Out Today: Subdivision and Let Me Think

Dear friends—

I’m pleased to report that Subdivision and Let Me Think are out today. Power up your tablet, walk to the bookstore, open the mailbox: you should find them there.

Here is a review of the books in today’s The New York Times. And here are some links to buy them, should you lack a local independent bookstore:

Subdivision at Bookshop
Subdivision at Amazon
Subdivision at Kobo
Let Me Think at Bookshop
Let Me Think at Amazon
(The stories aren’t up on Kobo yet, for some reason…give ‘em a sec)

And here are the virtual tour dates, with registration links for the first few events—please join me and my fellow writers for what I think will be interesting conversations! These will continue to be updated on my website as well.

Tuesday, April 13, 4 PM Pacific / 5 PM Central / 7 PM Eastern. In conversation with Elisa Gabbert. Presented by Harvard Book Store, register here.

Thursday, April 15, 3 PM Pacific / 5 PM Central / 6 PM Eastern. At Home With Literati: in conversation with Dorthe Nors. Presented by Literati Bookstore, register here.

Wednesday, April 21, 4 PM Pacific / 6 PM Central / 7 PM Eastern. With Charles Robert Greene and Gina Nutt. Presented by Buffalo Street Books, register here.

Wednesday, May 19, 4 PM Pacific / 6 PM Central / 7 PM Eastern. In conversation with Dana Spiotta. Presented by McNally Jackson Books, registration link TK.

Thursday, May 27, 6:30 PM Pacific / 8:30 PM Central / 9:30 PM Eastern. In conversation with Sharma Shields. Presented by Books in Common NW, registration link TK.

Looking at Yourself

A little more than a decade ago, I realized that the main source of the anxiety I felt upon publishing a new book came from reading the reviews. It wasn’t that I was especially wounded by bad ones, but that seeing myself reflected in someone else’s prose made me uncomfortable.

Here’s a healthy way to think of a bad review: it’s akin to looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger. The experience isn’t pleasant, but at least you can say to yourself, “No, that isn’t me at all.” The negative assessment of the work becomes irrelevant—it’s not an insult, it’s an unfortunate mistake.

A positive review is supposed to make you feel like you do when you look in the mirror on a good hair day, or after a restful night. It’s supposed to reflect your best self back to you. Instead, at least for me, it’s like gazing into a funhouse mirror. It’s you, sort of. It’s somebody else’s idea of your best self! It’s not bad, but it’s very odd.

The socially and professionally correct response to a good review is gratitude, but I usually find myself unable to muster it up. So…I generally don’t read any reviews of my work at all. It’s better to imagine the books as messages in bottles, cast out onto the roiling sea, never to be heard from again. Then you get to be pleasantly surprised when you learn someone has found them washed up on a beach somewhere.

That said…I did read the review I linked to above, and I am grateful! Not just because it’s positive, but because the writer really did seem to get what I was going for. If you read that, and the books sound interesting to you, they probably will be, and you should buy them. This review is much more good hair day than funhouse mirror.

I hope you enjoy Subdivision and Let Me Think. And thank you for reading this newsletter! Its initial sort-of-weekly run has come to an end, but I will keep it going on a more sporadic basis, going foward. I hope to see some of you at the virtual events.

Take care—
John