If you are not familiar with the Emily Books Book Club, or simply have that condition where you struggle to form short-term memories, you may click here. Maybe you already did! This month, Emily and I read and discussed Samantha Irby’s Meaty, which you can learn more about purchasing here. And I strongly suggest you do, but first, the sloppy Gchat.
Nicole: Oh, God, I laughed a…tremendous amount. But then, “My Mother, My Daughter” was also the saddest thing possible.
Emily: I laughed AND cried. I literally did
Nicole: Agreed completely! Which caused my mind to expand and contract helplessly.
That she could be both these people.
Emily: Me too, but I guess a lot of hilarious people are capable of also being deeply moving, or not “a lot,” but that is a known things about comedy. It Is Known. That the dark stuff and the hilarious stuff come from the same place
Nicole: I felt so weak, thinking how incapable I am of dealing with anything remotely unpleasant.
Emily: (Didn’t you have natural childbirth?)
Nicole: Oh, yeah, but that’s just showboating, that’s not hardship. Anything you can bail out of
by waving to your pit crew doesn’t count.
Emily: ha! idk, it can be “too late for an epidural,” right? but, point taken, and I had the same thought: that all the shit I’d ever experienced basically fell under the category of “inconvenience” compared to what she describes in that essay
Nicole: I just find it incredible that anyone could undergo that, and eventually be a normal person who finds boyfriends mystifying
Emily: also, to have the perspective on it to write about it so clearly…that’s the miracle, to me: that not only did it not break her, she can describe it.
Nicole: And so non-indulgently, which she jokes about, when she occasionally uses it to make her friends do stuff for her, the “no parents” card: “c’mon guys, I don’t have parents.” That’s as self-pitying as she gets about that
Emily: so that’s my favorite essay, but my second favorite is probably her catalogue of her physical flaws (“Forest Whittaker’s Neck”), what is yours?
Nicole: OH, the flaws!
Emily: it’s pretty next-level
Nicole: It makes all our faux-confessional blogging look STUPID. “I’ll show you confessional!” “THIS IS WHAT MY BOOB MOLES LOOK LIKE”
Emily: “this is what my vagina smells like.” It’s pretty punk rock. Have you seen a lot of stand-up? I have a friend who is a professional comedian…(sorry one sec, phone!)
Nicole: Go for it!
Emily: I’m back. Ruth just needed to vent for 10 secs about Citibike. um anyway
Nicole: Emily, that’s going in the piece.
Emily: so my friend Alice is like famous now, but for years she was performing in basements and open mics every night, and I went to a lot of “bringer” shows. like, where the comedian has to promise a certain # of people will come see them so they rope in all their most loyal indulgent friends
Nicole: oh, yes. I’ve been there
Emily: and I saw a lot of women trying to pull off “I’m disgusting, ha ha ha”
Emily: and it really doesn’t work a lot of the time. A because it’s easy and B because it has to be … man, I’m not going to be able to articulate this
Nicole: that SATC ep where carrie reveals she likes to eat jelly off crackers, GASP
Emily: You have to TRULY own your flaws in order to be radically vulnerable about them to the extent that it’s funny. HA, “sad single food” or whatever. yes, there is like “teehee, I’m gross” and then there’s like, “my humanity, IN YOUR FACE, you are human like this too, ADMIT IT TO YOURSELF”
Nicole: YES. No, it’s so true. I thought it was interesting how love was dealt with in these essays, romantic love as something which is sort of aspirational and she never quite achieves
Emily: please bear with me as I make a really highbrow literary allusion. you know how in Bridget Jones’s Diary
Emily: the secret of that book’s awesomeness is that while she expends a lot of energy on romance, she is actually having an awesome and fun life sans relationship. it’s amazing to me that a lot of people don’t get that. for example, the people who made the movie.
Nicole: but now we come to the sadness, the underlying sadness of meaty! not because of looking for love, just that this is a book of funny essays that are sad, like roxane gay was saying, and how she manages that
Emily: if you were a high-powered editor at a fancy NYC publishing house, and you could buy the next Sam Irby book, and it could be whatever you wanted
Emily: hilarious stories about dating, snacks, Crohn’s disease and Chicagoland idiosyncracies, or stories about her childhood and adolescence and family
Nicole: I guess I would ask Sam if she had something she thought people should do, or not do, and try to find some kind of coherent narrative from it. which might just fuck everything up, but my only regret (HAH) in meaty
Emily: Eat, Own Cats, Don’t Love?
Nicole: was that if you read the blog, a lot of it was just a joyous reunion. OMIGOD. tell me you’ve been sitting on that
Emily: lol nope
Nicole: (little clapping noise from Utah)
Emily: Nicole, I too have been a pro blogger. I can think of 40 shitty to great jokes a day
it’s a little sad to me that this skill is not currently being exploited, but also thank god.
Nicole: BLOG MORE. No, free yourself, it’s no country for women of any age. What about you? What do you want from Sam Irby?
