Be careful what you wish for. After the publication of Nina MacLaughlin‘s masterful Wake, Siren last fall, I was lucky enough to attend a reading at Harvard Book Store, where she brought several of these profound and stunning pieces – retellings of Ovid’s Metamorphosis from the women’s (nymph’s, etc.) point of view – to life. I then found myself reading various essays she’d written and was thrilled to hear that they were going to be published by Black Sparrow Press. Only… in this odd, horrible time, that means Nina has a new book out and I don’t get to hear her read from it (not in person, anyway). So, until that day, I’m proud to welcome her here for a #NoContact book tour.
Tell us about your book!
For the Paris Review Daily I wrote a series of essays on the summer solstice. This book, published by the legendary Black Sparrow Press in this beautiful letterpress edition, is an expanded version of those essays. It’s a meditation on summer, on ritual, on the experience of the warmer months of the year, and the oppositions – light dark; winter summer; life death – held inside the solstice moment itself.
What would you have been doing now to promote it? Where would you have been speaking? What bookstores would you have visited?
The launch event would’ve taken place at the mighty Brookline Booksmith, one of the great bookstores of the area. They were able to host a virtual launch instead, and though it would’ve been great to cram into the store and see everyone’s faces in person, doing it all through a computer screen ended up being a real pleasure — and allowed people to tune in who definitely wouldn’t have been able to make it to Brookline!
I’m hoping to reschedule events that were lined up at Partners Village Store in Westport, Massachusetts in conversation with the writer and artist Ben Shattuck; at the lovely Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire; and NorthshireBookstore in Vermont.
Are you working on anything now? Is your process or routine different?
Halted on research on a next possible book project (no access to the archives), I’ve been working on a series of essays about the sky. The process and routine feels more or less the same; what feels different is the pace and the new brain muscles involved. My mind feels muddy and the work is going slowly. I’m trying to think of this as a time to let it rip in a different way, to see what comes out, to be patient, and to know that the work is going to look and feel a little different these days. It’s been more challenging than usual, focus-wise, precision-wise.
Do you think your writing will be changed by this crisis?
It’s a good question, and an impossible one for me right now. I’m trying not to think of any beyond right now. I’m trying to aim my attention in the very short term, the hours of the morning, the afternoon, the evening. Our experiences alter the ways we approach our work, alter where we aim our attention, so in some ways, inevitably, yes, this crisis will surely impact the work. This is the moment we are living through right now — how it will be digested and how it might change things, I hope we will see.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we’re free to be social again?
There’s a couple people who I really, really, really want to hug.
Me too, Nina! Stay safe – and let’s plan on some big hugs in the future.