Good News: Oberlin

Emily and Tom and the boys at Oberlin

Here’s a roundabout way to tell you some good news: 31 years ago, in the summer of 1987, I visited Oberlin College for the first time with my dad. It was, around that time, my first choice. My college counselor had only recently started working at my high school; he’d been an admissions officer at Oberlin, his alma mater, for a number of years before that. In other words, when Carl said he thought you should go to Oberlin, it wasn’t interchangeable for him with, say, Reed or Hampshire or Kenyon or Brown or Wesleyan. It meant more.

I got an acceptance letter from Oberlin, but I also got one from Harvard, where I ended up, and where I met Emily. She and I fell out of touch for 16 years, then reconnected, then got married.

Which leads us, 11 years later, to our wonderful news that Emily is joining Oberlin’s creative writing faculty as a tenure-track assistant professor. And I’m still pinching myself, but I am delighted to say I will also be teaching creative writing this fall at Oberlin as a visiting assistant professor.

Emily and Tom and the boys at Oberlin

I haven’t figured out yet how to reach Carl (or if he’s still alive). Odds are, three decades and hundreds of advisees later, he doesn’t remember me. But still, I want to let him know that in my roundabout way, I finally got to Oberlin.

It just took 31 years.

Sibling March

a button found on the ground at the sibling marchHe found it on the ground at the March for Our Lives sibling march on the Walkway Over the Hudson. He asked if he could keep it. He knows the word, in part because Emily and I have said it a few times, but mainly because of Hamilton, which has something like three curse words. During many of the times when we’ve listened to the soundtrack in the past two years, we’ve talked about these curse words: how judiciously and precisely they are deployed in the libretto, how Lin-Manuel Miranda used them when no other word could do. Could he keep it? Could he put it on his hat? Yes and yes. Fuck the NRA. Fuck you, NRA, or rather, fuck you, the nihilist death cult that took you over from the inside, ever since the “Cincinnati Revolt” coup in 1977 (see Jill Lepore, “Battleground America“). Yes, this boy (this proud Jewish American, this proud Son of the American Revolution) can wear this on his hat, and yes, I will proudly follow him and all the children leading us. (The winds on the bridge were fierce and cold. We wanted to turn around. What would Alexander Hamilton do? I asked. He’d keep going, my older son said. But we’re not at war, he added. Well, we kind of are, I said.) I will follow you, Hamilton generation, as you lead us into a risen-up democracy and a new peace.

Purim Saves the Day; Or, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Mezuzah

batman and darth vader take out the trash and the recycling

I look forward to the day when the time change in the spring must happen, according to the American candy lobby, before Purim, because Purim will have become completely assimilated into the wider corporate American culture, as candy and costume manufacturers (and drugstore chains and large retailer chains etc.) will have realized that it’s a readymade Halloween II, almost perfectly spaced on the calendar (give or take a lunar month), and that it really doesn’t have to just be for kids being raised in the wonders of the Jewish revival of early twenty-first century; it doesn’t have to be just children dressing up as Esther and Haman and IDF soldiers and beyond (the beyond is key to the assimilation and corporatization, of course). Like gentile kids who go to school with Jewish kids being raised in the marvels of the Jewish revival of the early twenty-first century, corporate America will widen its eyes with wonder at the news that yes, even more marvelous than getting presents for eight nights instead of one morning is the fact of a whole other Halloween, a spring Halloween, with all the candy and all the sugar and all the sugar crashes. There will be confusion over the timing—when is the time change this year, it seems like it’s early this year, that’s because Purim is early this year and the American candy lobby (at least, in secret, or at least, in secret according to myth and Purimist conspiracy theories) controls when the time change happens because of all the money they make now on trick-or-treating for Purim, also known as Halloween II. That dastardly candy lobby! But all of this will be good for the Jews, and will wither the nasty, jealous rage of the anti-Semites whose awful power is currently on the rise in America, because it will be as if Judaism regained the power it once had, centuries ago, as a proselytizing religion: this is a rigorous club, not an exclusive one; you, too, can be a part of it; in the meantime, you and your family can participate in this rediscovered and syncretically reinvented holiday; you don’t have to figure out yourself exactly which weekend the time change is going to happen, because the time change (and Purim, and Easter, for that matter) is on your smartphone’s calendar; and also, while we’re at it, everyone needs to stop toppling headstones at night, like a bunch of racist cowards, please. We are all stronger together, not divided, like the troll farms and their authoritarian overlords would like us to be. Purim, like Esther, can save the day.

