Elisa Albert, After Birth: A complicated, funny, wicked novel that I can’t help but underline on my second rereading. Sometimes we get the right books in our lives when we are going through some shit, and this book is it for me right now. It is also – how do I put this? – accurate on what it can be like to move to a place that you didn’t choose and how lonely it can be to try to find a friend in that muck. I can’t write about it because I’d sound like a dick (Elisa Albert is not afraid to sound like a dick, it’s great), but I was very lonely when I lived upstate, desperate for friendship, and it’s such a weird feeling. It’s easier to find people that are likeminded enough in cities.

The new Father John Misty album. I love him. 

The Misshapes: Coming for Your Ereader

Hi Tumblr,

I cowrote an awesome book with Stu Sherman under a pseudonym, “Alex Flynn,” called The Misshapes for Polis Books which is available for your ereader of choice on Tuesday April 29th. It is the first in a trilogy!

It is a book about teenage superheroes with powers that suck. Our hero, Sarah, is trying to get into the Hero Academy of her dreams … but is she good enough? I feel like it’s a mix of Rushmore, Gilmore Girls, and The Tick. It’s funny and it’s a YA book and it’s the first in a trilogy. I love Sarah and all the Misshapes and I can promise that you’ll fall in love with Sarah’s crush Freedom Boy (the greatest Hero of all, who takes her on a flying date) and Sarah’s badass brother Johnny, who can turn water into alcohol (which is kind of a chronic illness if you think about it too hard) and makes handmade red t-shirts that say “this is not a red shirt.” The results should be weird and funny, I think.


We have an official, single-serving website over here at The Misshapes where you can check out the first couple of chapters and order it in a variety of places.

Say hi on Goodreads.

Follow us on Facebook and you can win a t-shirt for being casually brilliant, which you are!

If you’re in New York, you can come to our book release party on Wednesday, April 30th at Housing Works with so many killer readers and you can also win a t-shirt.

Here are links to its Amazon page, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo!

Feel free to share, read, and let the world know! Any bit helps and its super appreciated. And if you don’t have an ereader, don’t worry…

You are the best,

Elisabeth (ie, one half of ALEX FLYNN)

Bonus Material


I interviewed Jennifer Percy about her book Demon Camp for the LA Times, which you can read here. And here are more reasons you may want to read it, before it may become a movie. In the right hands, it would make a really good movie. And it’s a little amusing to think of the quick and dirty found footage horror film it could make in the wrong hands. If you need more convincing, an excerpt from the book that ran in Harper’s is up now.

Here are a couple more questions from my interview that got cut for space; and I’m pretty sure not every author is traveling in Afghanistan on the eve of their book’s release:

ED: In the book you write “I can’t help but wonder if the United States is suffering from a form of cultural PTSD,” the persistence of wartime behaviors in peacetime, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on that idea.

JP: You don’t have to have direct experience to have PTSD, you can become traumatized vicariously through images, through storytelling, there are theories that you can sort of inherit this trauma. My idea is not just that America has PTSD. Any country that has combat warfare and traumatic experiences, we’re suffering through cultural PTSD that we’re having a hallucination that we’re inured from trauma and warfare on our own soil. Warfare and paranoia is so inherent in our own society. its a kind of delusion that we’re all dealing with. 

ED: Did the book get optioned? It would make a great movie.

JP: It just got optioned this week at Paramount. Luckily, I just talked to the screenwriter, and it will not be a terrible horror flick, like some of the other screenwriters that I talked to. She had a wonderful, subtle, psychological narrative, and it wouldn’t be me – like in the book – but another Jennifer Percy character, whose brother passed in the war and wants to talk to veterans.

A.S. King talks kids on reality TV and her new YA book, 'Reality Boy'

Wherein the wonderful A.S. King tells me about the time she ran away to the circus in Ireland and her new, fantastic book “Reality Boy.”

Fun News About a Book You Can Read!


I’m excited to announce that Polis Books, a new ebook venture headed up by the estimable Jason Pinter, will be publishing THE MISSHAPES, the first in a series written by Alex Flynn*. It’ll be available for all ereaders come the holiday season.

It's the first in a new fantasy series about a teenage girl living in a town where superheroes are commonplace, already haunted by her lineage as the daughter of an infamous supervillain, and branded an outcast, or Misshape, a moniker given to those whose powers are considered third-rate, and must determine her own destiny when a malevolent force threatens everything she holds dear. Or: it’s a new MG/YA series about teenage superheroes with shitty powers living in a weird parallel western Massachusetts, getting into punk rock, hating the man, and it’s really influenced by Flynn’s love of Gilmore Girls, Rushmore, and The Tick.

More to come, especially about Misshapes Internet Presence. There may be a Pinterest page, so far.

*Alex Flynn is an ex-CIA agent who divides his time between Los Angeles and an island in Maine. Or, perhaps, a pseudonym for me + Stu Sherman. I’ll never tell! Art by Georg Pedersen. Also: Alex Flynn totally wants to literarily party with you, FYI.

