Last night, Word Books in Greenpoint hosted the first anniversary party for Emily Books, the “online indie bookstore” that functions like a book of the month club, run by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry. As guests sipped boxed wine, Ms. Gould switched the official Emily Books mixtape (some choice selections: Dinosaur Jr.’s “Puke and Cry,” Tegan and Sara’s “Burn Your Life Down”) to a more upbeat playlist featuring L’Trimm and Peaches. At 7:30, Word events manager Jenn Northington took the stage to apologize for the delay, and to point out the free condoms whose wrappers bore the cover design of Emily Books’ September pick, Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger.
Ms. Gould appeared onstage shortly afterward, thanking Word “even though we’re their competitor” because “I don’t often get to be in the same room as our customers.” Still, she demonstrated a familiarity with the people who buy her books, quoting a reader of Maidenhead who had emailed her: “Dude, I’m not even a third of the way through this book and someone just pissed on a teenager.” Ms. Berger proceeded to read this passage, narrated by a sixteen-year-old on a family vacation. Direct self-deprecation counterbalanced lyrical metaphors: the narrator imagines herself a bird, but one who smashes into a window.
Ariana Reines, whose Mercury had been last month’s pick, read poems off sheets of letter paper in a breathless near-monotone so fast it was hard to tell when one ended. She paused partway through—”I’m gonna read two more jams,” she promised—to promote her book, “which is available digitally and in solidity.” She riffed on the physical book’s reflective surface: “What could be better than your face on the cover? I guess it could be funny, depending.” In what seemed to be a 2 Live Crew reference, she joked, “I’ll try not to pop too many ps this time, if you know what I mean.”
Emily Carter’s planned appearance had been prevented by what Ms. Gould termed a “minor dental emergency,” so instead novelist Elisa Albert read a passage from Ms. Carter’s Glory Goes and Gets Some wherein the narrator accompanies an old flame, and his new one, to the movies.
Afterward, the Observer asked Ms. Gould what she learned in her first year. After a long pause, she replied, “That it takes more than one year to have a successful business? I think when you come to the Emily Books third anniversary party we’ll really have our act together.” (Though she wouldn’t reveal the number of subscribers, Ms. Curry happily said that it’s growing every month.) Ms. Gould explained that the company hadn’t found its “raison d’être” until its third month, when Ms. Curry suggested a book by a male author “already getting a lot of attention” and Ms. Gould realized “that actually our mission was to promote the work of under-appreciated, especially women, authors whose voices were not being heard by mainstream publishing.” (That same month, she published a blog post explaining her aesthetic in terms of “the power imbalance inherent in heterosexuality,” an idea that was examined in all three of the night’s readings.) As for next year, Ms. Gould told us that readers could expect a native Emily Books app, and promised, “We’re gonna be here for you in your inbox every month. You never have to think about what you’re gonna read next ever again.”