Abraham Joshua Heschel's mezuzah

PS Look, I wrote a blog post! That felt good. Although writing this, I realize it may become a part of an essay I am hoping to write. Topics touched on may or may not include and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s office-door mezuzah at the Jewish Theological Seminary, shown here in this picture I took on December 5, 2016 (quoting Emily’s and my ketubah, using text that appears in the ketubah template in the back of Anita Diamant’s The Jewish Wedding Now, “as we customarily count time“). The essay may also reference Arnold Eisen’s talk “The Blessing of Assimilation—Then and Now.”

PPS See also the Danny Trejo monologue from Reindeer Games (which is hilarious in context, but isn’t really at all funny taken out of context): “It says here the retail industry does 50% of its business between December 1st and December 25th. That’s half a year’s business in one month’s time. It seems to me, an intelligent country would legislate a second such gift giving holiday. Create, say, a Christmas 2, late May, early June, to further stimulate growth.”

PPPS See also: “The daylight saving time debate makes headlines for a few days each year, but I’m skeptical that there’s enough political will to modify the system that has largely been used for decades (a few tweaks to DST start and end dates notwithstanding).”

Ladies’ Night Good News

A thread, with news. 13 years ago, in my first year in the NYU MFA program, I wrote a story called “Ladies’ Night at the Arctic Club.” 1/

The very first draft, for reasons I’ve totally forgotten, was titled “Reading Moby Dick in the Original Spanish.” 2/

The story is in the form of a diary kept by a woman who finds herself isolated in a house in winter. She can’t recall how she got there. 3/

She’s there with one other character, also a woman. She tries to reconstruct her own memory; she tries to hide her memory loss. 4/

Her world is surreal—she spends her days with a troll in the barn—which doesn’t help her attempts to understand her new reality. 5/

The story is based on a kayak trip with my friend Jessica Anthony, and a winter I spent in New Hampshire with my girlfriend at the time. 6/

This was 1995. My dad returned from the Peace Corps that year, discharged early with Parkinson’s disease. This informed the story too. 7/

I included it as the title story (draft 8) in my thesis. Which I turned into a homemade, limited-run (100 total, 7 left) chapbook. 8/

Ladies' Night at the Arctic Club chapbook

The story went up to a 12th draft, a draft I now dislike. Draft 10 got accepted at a good journal, but I totally believed in draft 11. 9/

So totally, I pulled the story. Now I think I made a mistake. The story has legs. Edward Albee liked it. (Emily Raboteau can confirm.) 10/

It was also the only story I’ve written that got an encouraging response from The New Yorker.* Which certainly keeps you going. 11/

This week’s good news: “Ladies’ Night at the Arctic Club” was a finalist in the Yalobusha Review 2017 Barry Hannah Prize in Fiction. 12/

The contest theme was “fairytale, folklore, and myths.” I’m happy to see my story in this good company. 13/

I worry, though, that at the rate I’m going with “Ladies’ Night,” the story won’t get collected in book form until I’m quite old. 14/

I keep shopping it around in a book ms, currently titled A Mohel Mulligan and Other Stories. http://tomhop.com/portfolio/#fiction 15/

But I joke to Emily that my book—ultimately—will be called Having Sex in Apartments and Leaving Each Other Voicemails: Stories— 16/

—given how many of my stories are becoming dispatches from a strange country. Which all fiction should be. But maybe not like this. 17/

Stories in which the strange country I’m reporting from is the 1990s. Before the wearable tracking devices came, and altered it all. 18/

I am grateful to Yalobusha Review and to contest judge Catherine Lacey for including my story. Thank you. 19/

PS I still write my extremely rare tweets in a text editor. I recently tried to count how many unpublished tweets I’ve written. 20/

It’s a fair number for something so absurd. A few hundred. I think I just can’t handle the fact that you can’t edit tweets. 21/

I like strict old-school limits: 140 characters, or 420. 22/

TYOLA: Nine Copies Left

Will I go so old school as to compile these tweets as a blog post? Yes. I will. 23/

PPS * I still have the New Yorker email, of course. (“I read and liked it […] It’s strange and disorienting […] I was impressed.”) 24/

OK. Back to trying to finish the novel. 25/25

A Note on Notes, an Update on Updates, a Work in Progress

—When I feel not totally certain of what the point of having my own website is, I remind myself that it seems kind of useful to have your own bibliography and your own bio in one place (for the odd person out there who might be asking the Google “I loved this story in Fence but what else has Tom Hopkins written? I must know”), and which is worth a few bucks a year to maintain, I think.