Emily: it is hard on the adrenal system. Oh, I want her to write about what, if you read her interview with Claire Zulkey (that’s in the app) she says she never wants to write about
Emily: her family, her childhood. she could wipe the floor with David Sedaris (no offense to David Sedaris)
Nicole: none taken
Emily: Corny and trite, but I do think the best 1st person writing comes from staring down something that you DESPERATELY do not want to write about.
Nicole: Yeah, Jesus, Sam, get on it
Emily: No presh, Sam! whenever I like someone’s writing I try and tell them what they should do, and like, I’m no expert. I’m not an agent, either. I sometimes wish I was!
Nicole: I know! such power! I would tank the industry, probably
Emily: me too. also I hate math, sorry to let my sistren down on that score
Nicole: apparently, we have to first know how to do real math before we can hate it. it’s a magical candyland or something, full of personified creations like phantom tollbooth
Emily: oh, I’ve heard that too, lol. when your daughter’s older and you’re making her like math maybe you’ll get really into math
Nicole: I have NO SAY. steve has already picked out the four acceptable graduate programs she can attend, in theoretical condensed-matter physics. so, tough for you, baby, get used to physics. but, no, apparently mathematics is also “acceptable.” I didn’t even ask about niche ladyblogging, he was too busy holding her off the rock toward the sun….I’m hoping that meaty becomes really popular and makes everyone tired of toothless self-deprecation like mine
Emily: me too, obviously. (and that people buy it from us) or from barnes and noble, or from anywhere, really
Nicole: I can’t imagine who wouldn’t love it. OPRAH, tell people
Emily: that’s a good idea actually. I wonder if her publicist has thought of it (jk obviously)
Nicole: GUYS, if any of you are interns at O Magazine, and I know some of you are, we’ve emailed, please tell Oprah. just leave it near her throne, or her golden retrievers
Emily: Oprah and Sam should talk. Seriously.
Nicole: Or her pashminas, or something. CAN YOU IMAGINE. Oh, I also love the essay in which she talks about just becoming a lesbian later, because it’s always so dumb when people talk about how they could just be lesbians EXCEPT when sam irby does it.
Emily: lol, what are the Favorite Things she tells Liz Lemon in Liz’s comanaprasil fever dream?
Emily: Calypso music, ponchos …
Nicole: Saltwater taffy. We’re good at cancelled TV shows. OH, here’s a question about book mechanics: when you got the rights to sell meaty, do you just talk to the book people or sam herself, or what?
Emily: oh! well we are a weird hybrid of book club and bookstore, as you know. we contract with publishers directly rather than distributors, as bookstores do. we sell the book and split proceeds 55/45 in their favor, which is a pretty sweet deal, considering that we guarantee sales to our subscribers, and also market the book and organize events around it
Nicole: you have just quadrupled my knowledge of the industry. I always imagine individual copies are completely valueless because publishers hand them out like water. it is something I wonder about when I come home and kick galleys out of the way and then burn them for warmth. when I was younger, I thought only oligarchs owned hardcovers, but if you blog tangentially about books people will send you literally anyting
Emily: i know, the deluge. well, except they won’t, they will send you anything you don’t want. if you want a good one you usually have to specifically ask a specific person for it. the person is usually Marlena Bittner at Little Brown in my experience
Nicole: I get good stuff too, though! maybe I just have a rebellious mailroom following. Oh, and Catherine Cullen at Random House is great at sending stuff I actually want.
Emily: ok but what you said about “individual copies” is not true. I take every opportunity to preach the gospel of Most Books, Even Books You’ve Heard Of, Even “New York Times Bestsellers” By Authors You Assume Are Rich Millionaires, Sell Under 10,000 Copies. I’m talking about “literary fiction””/nonfiction” here, not commercial fiction or genre fiction
Nicole: I think I assume that the three people who write bestsellers underwrite everything else, and the rest is just throwing things at the wall, but I’ve always thought itf I wrote something it would be a huge failure
and also reveal that we all live in tiny internet niches where literally 200 people know who you are
Emily: welcome to my life
Nicole: but since those are the 200 people you read too, you never find out. grains of sand in the hourglass
Emily: um, yes
Nicole: now I feel hot and itchy
Emily: it is possible to “break out,” though, but also who cares about breaking out, because most of America only cares about Duck Dynasty
Nicole: true story
Emily: so worrying about their opinion and trying to sell things to them is maybe a losing battle
um I feel like we should end on an up note
Nicole: INDUSTRY IS A LIE, SAM IRBY SAVE US
Emily: Emily Books will save publishing! um, not. IF YOU WANT TO LIVE, COME WITH ME
Nicole: hahahaha. Buy books, everyone. not just in airports.
Emily: but real talk I do think marketing to niches, talking to niches, enlarging the niches. giving the niches a voice, you know, how can that be bad? i don’t mean this in a “long tail” way, I just mean it in a “focusing on one thing and doing it consistently” way. i think we are on the same page about that. the same page, which is a page on a screen
Nicole: Agreed. Have a good day!
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.