Emma Straub is a native New Yorker. Her debut collection of short stories, Other People We Married, will be published by FiveChapters Books in February. She works at BookCourt, one of Brooklyn’s finest independent bookstores, and will smile at you so hard that you have to look away. She also likes to bake cookies, tweet, and tweet about baking cookies. Follow her @emmastraub.
What books recently rocked my world:
This year, my favorite new books were Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Marisa Silver’s Alone with You, Marcy Dermansky’s Bad Marie, and Emma Donoghue’s ROOM. Equally fabulous books I read this year were Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife and Steven Millhauser’s Martin Dressler. I just started the ARC for Woltizer’s new novel, The Uncoupling, and it’s delightful thus far.
Best damn events we’ve hosted:
Ever? BookCourt has been open for more than 25 years, so that’s a lot of events. My favorite event in my tenure (I’ve been working at the store for about a year and a half) was probably the final leg of Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City tour, in which he read the entire novel over the course of nine readings. The last reading was at BookCourt, and he finished at 4 in the morning. (Full disclosure: I left at 1:30am, having been at the store all day.) There were actors and other writers called in to pinch-read, and trivia questions with prizes. It was a wonderful example of how supportive independent bookstores can be, and how grateful authors can be for that support. At the end, Jonathan hugged everybody. It was basically a love-in.
Most entertaining authors we’ve hosted:
Colson Whitehead, on the paperback leg of his Sag Harbor tour. He should be a comedian. Even though Sag Harbor was very funny, I don’t think he’s written a book yet that fully captures his hilariousness. Really, though, we have so many phenomenal events that it’s hard to choose. I’ll tell you the event I’m really, really excited about, though: Maira Kalman is coming here next month, and I’m going to sit in the front row and giggle at everything she says, whether or not she’s entertaining.
Strangest question a customer has ever asked:
Customers often ask us to hold their grocery bags for them, but sometimes they go so far as to have us hold onto suitcases, bicycles, dogs, children. I suppose that means we’re trustworthy.
Why our store kicks ass:
BookCourt is big and gorgeous and well-lit and has lots of corners to get lost in. It keeps expanding! Bigger and bigger and better and better. Pretty soon we’re going to take over the whole block, mark my words.
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome:
BookCourt is, I would say, at the epicenter of literary Brooklyn. We have an astonishingly smart clientele, and many of the customers have shopped here since the very beginning. Children and dogs are omnipresent. Two of my favorite actresses come in all the time, and I try to stay calm. No, I won’t tell you who they are.
I promise you won’t find this at any other store:
We have two sculptural objects, two spaceships made out of books. One is Patchwork Planet, a photo book with an essay about Gowanus by Jonathan Lethem which BookCourt published with Soft Skull, and the other is Cousin Corinne’s Reminder, BookCourt’s literary journal. I would say we are second only to Random House in terms of production. Also, BookCourt has the Straub trifecta! Some of my dad’s (Peter Straub) books, my mother, Susan Straub’s books (Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos, co-authored by KJ Dell’Antonia), and my little Fly-Over State, a novella published by FlatmanCrooked. Now that’s range.
Why I do what I do:
Because I would be doing it anyway, and it’s nicer to get paid for it. I’m a very chatty girl, and it’s fun to talk to people about books all day. This will not come as a surprise to anyone reading this.
If I weren’t selling books I’d be:
Well, I only sell books a few days a week, and on the other days I write (my first story collection is coming out in February, Other People We Married) and design and screenprint posters with my husband (next week we’re printing posters for the band Broken Social Scene’s tour, as well as our print of all the two-letter Scrabble words). So my days are already crammed, I’m afraid.
Books that changed my life:
I have always loved to read, loved it more than most other activities. How about books that inspired me recently? George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Lynda Barry’s What It Is. And My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, edited by Kate Bernheimer.
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party:
If the party were tonight, I would invite Jane Austen, Julie Klam, and Dorothy Parker. Now that would be fun.
One of my other jobs is working for The Magnetic Fields, so let’s just pick three of their songs. How about “You and Me and the Moon,” “Walking My Gargoyle,” and “Papa Was a Rodeo.” If you’ve been to see the band in the last, oh, eight years or so, I probably sold you a t-shirt.
My last meal request:
I think about this a lot—not my last meal, per se, but my perfect day of eating. If I had one day of eating left, I would have breakfast at the Columbian Cafe in Astoria, Oregon, lunch at Saltie in Brooklyn, New York, and dinner at the Green Goddess, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Now that’s a good day. Though a good burger and fries often does the trick. Or french toast? Oh, god, why am I so much better at answering this question? Let’s just pretend this is being tape-recorded, and the tape suddenly runs out…