—My tag line (up there in the upper left hand corner) is currently “sporadic news and occasional updates,” but it’s really pretty damn sporadic and occasional these days. In part, I guess, because I don’t send out stories all that much anymore—I only have a couple pieces out at the moment—so it’s been a while since I had one of those lovely phone calls or emails from an editor letting me know they want to publish something I wrote.

—On very rare occasions, I tweet; slightly more frequently, I post photos to Instagram [N.B. Links removed; no longer extant].

—The best and most exciting news we’ve got these days is that The Book of Esther is out in paperback as of 8/22. (I posted a square-cropped version of the following to Instagram on 8/1.)

a box of The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

—Did you see that the novel was in last Sunday’s Paperback Row? (Quoting: “For her novel, Barton imagines a thriving Khazar kingdom in the throes of World War II — crafting a world and a story that are, as our reviewer, Dara Horn, said, ‘as addicting as a Jewish “Game of Thrones.”’”) (I posted a square-cropped version of the following to Instagram on 8/27.)

—Did you see the “5 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Inspired by Jewish History and Culture” post in Unbound Worlds last Thursday? Or the Begin in Wonder review?

—In other news (and this is also a contributing factor to why I have absolutely no short-story news), I’m writing a novel. The way I described it to Emily was “an autofiction wrapped in a writing dare wrapped in a false document”; in an email to a writer friend and mentor, I wrote this: “one shorthand way to describe it would be Knausgard meets Nabokov, although I should hasten to add 1) I haven’t read Knausgard and 2) that sounds more highfallutin than I think this thing actually is.”

I’m realizing now, though, that it’d be slightly more accurate than Knausgard-meets-Nabokov to call it John Cheever meets Anne Lamott meets Sarah Manguso meets Jenny Offill.

I’m going to try, if I can, to write progress reports on how the novel is going in this space on a regular basis, but I may completely fail to do so. The novel may fail; the reports about the novel may fail. (Again: what’s the point of having your own website? Whatever you want the point to be. The age of blogging may be long gone, but I’m trying to keep the fierce digital individualism of Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget as my lodestar here.) We’ll see.

—In other writing news, I also wrote a sequel to The Year of Living Autobiographically, but it may be just too damn dark to share. I think it might be called The Year of Living Ignominiously. It’s definitely on the back burner for now.

—I don’t have anything smart to say about this, but like most people I know, I’m thinking about mortality a lot these days; in my case, one of the specific ways I’ve been thinking about mortality is the fact that one of my childhood friends died suddenly this past January. I knew he wrote, but I discovered at his memorial service that Brian Shea wrote a lot, and published his own work [N.B. Link removed; no longer extant]. I am full of awe at the same time that I am full of grief.

Here’s a picture of me, age forty-seven, and Toby, age nine. I was nine when I met Brian. This is Toby and me at Brian’s memorial in June.

Toby and me in Maine

Brian also was a frequent contributor to The Good Men Project. I really want his essays there to become a book. I don’t quite know what I can do to make that happen, but for now, I’m leaving this link here, to create one more thread in the universe to his words, and I’m remembering what Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, that we don’t know what the outcome of our actions will be, but we sure as hell know what the outcome of our lack of actions will be. (Timothy Snyder makes much the same point at the end of On Tyranny.)

More soon, I hope. Onward.

LEGOs: an Essay, by Tobias Hopkins, Age Eight

LEGOs are fun. If I got a brand new box of LEGOs, I’d open the box, then I’d open the bags that are inside of it. Then I’d pour out the LEGOs, but I wouldn’t sort them. It’s a little more fun to just look for the LEGOs, to dig through them. If you sort them, then everything would be with other pieces that are the same color, and it would be harder to find them, because they’d blend in.

Then I’d open up the instructions and I’d start building with what it says. It can be kind of hard, because the instructions don’t have any words, they just show you pictures. Sometimes the pictures are more like diagrams. I look at the picture of the LEGO piece I need, and I try to find it. Then I look at the picture of what that step should look like after I put the LEGOs together. Then I put them on the actual structure to do that step.

Sometimes it doesn’t go exactly right and I have to redo it. Sometimes I haven’t done exactly what the directions showed because it’s hard to tell what the directions are showing. I redo it if it’s not correct. It can be frustrating if you get a step wrong, but then it’s really fun once you get it right.

