Recommendation: J by Howard Jacobson

I just finished reading¬†J by Howard Jacobson. That little strike through on the J should really be two lines, as per the book, where any word beginning with “j” also has the letter stricken through. But I can’t figure out how to do it on WordPress.

J is set in a world¬†where something Has Happened – WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, is never clear in the book and is always referred to in the hypothetical. But whatever it was has caused society to turn to a great forgetting, a turning away from memory and identity so that whatever happened won’t ever happen again. This great societal effort is failing, though, and strange outbursts of violence are seizing the country anyway – we are aware of this from the beginning as Ailinn Solomons and Kevern Cohen begin their strange, tentative relationship.

It’s a love story, and it’s a dystopian novel, and it’s a novel about anti-semitism, but nothing is ever addressed head on. In J¬†there aren’t any grand revelations or explosions, there is no courageous resistance against an oppressive government. WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, was a collective act of violence so great that to speak of it is an act of unimaginable illegality – the genius of the way this illegality is structured is that nothing is banned, so much as just not done. This elliptical style might turn some people off but for me, it made for a disorienting and almost elegiac reading experience; a sense of sorrow for things barely remembered, the knowledge that we as a society have done things that we shouldn’t be proud of and for which we should apologize, suffused every page.

So, I highly recommend! Go buy it and read it. And then tell me what you think. 



Where are you coming from?

Somehow in the last week I’ve received 144 queries. I’ve certainly had three-digit weeks before but that’s a lot. At any rate I’m delighted. In the past few days I’ve read some projects I’m very excited about. But seriously, where are you coming from?

A few links to some exciting things afoot in my client’s worlds –

Mark Tiedemann’s novella “Miller’s Wife” appears as an exclusive ebook reprint in this month’s issue of Lightspeed Magazine! Here’s the link.¬†

And ARCs of Ren Warom’s debut novel ESCAPOLOGY, out from Titan in July, are out in the world!¬†Linked because I can’t get the tweet to embed.¬†God, I’m so excited for this one.

I have no other news, at least none that I can remember, because my brain doesn’t work. I’ve had family visiting this past week and, as always happens when my mother is in town, theater tickets magically appeared, so in the last week I’ve seen five shows: Her Requiem at LCT3, Eclipsed on Broadway, Women Without Men at The Mint, Nice Fish at St. Ann’s Warehouse, and Steve Martin & Edie Brickell’s bluegrass musical Bright Star on Broadway. They were all fabulous, and I am now exhausted and suffering from brain drain.

Editing the new Shipping & Handling episode while Bridget & I figure out a date to record. Looking forward to being on the airwaves again! Well, the downloads. You know what I mean.

Haven’t been doing too much personal reading – I did finish THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS and THE LIVING UNKNOWN SOLDIER, for which the phrase “just fuck me up” has never been more¬†applicable. The reviews of the book I’d read said that the translation was somewhat clunky, but either I’m a philistine and didn’t notice or the translation was absolutely fine. Still, if you can get your hands on a copy of this gem and are at all interested in this kind of thing, I highly recommend it. And even though I am supposed to not be buying books right now I still managed to walk out of Barnes & Noble on Sunday with a copy of NUMERO ZERO by Umberto Eco and TO HELL AND BACK by Ian Kershaw. Who knows when I’ll get to them!



Emma Newman release day & link roundup

Hi all! It feels weird writing here and then not tweeting about it. I wonder if I can figure out a way around that. EDITED TO ADD: I can have it automatically tweet this from the WordPress app without me having to go to Twitter/Fb/tumblr! Yay!

Anyway, earlier this week the re-released editions of Emma Newman’s first three Split Worlds¬†novels came out! Diversion Books has done a fabulous job with these covers, and in related news, I cannot WAIT for everyone to get their hands on Book 4 in the series- A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE, coming in August 2016. ūüôā Here are the links to her website, with buying links for all three:

Between Two Thorns
Any Other Name
All Is Fair

Seriously, check them out! Currently, the first book is on sale for .99c! And if scifi is more your thing, there’s always PLANETFALL. ūüėČ

Oh, and edited to add her awards eligibility post!

I’m editing the most recent episode of Shipping & Handling and that should be up soon. Remember to submit any questions/comments/concerns/suggestion to us via our ask box on tumblr, via email, or via twitter!

Reading wise, still making my way through SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, and started THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS for my train-reading. So far, so good. And then there’s this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 8.36.52 AM

Yes, I did buy a book about a guy who after being released from a German POW camp in WWI couldn’t remember his name or where he was from because he was so shell-shocked. ¬†Fight me. (And yes, I bought it from Amazon, but only through the marketplace because I am p sure this book is out of print.)

¬†That’s all for now. More soon!

News Roundup

Being off of social media has been harder than I expected and I have missed a lot, I know. BUT here are some cool things that have happened that I *do* know about!

First, here is Emma Newman’s awards eligibility post for 2015! In addition to PLANETFALL (ahem) her podcast Tea & Jeopardy is also eligible for nomination.

Second, I’m participating in the #DVPit event on April 19, 2016. The marvelous Beth Phelan of the Jenny Bent agency put it together. This is what it’s about:

#DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.

I haven’t been doing a lot of pitch contests recently but I’m very excited to participate in this one. Follow the link above to see how to participate. You can read this Salon piece by Paula Young Lee to see why this is an exciting, necessary hashtag.