William Kennedy Outtake

Hearing about how writers write, and the process they go with their books, is fascinating to me. William Kennedy’s books read very easy, like they’ve just appeared out of thin air, so it was fascinating to hear about the years it took for him to write things like Very Old Bones and Roscoe (the latter being one of the best books about politics ever; he said he started it around 68, but didn’t have the stuff to write it until he understood the political machine of Albany. It came out in 2002). Perhaps you will find this process interesting, too. Outtake from this Paris Review Daily piece from 2011.

Was some of that in The Rum Diary?

I don’t know what’s in The Rum Diary anymore, I saw the original one that was about twice as fat as the one now. I think he did well to cut it the way he did. It’s a lot better book now than it used to be. I think people are looking for the outtakes now and I’m sure they’re out there, somewhere in the bottom of his pile of papers. I found that to be a strange book. When I first read it, I told him I didn’t think you should publish it and he sort of wore that like a badge and talked about it on Charlie Rose. It wasn’t a good book in those days, after awhile Hunter established himself in a way that was singular, and therefore, anything he writes, it’s like Tom Wolfe. His laundry tickets, as Dwight McDonald said, are publishable.

I didn’t think much of his evaluation of the Puerto Rican press, it didn’t have any relationship with reality to me.

What was your relationship with the Puerto Rican press?

Puerto Rico was a boomtown. I stayed with the paper two years as a managing editor and then I couldn’t stand it anymore so I quit, everyone thought I got fired but I quit. I stayed on for two more years as a kind of weekend editor, went in on Friday nights and closed the papers with the city editor, and made up the Monday paper with the editor. Saturday and Sunday night I’d go to the city desk and put out the Monday paper. I was writing editorials and it was only about two and a half days work for me, and the rest of the time I was writing the novel that would eventually become Very Old Bones.

It was a long time transitioning, first it was called One by One, then it was called The Angels and The Sparrows. It never got published under those names, it went around under two different agents, to probably 30 publishers, 35 publishers, nobody ever took it. It was dark, it was gloomy, it wasn’t funny. So I put it aside, and I never really went back to it, until after Quinn’s Book. I started looking around, I went in and found that old material. I had really pilfered it for the Phelan family when I wrote Billy Phelan.

That was the foundation novel for me, The Angels and the Sparrows. It was a pretty good book. There was a lot wrong with it and the prose was a little overblown and overstated, but the dialogue was pretty good and the story was good. It was just that I didn’t have an awareness of how to tell the story I wanted to tell, until I had gone through the whole bizarre experience of writing Legs for six years, rejecting and rejecting and rejecting. And then I became what I became.

It shapes you, it makes you a better writer.

I think it’s the way it has to happen, most of the time. Trial and error.

Will Shailene Woodley be the new queen of YA film adaptations?

The Fault in our Stars movie has a good chance for Oscar nominations in 2015, I bet, between Woodley and the fact that Laura “Genius” Dern is playing her mother and is well-seasoned at making you cry, if you had the pleasure of watching HBO’s Enlightened. Also Shailene Woodley is basically the new Jennifer Lawrence.

The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?
— LOL: James Salter, in a pretty self-congratulatory and gorgeously correct paragraph in the very beautiful Light Years.


It is strange that a memoir from 2003 can seem so utterly out-of-place and dated, but yes, this book is about ten years old and talks about a media world that doesn’t exist anymore, where the urge to be young and make something of yourself manifests itself in one glittering issue of a magazine called Bleach.

Anyways, there’s something reflective and quiet in Strawberry Saroyan’s memoir that feels like it would resonate, specifically, in the medium of Tumblr, where thoughtful women would post some relevant quotes that could zip around the internet. The book reads like she tried to write several riffs on Goodbye to All That, with varying degrees of success. I think the essay “Ambition” is quite good, and worth trying to find, but overall, the book doesn’t stick with me, so much. It is also annoying to look up old reviews of this book to find that yes, even in 2003, women writing memoirs about their lives in their 20s, and the confusion therein, were of course called “narcissistic,” and the fact that Saroyan’s grandfather is a Great Writer is a strike against her and the reason for the book’s existence, obviously.

These flinty, faulty arguments are exhausting, yes? We need a test to see if this argument is bullshit. Look at a piece of art. Do you like it or not? If you didn’t like it, if it didn’t resonate, do you need to make up some reason for its existence like a Greek myth that says why this particular person got something and you didn’t, or, do you need to explain the reasons why you didn’t like it, explicating said reasons from the text?

It would be absolutely naive to say that the circumstances of, for example, Lena Dunham’s existence - just growing up in New York City, or the charm that you have to learn when your parents are artists and you talk with people at openings, a very useful charm, I would think (a charm that I do not know if I have, or if I learned it, well, it happened four years ago, at most, and it does not work on my family) - did not leave her ahead of others in the ways that New York University kids have the jump on New York media internships, there’s a lot behind every wunderkind and a goodly percentage of the time, it is money, but I’m starting to feel like that’s just part of the system, and that’s the better thing to rail against - instead of the same tired argument against the one true girl genius of the month, whoever she is, at the moment. 


I have read some books! Many books, in fact. Let’s go through some of them quickly.