When I do it the right way, that feels good. If you get the directions correct, then you just move on to the next step. It keeps on going like that.

As you keep working on the kit, it gets bigger and bigger. At first it looks like a couple tiny pieces, and then it starts to look like what it’s supposed to look like. It looks better as it grows. When I built a treehouse, I started to be able to put more parts on it that moved in interesting ways. But not all LEGOs can move, and that’s okay.

Each step that you take when you’re building a LEGO set gets more exciting, because each step gets you closer to being able to play with it. And when I finish it, I feel really great about it. I feel proud that I followed the directions and made something that looks good.

A LEGO dragon that I built, after I finished, I took it apart so I could build the same thing again. I left some of the pieces together, like the head, and some pieces I had to put together from scratch, and I put all the parts back together. Some LEGO kits, after you build them, you just play with them.

If there’s anything that moves in a finished LEGO set, you can move that around. If there are humans involved, you can play with the humans by moving them around and having them do different things.

We also have a box of LEGOs that are all different kinds of pieces that can let you build a lot of different kinds of things. It used to have directions for how to build a fire truck, a house with a dog inside of it, and a few other things, but I ripped up those directions one time when I was really frustrated. So now when you use that box of LEGOs, you do things that you want to do, and you can’t use instructions, which also turns out to be kind of fun. I’ve ended up making things like a giant box thing on wheels, a swimming pool, and a couple different kinds of cars.

I like doing both kinds of LEGOs, but I prefer the ones with instructions. Then you get to play with things that have a lot of cool stuff and that actually look like real things.

I hope you enjoyed my story about LEGOs. (If you’d like to learn more about LEGOs, go to Wikipedia. On the LEGO website, you can see many different kits that they make and you can do games and stuff.)

—Tobias Ezekiel Hopkins
Kingston, NY
26 March 2017

A note from the publisher—that is to say, me, Tom, his dad: Toby wrote this essay for a publication class he’s been taking before and after the school day. This story will be included in an anthology that his teachers will be publishing at the end of the school year with CreateSpace; the book will serve as a fundraiser for the school. Once the anthology is published, I’ll add a link to the book’s buy page here.

While Toby did not type the essay, his mother, Emily, served as his transcriptionist, or stenographer. As a writer and writing teacher herself, she made no attempt to “improve” the work during its composition. A few times, she encouraged the author, in Socratic fashion, to prefer the specific to the general. The ultimate choices of words, sentences, and paragraphs are very much the author’s own.

Notes on a Brief and Failed Dare, and Reasons for Hope

a postcard to Barbara Lee

My failed dare started when I triangulated these three things:

So many of us run from intimacy by using hobbies, a job, or events that, on the larger scale, you know deep in your heart aren’t nearly as important. Instead, try a new habit that links you. Write a thank-you note every night to someone—a teacher, a coworker, a doctor, a friend, or your spouse.

Mehmet Oz, Prevention magazine, October 2012

As spectators we are disdainful, sneering; as partisans we are responsible, sensitive to what the moment demands, and convinced that the sense of meaning grows not by spectacular acts but by quiet deeds, day to day.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Existence and Celebration”; from Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays

Use the mail. Use the mail. Use the mail. Use the mail.

Many of you are doing simple actions of resistance and protest. Allow me to suggest another. May I suggest you begin to use the Postal Service. First let me remind you that you do. A letter carrier has you on a route 6 days a week. But we all have cut back on contributing on the front end of the act. […] Send postcards, letters, there is even a rate for media mail. It is a quick action. One you can do between calling your rep, signing a petition on line etc. Heck, send me a postcard. I will respond.

Michael Martone

I triangulated these things on the dark days right around the Electoral College vote. And I had the idea: on top of phone calls and petitions and marches and letters and postcards, could I also send a thank-you note every single day? Specifically, could I, from 20 December 2016, the Electoral College vote, through 20 January 2021, the inauguration of the next President, write at least one note of kindness and gratitude per day?

I tweeted:

A dare: From 12/20/2016-1/20/2021, mail ≥1 public &/or private notecard or postcard/day. 1,492 days. Hope, thanks, pluralism, civics, love.

I made it eighteen days.

Why did I fail at this? In part, to be honest, because it’s hard to track down everyone’s addresses. In part because I was trying to carefully document the whole thing (too carefully and thoroughly, really): transcribing the text, photographing the postcards, then writing a tweet about the postcard I’d just written. It was too much to do every single day, without fail, for 1,492 days.

I’m good at the without-fail part.

