Song for the Special

Excerpted from The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories, a posthumous collection by Marina Keegan, who was killed in a car accident in May 2012.

*Every generation thinks it's special—my grandparents because they remember World War II, my parents because of discos and the moon. We have the Internet. Millions and billions of doors we can open and shut, posting ourselves into profiles and digital scrapbooks. Suddenly and totally, we're threaded together in a network so terrifyingly colossal that we can finally see our terrifyingly tiny place in it. But we're all individuals. It's beaten into us in MLK Day assemblies (one person can make a [...]


Ask a Clean Person About Her New Book: A Conversation With Jolie Kerr

Lovely, stylish, very clean person Jolie Kerr has a book out Tuesday from Plume, and we are very excited, not least because Jolie got her cleanliness-writing start right here at The Hairpin. My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha is precisely what it sounds like, a cohesive, informative, and fun compendium to help you reduce filth of all shapes, sizes, and proteins without judgment. New York-area folks: Mark your calendars for the book launch, moderated by Hairpin writer Bobby Finger, at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn on Wednesday, February 26.

I talked to Jolie about how the column got [...]


Middlemarch Is a Sexy Novel About Sex

This week, all the literati, me included, are reading Rebecca Mead’s literary memoir, My Life in Middlemarch, and pondering the myriad ways that George Eliot’s ultimate 19th Century novel encapsulates thwarted ambitions. Certainly, the novel’s elevator pitch is bleak: “the bright and promising Dorothea and the bright and promising Lydgate miss out on their potential to make the world a better place because: Human Folly.”

But as a longtime Eliot fangirl myself, I would like to offer a more cheerful take on the primary plot. You see, Middlemarch has embedded within its many, many (many) pages, a turgid narrative about a young woman’s tumble out of repression and [...]


12 Books to Creep Yourself Out With

A non-expert's suggestions for books that are fun to read/reread whenever you want the chills. 

✝ 1 ✝

Steven Millhauser, We Others: New & Selected Stories

This is one of my favorite books, as lucid and eerie as a diorama; as Jonathan Lethem says, Millhauser's style is "coolly feverish, drawing equally on Nabokovian rapture, Borgesian enigma and the plain-spoken white-picket-fence wistfulness of Sherwood Anderson." We Others covers a lot of territory—futurist nightmare, teenage romance with a Bataille-esque hint of sexual horror, Victorian inventors, Escherian funhouses, small-town disappearances and mysteries—but throughout, it's consistently enchanted, and remarkably kind. Here's a [...]


Notes on Notes to Boys: A Conversation with Pamela Ribon

In Pamela Ribon’s recent, very funny, moving memoir, Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public, the author looks back at her many teenaged letters to her crushes, examining them from her current-day vantage point. I really loved it (so much that I included it here), and as a lifelong journal keeper with my own history of cringeworthy meanderings, wanted to know more about what inspired Ribon to examine her younger self in this way — and what she learned about not only “Little Pam” but also Current Pam, and writing itself, through the course of creating the book. Luckily, she was kind enough to answer [...]


Picture Books for Grownups: A Conversation With the Author of Are You My Boyfriend?

In 2006, Christina Bryza was working in publishing, reading children’s books daily as part of her job. She found herself envious of how those pithy picture books could take a complex problem, deconstruct and decipher it, and tie so many life questions up with a solution by the end. Reading them, she says, “You’d learn something, but you wouldn’t necessarily know you learned something, you’d just feel better.” Not completely fulfilled by her post-grad 9-to-5, nor her dating life, she wanted something like that for herself, a friendly, handy explainer of modern adult life. She jotted down some notes, comparing P.D. Eastman’s classic kids book Are You My Mother? to [...]


"It Was Like a Pile of Kleenex"

I read the ones by men instead, until I was like, “I cannot read another passage about masturbation. I can’t.” It was like a pile of Kleenex. I read Portnoy’s Complaint. I read Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, when it came out. I read, I don’t even remember — but I read like five male coming-of-age novels that had intense, long passages about masturbation. These books taught me a lot about what it must be like to be a young man, and gave me some terrible ideas about the kind of woman I didn’t want to be, in order to not be thought dull or needy by the intelligent, masturbating young [...]


15 Books by Women to Read Now (or Very Soon): A Reading List

There are quite a lot of good books currently out, and it comes as no surprise that quite a lot of them are by ladies (no offense to men, who we hear can also write very fine books when they put their minds to it). As for our list, which you will find below, there is something for nearly everyone: Y.A., short stories, essay collections, novels, nonfiction, books you might have read a long time ago and probably should read again in their updated states now—they are here. If we missed a book you have been reading and loving that’s out now (or will be very soon), please share it [...]


"The Stevie Nicks of The M.F.A. Universe"

For someone not in the MFA Universe, novelist and Hairpin pal Emma Straub's description of the writer Lorrie Moore—"She’s a bit of a goddess, sort of like the Stevie Nicks of the M.F.A. universe: beautiful, mysterious, magical"—doesn't quite register, but dear lord is it ever something to aspire to, anyway. In this mini profile, Moore describes writing as a "form of insanity": "How a novel finishes, is there’s a moment when you know it has problems, and you don’t know how to fix them. That’s when you’re done." Oh, just like that. Moore's new story collection, Bark, is out next week. [NYT [...]


Closeted Characters, and the Books That Love Them

This feature is dedicated to the steelworkers of America. Keep reaching for that rainbow!

Katniss, The Hunger Games

Poor Katniss can be forgiven an inability to recognize, let alone come to terms with, her own sexuality. Her childhood is rough even by the standards of the Seam: dead father, depressive mother, no money and a sweet little sister to take care of. By the time she hits adolescence, these experiences have hardened her; what with all the hunting, the caretaking, and the surliness, she has no time for music, let alone for introspective reveries about what—or, more properly, who—really turns her on.

She regularly decamps to the woods [...]