Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?

AmericanPsychoI apologize in advance if the tone of today’s post is a little petulant. There was some kind of terrible bedside misunderstanding between the two cats this morning—cat #1 made a small noise; cat #2 COULD NOT BELIEVE THE SMALL NOISE—and cat #2 decided to release the tension by spinning in daft circles on my face. This seemed to work well as a method of stress relief for cat #2, bless, but my right eyelid is now the right eyelid of someone who has been wearing their crown of thorns at a very jaunty angle. Jerks.

Onwards! Bret Easton Ellis reveals he is ready to start writing fiction again:

The idea to begin a new novel started sometime in January while I was stuck in traffic on the 1-10 merging into Hollywood after I’d spent a week in Palm Springs with the 26-year-old and a friend I’d gone to college with who was now losing her mind.

For the TLDRers, a summary of his post: Deepak Chopra retreat; CW network; phone calls from the production company. Yep, Bret Easton Ellis has been too busy being Californian to write another novel. But after coughing up the script for The Canyons onto the back of an American Apparel receipt, our lad is finally ready for a new challenge…

I jest because I love. Or at least, I quite like. I thought American Psycho was weird and funny and awful and intense and something that will stay with us (“sadly, an American classic,” as some bloke says). It took the vanity and vapidity and excess of the ’80s to its grotesquely logical conclusion. And I had to show I.D. to buy it from the Chartwell Whitcoulls, which was the most exciting moment of my young adult life.

But much of what Ellis has written since then has been more of the same—same day, different drug, now with vampires! I’d imagined him as some shabby, friendless weirdo who had locked himself away in a Vogue-lined chamber in order to write a grand, sweeping indictment of yuppie culture. But not so! In 2010 Ellis told an interviewer:

Patrick Bateman did not come out of me sitting down and wanting to write a grand, sweeping indictment of yuppie culture. [That’s me told.] It initiated because of my own isolation and alienation at a point in my life. I was living like Patrick Bateman. I was slipping into a consumerist kind of void.

For the love of god, man, pull yourself out! You’re that guy who gets excited about hanging out with models while also making fun of and despising the fact that you’re that guy who gets excited about hanging out with models? Fine. So you’re a meta-douchebag. That’s okay: you can tell us modern life is rubbish while standing knee-deep in muck. But you only needed to tell us once; the ickiness of it all has been well and truly grasped, and I don’t think I can drum up much enthusiasm for another round of aren’t-we-terrible-and-pass-the-martinis…

But what do I know? Ellis might be intending to go in a totally different direction. Maybe he’s had a revelation: if this scene is so awful, why am I still here? Maybe he’s going to move to Minnesota and plant zucchini and write a tender memoir about how the smell of damp soil reminds him of his grandmother. Which would be worse? American Psycho Part 6: The SoulCycle Cycle? Or A Vegetable Saved My Life: How I Finally Learned to Stop Giving A Shit About What Goes On At The Chateau Marmont?

Basement Living

StressballIn the interests of stocking our bookstore shelves with the very best and brightest, we spent last weekend roaming the aisles of the American Booksellers Association conference, aka the ABA. (Yes, book people love acronyms; if one were so inclined, one could fill one’s days shuffling from AAP to ALA to BEA—though one might question the National Writers Association’s decision to join in this mania for initials.)

This was our first time attending a conference as a bookseller; previously we sat at the Host Publications table, behind a neat fan of jolly nice books. But whether you’re there to sell, buy, or browse, the commercial arm of the book conference is always the same: you are in a drop-ceilinged basement somewhere, surrounded by tote bags, and it’s fifteen degrees too hot or too cold. The room manages the amazing feat of being simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, and the carpet’s psychedelic swirls suggest that vomit concealment was the interior decorator’s primary concern. You wander the aisles for two or ten or possibly seventeen-hundred hours, filling your arms with catalogs and small cards inviting you to Hear Mike Michaels Read Tonight in Room 12B. Wine Provided! At every third table there is a woman selling a self-published poetry collection called And Then My Uncle Touched Me.

If you sit at a booth, a man visits your booth to ask if you sell books about fishing; he is persuaded to buy a book of Romanian poetry with a picture of a fish on the cover. Another man with a thick Polish accent and a helmet of ginger hair stops by to tell you about his cat, Eric, who was a stevedore in a former life. People pick up your novels, smear them with fingerprints, and place them back askew, with a cutting remark: “I really only read non-fiction.” (“I’m sorry to hear you broke your imagination,” you say, but only inside your head, which fills to bursting with horrible rudenesses as the minutes, hours, days go by.)