But maybe I have limits.

And then, speaking of fire, there is burnout, the genuine exhaustion of those who tried—though sometimes they tried in ways guaranteed to lead to frustration or defeat (and then, sometimes, they burned out from being surrounded by all these other versions of left despair, to say nothing of infighting).

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (p. 21)

Maybe we all have limits individually.

But together, we are unstoppable.

From the Indivisible Guide: “Figure out how to divide roles and responsibilities among your group.”

From my friend KC: “Remember: you are meant to feel overwhelmed, dismayed, despairing. […] We are standing together but we are dividing up the work.”

I am resisting. I’m in the crowd. I’m calling, I’m signing, I’m using the mail.

I think I’m old enough to know myself well enough to know that I’m probably never going to be leading the march. But I’m solidly in it.

I’m bringing what I’ve got to the fight.

The Truth About the Electoral College

1) “The Truth About the Electoral College” (below) is an animation written by me, produced by Chris Bonner, and drawn and animated by Sarah Berland (née Bereczki). It’s a satire of the Schoolhouse Rock style, with a lot more swear words. We made it in the first half of 2000.

[flashvideo file=http://tomhop.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/electoral.swf /]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

It’s a cranky, badly compressed animation that, amazingly, still works—although the pause button is broken, so it just hurtles ahead whether you like it or not. (Kind of like our worse-than-winner-take-all system of electing the president!)

2) This originally ran as part of an online series of funny/informative content thingies called “The Truth About”; the series was published on a website that ceased to exist not long after this first ran. I re-posted it here on my website right after the 2000 presidential election, but before the disastrous Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision. As of September 2016, I’m going to leave that post with its original pub date as-is, but I’m going to add this updated post with some additional details as well.

Namely, I’m adding the Creative Commons license, in case someone out there wants to take on the challenge of redoing/remaking this into something less technologically cranky and more fresh and exciting! As of 2016, the fate of the whole world rests in the hands of the American electorate. I’m hoping a better understanding of the Electoral College will encourage everyone to vote—and encourage everyone not to throw away their vote in a worse-than-useless protest.

3) As I’m hoping everyone reading this already knows, Al Gore won the presidential election with a margin of something like half a million votes. But he lost because of some combination of protest votes for Ralph Nader, a few hundred votes in Florida, right-wing Astroturf activists on the ground, a 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore (that basically said that the legitimacy of a Bush presidency would be compromised by a total and indisputable Gore victory), and—more than anything, really—the structural awfulness that is the Electoral College.

(Yes, I know: Gore lost Tennessee. To which I say: Half! A! Million! Votes!)

If you want to know more, read The Electoral College Primer 2000. It hasn’t been updated in sixteen years (and, obviously, neither has the Electoral College), but it’s maddeningly and terrifyingly prescient. I haven’t found a better introduction to the subject. Let me know if you have.

4) For anyone interested in taking advantage of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license in the next six weeks, here’s “The Truth About the Electoral College” script. I’ve tried to update what we originally wrote to be a closer approximation of what we ended up recording. Apologies for any errors here; I’ll probably keep refining this after posting:

Kid: Extree, extree! Senator Brayin Jackass elected president! Senator Jackass is the new president of the United States!
Dr. E.: Well, he won the popular vote, but he hasn’t been elected president yet. When your mommy voted yesterday, she didn’t vote for president! Her vote goes to a group of people called the Electoral College. And they’re the ones that will decide who becomes president.
Kid: But—I thought America was a representative democracy, where the people elect the president.
Dr. E.: Jesus Christ, kid, are you high on crack?! Our Founding Fathers took great pains to make sure that the people would never elect the president directly!

(sung) Many many many many years ago
It was seventeen eighty-seven or so—
If my drug-hazed high school memories serve me right

The summer in Philly was hot and sticky
Our Founding Fathers were crabby and picky
And yet they hadn’t even begun to fight!

They almost had the Constitution done,
‘cept how to pick their number one,
The top-dog-cheese, the boss-mac-daddy-prince

And whaddaya know? Hey, look! A big surprise,
They settled on a crippling compromise,
And we’ve barely dodged the fallout ever since!

(spoken) You see, the first major fuckup was in article II of the Constitution. Article II goes like this: Each state shall appoint a certain number of people called “electors.” And then when people vote, their votes don’t go to the presidential candidates. The votes go to the electors. And all of the electors, called the Electoral College, vote for president.

Kid: Who are these electors, anyway?

