know? I mean, I sold my book this year, and it’s the best and scariest thing that’s ever happened to me, the idea that very soon I’m going to have to stop fussing with it and let it out into the world where people will absolutely inevitably say cruel things about it. Someone is going to dash off some two-minute one star Goodreads review and I will read it, don’t tell me not to, I am definitely going to read it, and it is definitely going to break my heart. So it’s been especially nice to feel, this year, that I’m a part of a community of people who do this, who love this, who will understand that I’m trying, who have already survived the part where they opened up their tender selves and said, “here. I made this. This is for you.”
Save the date! Tumblr books & wordbookstores present LAST NIGHT’S READING Tuesday, October 27 at 7pm / FREE
Kate Gavino hosts the launch of her illustrated book based on her popular blog, with special guests Jazmine Hughes, Julia Fierro, Alexander Chee, Mira Jacob, and Lev Grossman. With books for sale courtesy of our friends at WORD Bookstore and drinks & snacks, until they run out, courtesy of Tumblr.