I do not know if Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements is good or not, since I listened to the audiobook and it was read by a stentorian older man (when you needed John Slattery from Mad Men) who tended to lapse into all the voices of the female characters in a manner that suggested a Kid in the Hall dressing up as a woman. This meant that it sounded like the narrator was making fun of every woman in the book, and so I wasn’t able to enjoy it the way it was meant, I suspect, but it’s still pretty obvious that Shipstead is a very good writer with a winning voice and a talent for sentences.

The audiobook is a weird sort of reckoning for books. Women make better audiobook readers; Laura Lippman books read by the amazing Linda Emond really work for me, for example.

Last month I went to a Q&A in Albany by Denis Johnson, which was awesome. He talked about his new book: made some jokes about being “Graham Greene,” said it was set in Uganda. He talked about growing up in Japan (he was an army brat) and how he was part of a “bad boys club” in elementary school where they said they’d protect kids if they gave them their lunch money or something, and how seeing Moby Dick, the Gregory Peck version, in the theatre knocked him on his ass and his first short story was called “The Whale” and was a straight ripoff. I expected him to be scary and intimidating, and he was a joker with a great smile, the sort of smile that you knew he used a lot to get out of trouble in his reckless youth. It carved deep parentheses into his face. You could believe in that smile. (Oh, god, I just had a thought: druggy Jesus’ Son Denis Johnson = Freaks and Geeks’ Daniel Desarrio. WHOA.) I read Train Dreams. It was good, but I really love Denis Johnson’s book of journalism, Seek, where he mostly goes to war zones because “that’s where I could go and get my foot in the door.” One essay is about waiting to meet Charles Taylor.

After a year or so of lugging it around, I finally read Moby Dick! That book is weird, long, homoerotic, hilarious, totally boring with whale minuta that isn’t even factually accurate, and filled with thrills and insights that will give you chills. I want to have it on my bedside table and read a bit of it every day like it’s The Bible. It’s a masterpiece. I love you, Herman Melville, and I want to disappear inside that book. I may go to Melville’s house this weekend, in fact.

The last book I read recently that got me in the heart was Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. You HAVE to read this book. It’s amazing. It has real insights about the human experience and human character; it’s a fabulous tribute to the glory of New York City. The white horse, Athansor, is a creature I wish I could meet. I really want to thrust this book out to everyone I know and make them read it. I have not felt this passionate or evangelical about a book in awhile. So it was kind of crazy reading this back to back with Moby Dick, which is also fabulous. READ IT. SO GOOD. (Winter’s Tale will be a movie come next year -probably Oscar bait - and you should probably read it NOW so the images in your head are YOUR images, not movie images.)

I am currently slogging my way through Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie and it is taking forever, he is a bore in this case. Can you believe it? I wish he didn’t write it in the third person, it just feels so disingenuous.

Some thoughts on books

Remember that old Chinese curse, “May you live in extraordinary times?” I was reminded of that when I looked for Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, at the bookstore. It is a hefty book, a 600-page document on that time that a fatwa was placed on Rushdie’s head, all because of his work, The Satanic Verses. Now, in this case, I was in a Barnes and Noble, and Joseph Anton was shelved in biography next to the new biography by former Bachelor-finalist Melissa Rycroft, My Reality, in bubblegum-type with lots of pink trim. It seemed, sort of, to be kind of the embodiment of the times: amazing, crazy things and stories are happening, and then there’s the weird surrealism and mundanity right next to it, of manufactured celebrity stories and how boring they are. It seemed like a particularly evocative and efficient juxtaposition. We live in extraordinary times; we live in boring times.

Of course, this is also why you should support your local independent bookstore, as they do you the favor of not stacking the horrible march of brainless celebrity tie-in books. If you’re a celebrity with a reality show, or a middling comedian with a twitter feed, you are, basically, the legacy application of getting a book deal, right? Other people writing, other people who’ve spent years working on being a good writer, just aren’t in your category or cohort. It sucks that these books are fairly unavoidable and very few of them are worthy reads. Worth spending any bit of time on.

Also, there’s a Shit Girls Say book, speaking of stuff that’s not funny. I feel like that has to make Shit My Dad Says seem like Chekov in comparison.

(I thought this NYT op-ed did a good job of explaining how the current unrest in the Middle East relates to Rushdie’s experience. It’s also interesting to note that despite how ugly free speech can be, banning those ideas would give them an illicit power and allure. How strange is it that a gross - and most importantly - fringe video no more competent than The Room is the chosen flashpoint for conflict?)

Someone more experienced than me probably has an idea of where the bookstore is going to go in the future - I know that I would be gutted if it were to go the way of the record store, but I suspect that, despite bad business models, that shouldn’t be the case, really. E-books to physical books aren’t a 1:1 in some ways and the idea of reading something longer than Gone Girl on my e-reader is semi-horrifying. (The world will always need a print copy of Infinite Jest and other behemoths.) And bookstores function as community centers as well, a place for ideas and learning and curiosity.

I just read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, and it’s very funny at points and if Lauren Graham isn’t cast in the film version, I will eat my hat. You could make her a movie star with that role! Plus, she’s one of the few actresses who could pull off being depressed and hating a town and making it funny.

How is Joseph Anton, anyways?