Dr. E.: (sung) The electors were supposed to be good and wise
Like your favorite uncle in disguise
But then the whole thing went from bad to worse

Americans are supposed to vote for themselves
Not for a college of electoral elves
And that’s when they should have sent it off in a hearse!

But instead of putting it in the ground
They just fiddled and tweaked it all around
And it looms over the country like a ticking, time-bomb curse

(spoken) They wrote and ratified a whole bunch of amendments to the Constitution, which go something like this: The Electoral College elects the president, but only if the leading candidate has a majority. If there’s not a majority, the Electoral College goes home, and the House of Representatives elects the president.

Kid: A deadlock gets thrown into the House of Representatives?
Dr. E.: That’s right! It’s only happened twice, but sometimes people have tried to force it to happen, like Strom Thurmond in ’48, or George Wallace in ’68.
Kid: Why would they do that?
Dr. E.: Because they hated black people! And when the American public didn’t agree with them, they were hoping that maybe their buddies in Congress would.
Kid: Oh, I get it.
Dr. E.: But check this out! It gets worse!

(sung) If the house of reps can’t make up its mind
We’d all wake up the next morning to find
The speaker of the house becomes our president.

Kid: Goddamn it! Can I say fuck again?
Dr. E.: Sure, kid. I think you’d be justified.
Kid: Fuck! Fucky fuck fuck fuck! Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!
Dr. E.: Okay, potty-mouth, I’m gonna finish my song now.

(sung) So in 1996, in the final week,
If Ross Perot hadn’t been such a freak,
We could have had President Gingrich standing tall!

And if that ever happens, we’re out of luck—
It just goes to show how deeply fucked
Things can be in a country where the Founding Fathers didn’t trust the American people at all.

5) Part of the original script that didn’t quite make it into the final:

Jefferson thought it was good as dead
“A blight on the Constitution,” he said,
“And one which some unlucky chance will someday hit.”

But instead of putting it in the ground,
They just fiddled and tweaked it all around,
So there’s a chance the fan might someday meet the shit.

6) Something that seems like it might possibly be a story for journalists: the co-author of The Electoral College Primer 2000, Lawrence Longley—”best known for his expertise and authoritative knowledge of the Electoral College, which he believed was a fatally flawed institution that should be abolished”—died in March 2002. Which means he lived long enough to see the Bush v. Gore decision, the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the long march to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. How did he feel about all these things? Did he want his book to live on, maybe finally causing enough sustained outrage to accomplish its ultimate goal of the direct election of the president, or something closer to it than we have now?

7) Vote, everyone! Vote! Civilization and life on earth depend on it.

The Accidental Reading Series

The short version of this: I’m on the lineup with Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group, for the last installment of my friend Nelly Reifler‘s Accidental Reading Series at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, 7/2. Please come if you can!

TYOLA: Nine Copies Left
The longer version: Not counting hurts (even a small galley printer run of 150 copies has hurts) and returns (from when the book was no longer moving at the consignment table at McNally Jackson), I am down to my last nine copies of The Year of Living Autobiographically.

I have a few copies I’m going to send—quixotically—to writers and artists I admire (and whom, I should add, I don’t know personally). I’ve already done this a few times; I’ve sent the book to Anne Lamott and George Saunders, for example, both of whose writing has been a huge inspiration for me.

I’ve mentioned, in my notes to my heroes, that when Ed Sanders started a literary journal in the early sixties, he mailed copies to his heroes, such as Beckett, Ferlinghetti, and Ginsberg.

(I haven’t mentioned in my notes that the journal had what I still believe is the best name in the history of lit journalsFuck You: A Journal of the Arts—or that part of what was so exciting about the name at the time was that mailing it was, I believe, either totally illegal or quite possibly illegal. That all seems like more information than is necessary. Especially since the books might never make it to their intended readers.)

I also have the idea that, since the book struggles so much with what we do and don’t share on social media, I should send the last numbered copy, #150, to Mark Zuckerberg. The first copy went to our friend Dorothy Albertini, so it seems fitting that the last one should go to Zuckerberg. A to Z! Alpha to Omega.

I guess I should save a copy for myself as well? (And maybe, somehow, I could get a copy to Ed Sanders himself?—it looks like he still lives in Woodstock.) But that leaves four or five copies that I’ll bring to the reading, which I’ll be ready to sell, give, trade, or barter. And I’ll read from the book as well. Probably the same set list as last year’s reading at the Sunday at Erv’s series, which worked well, I think.

Again: please come!