Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In a very exciting development

(actually I am quite thrilled, this is the kind of writing I've been wanting to do for a long time) I've got an essay in this month's issue of The Believer. The full text is available online if you click that link (of course you should also think about getting a subscription, as a reader I find it very good value for money), and here's the first paragraph:

I fall in love with individual books all the time, books I praise passionately, even promiscuously, to anyone who will listen. Out of the hundreds I read every year and blog about, though, only a few speak to me so loudly that I bestir myself from torpor and plunge into fanatical book-fiendish evangelizing. Toni Schlesinger’s Five Flights Up and Other New York Apartment Stories came to me for review this January in the form of a ridiculously cumbersome wad of xeroxed eleven-by-seventeen pages, inadequately secured by binder clips: it weighed three or four pounds, at a guess, with the flat cartilaginous heft of a stingray. Once I recovered from the format, I felt the shock—painful, delightful—you experience when you encounter something so perfect you’re furious you didn’t know about it sooner. My list of such things includes the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” Paradise Lost, FabergĂ© eggs, and the taste and texture of meringue. You will have your own list, but find a place on it if you can for this collection of the columns Schlesinger wrote for the Village Voice from 1997 to 2006 under the rubric Shelter.

Here's a previous blog entry on why Toni Schlesinger's a genius and here's the Amazon link for Five Flights Up and Other New York Apartment Stories (which is a very, very special book--please read my essay so that you will understand why and feel compelled to go and experience it for yourself).

I don't believe in having resolutions, in my opinion you either decide to do something and then go ahead and do it or else you don't really want to do it after all and you might as well not fool around with pointless verbal flourishes. But I do have a resolution for the coming year, which is to write at least a couple more essays in a similar vein to this one. So this is more of a promise to myself that I'll jump at the next chance I get to do one, whether that's because I find the perfect topic or because someone invites me to contribute to something. I really love the essay, it's a particular favorite genre of mine and one that I feel called to write as well as to read, but it's been edged out of my life for many years by novel-writing and academic writing (both of which I also love). But now it's time to put it back into the mix--blogging has been an interesting way of developing something akin to an essay-writing voice, and I must make good use of it.


  1. Congrats Jenny!

    Count me in as someone who is buying the book based solely on your recommendation! I can't wait to read it!

  2. Just wanted to say congrats. In the last issue of The Believer, I saw your name and upcoming article in the teaser for what would be in the next issue. I was so pleased to see your name and know that you work is getting the attention it deserves!

  3. GREAT essay! I'm (of course) a huge Davidson fan and a huge Schlesinger fan so seeing them together is really a joy. I sincerely hope you stick to your resolve & write more essays like this: your fans demand it!



  4. Wonderful. I've already printed it out for what I know will be good reading.

  5. Definitely a wonderful piece, because you convey the flavour of and awaken interest in the Schlesinger book so intelligently, yet never without sacrificing your own unique voice. Exactly the kind of book essay I love to read.

  6. I came to this blog a little while ago through the recommendation of a business associate, and I've been checking in from time to time because you seem to read like I wish I could, from one interesting volume to the next with few detours for the dull but necessary. But I hadn't read any of your more formal writing until this essay about Shelter. I read Shelter for years, and it always disappointed me -- I wanted Schlesinger to ferret out the secret workings of real estate. I wanted Glengarry Glen Ross serialized. But your essay reveals to me that I was reading foolishly all those years. I won't buy the book -- I've read these columns already -- but I'm grateful for your exegesis, which I liked more than the column itself.