some books i have been reading lately, new year edition

new york still life / happy new year babies

A photo posted by sarah mccarry (@sarahmccarry) on

Good morning (ish) (afternoon), my treasures, happy Gregorian New Year! I said this on twitter already but I will say it again here, the Persian New Year is not until March 21 if a Fresh Start has eluded you to-day, or you could compromise between the two by celebrating the Chinese New Year on the 28th, or you could be woo about it and celebrate the full moon on the 12th. On the eve of the Gregorian New Year I went for hot pot with my favorite person in the world; we had the plan of walking over the Manhattan Bridge afterward, at midnight, and left the restaurant with just enough time to make it; little bottle of whiskey in my bag, full bellies, full hearts, the cold bright city all around us; but walking down a side street on the way to the bridge we came across an elderly couple who waved at us frantically, holding out a cell phone, and I looked down at where they pointed and a lady had passed out on the sidewalk, one foot still wrapped around the no parking sign that had tripped her, blood on the pavement in dark smear, her face as peaceful as a dreamer’s.

The couple had called 911 already but they didn’t speak much English, and so my favorite person took their cell phone and talked to the dispatcher, and I squatted next to the lady, Hey lady, how are you doing, you still with us, stay with us, okay. She’d whacked her head pretty hard but she was drunk, too, or high. She wasn’t all the way out; she’d nod her head a little when I asked her questions. When it looked like she might throw up I said Don’t throw up on your jacket, that’s a nice jacket—it was a gorgeous jacket, actually, black wool with black lambskin sleeves, beautifully cut, an expensive jacket in which to be lying upon the filth-scummed New York sidewalk about to vomit; underneath it she had on a snow-white shirt with exquisite hand-tatted lace at the cuffs and throat, starred about with tiny rhinestones, if I still read fashion blogs obsessively I could probably tell you what season and runway it came off—anyway, she didn’t throw up.

My favorite person gave the nice older people their phone back and we indicated via pantomime we would stay with the lady until the ambulance came, and we all wished each other a happy new year and they went on their way. The ambulance took a while, New Year’s in New York tends to be rather active. I held the lady’s hand and told her she was doing a great job and was going to be okay, that I was right there, that she was really brave—something I have a lot of practice doing, as it happens—and when I took my hand away she made a little noise and moved her fingers so I took her hand again and held it while the clock moved from that old awful year into a new one, maybe awful too but maybe not; a year still unwritten, still full of the possible; I held her hand until the ambulance came and the EMTs swarmed about her and got her to sit up and talk to them a bit. My favorite person and I walked to the bridge and over it, marveling at the improbable and romantic fact of our being the only pedestrians upon it, until we realized we were in the bike lane. The lady looked pretty okay when we left her; I choose to believe that the lady is fine now. Take care of yourself, okay? I said to the lady as the ambulance pulled up, Can you do that for me? and she nodded, just barely. I choose to believe she heard me.

Right now I am finally reading The Babysitter At Rest by Jen George, which is brilliantly, magnificently weird and hilarious and sad, sort of like if Kelly Link and Lorrie Moore got together and did a lot of acid but still kept hold of their plots. It has a million good reviews and that’s for a good reason (someone else compared it to Leonora Carrington, which I think is apt, and lo and behold Dorothy Project is releasing The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington!!!! with an introduction by KATHRYN DAVIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am DEAD ON THE FLOOR with glee, I tell you what!!!!!!) and I think you will like it. If you like Kelly Link you will certainly like it and if you don’t like Kelly Link you haven’t got good taste in books, sorry. I am having a good time with Lucy Corin’s new book One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, which is also gloriously weird and funny and sad (more emphasis on the sad than the funny for me in this one); I have been a huge Lucy Corin fan for years and years so it is extremely pleasing to have a new book from her and I hope a great many more people read her work and realize what a loopy genius she is. I got myself a SUBSCRIPTION to Deep Vellum Press for a holidays’ present because Eve Out of Her Ruins was so good and am pleased with the results thus far: Claudia Salazar Jiménez’s Blood of the Dawn (oof, brutal, but so good; a little Luisa Valenzuela-y) and Carmen Boullosa’s Before. You should get a subscription, too, and pick one up for Dorothy: A Publishing Project while you’re at it, what do you have to save money for, there’s no future anymore so just read a lot of good books.

I’m working my way through Sarah Gottesdiener’s Many Moons (it’s sold out on her website but there’s a link to get it POD), which is a workbook on teaching yourself Magickal Activities based around the phases of the moon, and Peter Collier’s A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity, which is, as the title suggests, a workbook for teaching yourself the math required to understand Einstein’s theories of relativity. (“There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both,” –Georges Lemaître, Catholic priest and original theorist of the Big Bang.) The moon magic book goes by month, so I am still in January, obviously. As far as general relativity goes, I have commenced the first chapter, which is thus far a brisk review of algebra.

I thought the fellow who wrote the book was an Important Scientist but he’s just a fellow who started out watching Leonard Susskind’s Stanford lectures online, had a vague memory of high-school math, and elected to lock himself in a room for a year (I think maybe literally? there are a lot of apologies to his partner scattered throughout) and teach himself to derive Einstein’s equations, and then wrote a book about it so other people can do the same thing without having to spend quite so much time looking things up online. He’s also a startlingly good writer, as it turns out, and has a knack for presenting things in a way that makes you both understand them immediately and then feel tremendously clever for understanding them. I have a number of other projects I am hoping to accomplish this year, but honestly if we get to January 3, 2018, and someone says “Sarah, what did you do in 2017?” and all I can say is “I didn’t die in a nuclear war provoked by the president’s twitter account and I taught myself special relativity,” that will still be a pretty good year.

I feel weirdly chipper about 2017, which is maybe just delusional thinking? But you know what, I’ll take it. There are some fucking great books coming out this year; my beloved Manjula Martin’s anthology of writers on money, Scratch, is out TODAY, THIS VERY MINUTE; my beloved Cara Hoffman’s book Running, which is a dark and flawlessly written novel about teenagers squatting and surviving/not surviving 1980s Athens is out on February 21st; and my beloved Meg Howrey’s glorious adventure through astronauts’ aspirations, family ties, and the human heart The Wanderers is out on March 15th. Order all of these books! I insist! Have I ever led you astray? They’re all spectacularly good. (Also Elif Batuman has a novel coming out in March?!?! why did no one tell me this?!?!?!?! you’re ALL FIRED)

I have been somewhat Absent from the internet of late but another 2017 project is to write about books more regularly on the new goddamn website I swear to god I am going to make myself; maybe then all my posts won’t be such an ungodly length. There is a new Guillotine chapbook coming out in mere weeks!!!! I will tell you more about it shortly. Guillotine needs a new website too. I keep trying to get the cat to do it but she knocks the keyboard onto the floor and yells about her wet food instead. Hang in there, babies; keep loving, keep fighting. You’re doing great. You’re really brave. I’m right here.