Third… I’m sure there’s a third. I finally finished Alexander Watson’s RING OF STEEL, an¬†830 page book about Germany & Austria-Hungary in WWI that I’ve been reading since December, and it was fine. I gave it 3 stars because I finished it, but the author never met a pertinent fact he didn’t want to include. It didn’t *need* to be 830 pages, let’s just put it that way. Now I’m on to THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS by Eugene Rogan, and also half-heartedly participating in the Tumblr Reblog Book Club discussions of SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, and also gazing balefully at Dorothy Dunnet’s THE GAME OF KINGS and thinking I should put it up again.

Fourth, I’ve figured out my con attendance for the year:

RT Booklover’s Convention – Las Vegas, NV April 12-17
MidAmeriCon – Kansas City, MO August 17-21
Sirens Conference – Denver, CO October 20-23
World Fantasy Convention – Columbus, OH October 27-30

I’m only taking pitches at RT.

Anyway, I think that’s all! Happy reading.¬†IMG_2598

Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS can be found on the “What Teens Are Reading Next” table at most Barnes & Nobles!

Umberto Eco

I know that as an American I should be mourning the passing of Harper Lee, and I am, but another literary death has me sitting at my desk, staring into space, trying to grapple with the realization that another great author has left the world.

Umberto Eco died this week, at the age of 84 Рonly five years younger than Lee, and surely both of them have lived long lives. In contrast to Lee, who died in the nursing home that she had lived in for years, Eco died at home, in his apartment in Milan. his newest book, NUMERO ZERO, came out last year.

It’s a silly exercise to contrast these two authors on a larger scale. Lee produced one masterpiece; Eco seemingly couldn’t stop writing, putting out seven novels, several works of theory and probably a bajillion academic things that I haven’t read. An they certainly didn’t write in the same genres.

But on the small level of my personal reading life,¬†Eco’s work held sway over me in a way that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD never did. And since they’ve died within a few days of one another, I can’t help making the comparison. Eco is one of my favorite authors. I’m actually a little angry at myself that I didn’t include THE NAME OF THE ROSE or THE ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE in the post I made at the end of 2015 talking about some of the books that shaped my reading. THE NAME OF THE ROSE was one of the first books I read where I felt that sense in the back of your mind of things expanding – of being given a glimpse into a world of meaning that you’d previously only guessed was there.

And then after that I read everything else he’s written, including the mammoth FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM (which I have in hardcover, and which weighs approximately a thousand pounds) and the claustrophobic, dreamlike THE ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE.¬†Of his novels, there are only two that¬†remain unread: BAUDOLINO and his latest, 2015’s NUMERO ZERO. Baudolino I made a stab at when it came out, but I just couldn’t get through it. (Sorry, Berto!) Even the books of his that just didn’t work for me on a structural level (Looking at you, MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA) or because I couldn’t get past how awful the protagonist was (PRAGUE CEMETERY, in which the anti-semitic protagonist¬†literally invents the Protocols of the Elders of Zion)¬†resonated for me long after I put them down.

These mammoth, ridiculous books, with their dense layers of references and allusions and twisty, complicated, baggy plots are some of the earliest books that rationalized the eclectic nature of my reading habits. I grew up in a one-genre family (two, if you count mysteries) and my bookshelves at home are covered in many genres and nonfiction of all stripes. Which sounds a bit like one of those “I’m so quirky and weird” complaints, a humblebrag of originality, but when I was in middle/high school I genuinely felt weird for my reading tastes, that even though the rest of me was weird I couldn’t conform in this one area, either.

Anyway. This is all to say that though Lee looms larger in the American literary consciousness – especially given the controversial publishing of GO SET A WATCHMAN last year – Eco’s death is the one that is with me today, looking at my bookshelves, wondering what he would have written next.

Social Media Hiatus

Hi all!

I’ll be on a social media hiatus during Lent this year (again) so here is what you can expect from me during this time:

  • I won’t be on twitter except to post information about new Shipping & Handling episodes, or if something of PARTICULAR excitement for my clients happens (they win the Nobel Prize, or get on the Times List. You know, the important things.)
  • Same goes for Facebook and Tumblr.
  • I probably WILL be updating this blog a bit more, if I’m able.
  • I will be posting photos through instagram to my various outlets without checking for the¬†response, so if you see a picture crop up on twitter, please resist the urge to @reply ¬†me and say “BUT YOU SAID YOU WERE OFF SOCIAL MEDIA NYAH NYAH.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I am a little blown away that Lent and Easter are so early this year and was COMPLETELY unprepared for this to start so soon!

A few clarifications about queries: 

Currently, there are two ways floating around to query me, and BOTH are valid as we work to figure out the best way to handle queries for Barry & I at the Barry Goldblatt agency.

  • I PREFER you to follow the query guidelines listed on this blog,¬†which means 20 pages + 1-2 page synopsis + query letter PASTED into the body of an email to
  • IF you send it to the general BG query address, rest assured that I will receive it and give it equal consideration to the ones that come through my query email.

It’s been a really exciting first month¬†working with Barry and his awesome crew (they know who they are) and I’m looking forward to telling you more about it.

More notes:

  • Bridget Smith & I have one more episode of Shipping & Handling in the can, and we’re just waiting on final approval from our awesome guest. So that should be up sometime next week.
  • Next MONDAY, the 15th, which is a holiday, Bridget & I will be recording a BRAND NEW episode, so be sure to send us your questions via the many different ways you can do that so we can answer them on-air!
  • Thank you for bearing with us during our long-ass hiatus. Rest assured that the podcast has even more exciting things in store this year.

I think that’s it! ūüėÄ