Somewhere above you, writers and academics host and attend panel discussions entitled Oh Do Shut Up, Mother!: Liminal Masculinity in the Works of Edith Wharton and Weeeee!: How To Write a Play in Ten Minutes. You pretend you are sad to be missing out on these panel discussions.

There are tchotchkes everywhere (and yet you will never, ever learn how to spell tchotchkes). Publishers fling Hershey’s Kisses and earth-themed stress balls at unsuspecting poets, while tchotchke sellers try to convince bookstore owners that finger puppet squids and miniature plastic flamingoes will sell. (And they will. A transcendent work of literature may be an axe for the frozen sea within us, but it doesn’t look all that cute in your office cubicle.)

The day ends—you thought the day would never end—and you grab a glimpse of sunlight and a shot of vodka at the hotel bar, surrounded by exhausted conference attendees who appear to be playing the drink-whenever-someone-says-paradigm drinking game. People take sides about Sebald. People kiss people who are not the people they should be kissing. People weep about the kissing, and about their tenure prospects, and possibly even about the Sebald. (“What’s so great about a picture of a flamin’ teas-maid?!” “You imbecile!”) You trudge back to your hotel room smelling like $1 bills. You watch ten minutes of a reality TV show called Too Much Lovin’, about an obese man who hoards lizards, and then you fall asleep in your clothes, clutching a tiny can of minibar Pringles.

And on it goes. Rinse and repeat. At some point on the last day, every vendor at every table begins to drink from a hip flask of Jim Beam stashed in their Tin House tote bag. The drunkest vendor vomits quietly in a corner; the carpet will not betray his secret. And then it’s over and the professional dismantlers appear and begin to reduce your recent past to a huge pile of mangled 50% OFF signs and a sea of abandoned catalogs.

And yet! In a triumph of hope over experience, you look forward to the next conference, and the one after that. The voices of the barking mad fish enthusiasts fade in your memory, to be replaced by fond recollections: of that grilled cheese you ate in the hotel restaurant, and of the conversations you had with all those charming, passionate dorks. My people, you think, thrilled to belong to that earnest tribe of bookish folks who wear their Smartish Pace t-shirts with pride and think reading is the best possible use of one’s hours. So do your worst, AWP 2013! Have at us with your branded key chains and your novelty erasers. We’re ready for you and your disgusting carpet.

Welcome to Malvern Books

We’re glad you stopped by. Malvern Books is a brand spanking new bookstore and community space for literary enthusiasts in Austin, Texas. Our bricks-and-mortar store will open its doors to the public this fall. We’ll specialize in visionary literature and poetry from independent publishers, with a focus on lesser-known and emerging voices the world needs to hear. Our inventory will be lovingly curated and delightfully idiosyncratic, with one common thread running from shelf to shelf: we sell books we love to read and are proud to press enthusiastically into your hands (and this gesture may possibly be accompanied by a bellowing “You must read this!” Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

As long-time Austinites, we’re also thrilled to be providing a community space for book lovers. We’ll host book and poetry readings and musical performances, and provide a friendly meeting space for book clubs. We won’t sell coffee, because we’re better at books than espresso, but we hope you’ll feel welcome to pull up a seat with your purchased-very nearby mocha latte (securely lidded!) and spend a sunny afternoon or three perusing our titles.

As for the blog, this is the place to come for event listings, special offers, book reviews, small press news, local literary happenings, interviews with writerly types, bookstore gossip, and all the usual literary shenanigans. We’ll be posting regularly—no cobwebs in this here corner of the blogosphere—and with alacrity, so please do stop by often and join in the conversation. We’d love to hear from you. You can also visit us on Facebook, where you can Like us, really Like us.

Plowman cover

And if you’re wondering about the name, Malvern was chosen in honor of the great Medieval poet William Langland and his epic “The Vision of Piers Plowman.” It doesn’t get as much love these days as The Canterbury Tales or the chivalrous (but slightly behead-y) adventures of Sir Gawain, but it’s one of the most significant works of Middle English, and well worth a read if you like that sort of thing, i.e. mad quests, spiritual visions, and a trio of allegorical characters—Dowel (“Do-Well”), Dobet (“Do-Better”), and Dobest (“Do-Best”)—who could teach those wise monkeys a thing or two about proverbial threesomes.