Maybe my last flowers from the corner shop that only opened last year. They’ve had to close, florists like bookstores being incorrectly categorized among the non-essential businesses in New York City. These flowers lasted well but I finally had to put them in the trash. Without flowers on the bookshelf near the window the room feels less alive—although the flowers weren’t alive, of course, they had been, and I felt more in touch with life around them. With their absence a balance has shifted uncomfortably towards hard matter, printed and made stuff. I sit off-kilter amidst its bulk; something free-form and buoyant those corner bouquets were supplying made a weightier difference than I knew.
I’m wishing I’d stocked up on artificial flowers. They’d fool me frequently enough, I think.
The florist who sold me the last flowers seemed entirely sad and I walked out convinced they’d never reopen. Out of a job, he may have been sad for that cause alone, however. As businesses go it might be secure, maybe more than secure; sure to return but with brand new staff, one little outpost of a downscale floral shop monopoly that is itself only the slenderest tentacle in some massive conglomerate with indestructible economic staying power. Time will tell.
Or it could be forever that a genuine small business closed there—the embodied dream of an entrepreneur, most likely an immigrant, inspired to combine Quinceañera reception aesthetics, decorative Russian and Latina counter help, loud hip-hop music in multiple languages, petal dyes, spray fixatives, and an accent on roses and pre-assembled bouquets, with and without balloons. In which case I salute that syncretic soul, a fellow dreamer, sending gratitude and sympathy. Half a block away I have my small business too, with this website storefront.
Far from being the lifeless, untended time that a full three-month gap on the homepage makes it appear, here at Nostalgistudio Winter 2020 was busy. Substantial handwritten edits for a second edition of LAMENT took weeks; the digital revisions have taken more. The end is in sight, however! Which is what I was telling a friend on the phone not long ago, near the start of our current lockdown; when she mentioned a recent essay of mine she’d read which ended up being all about how I wasn’t going to do a second edition of that book.
With slightly dizzying dismay, I realized my friend was right. And it was true, I’d decided against the idea very strongly at one point, and had worked this decision into an essay I was writing at the time. Which hadn’t stopped me from pulling out an extra-fine tipped red pen and jumping in anyhow, to spend what turn into months reimmersed in a very long novel. Yet not only had I published that essay as a statement of authorial principle, I’d left it hanging there in the storefront website without alteration while I worked in virtual secrecy and full commercial silence doing everything to contradict it. What a way to run a small business! I am used to being embarrassed but this felt like a new low.
Pausing to revisit the lines in question, I see again how simply it could have been done. Not only that; the piece might “work” better if cut to fit future (that is, present) reality. Which would be too ironic, since those lines go out of their way to condemn exactly this sort of uneasy, second-guessing perfectionism; to tamper there would be to prove a case against myself, though no evidence were left—leaving aside the memories of my readers and friends and of course this confession, which I will set down for future deletion, Whack-a-Mole style, in case I change my mind again.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of photographs to support the most recent essay. The author-publisher (masked, that day) and new plots of earth on the sidewalk (a few days later).
Wishing good health and good cheer to all,
A long time between updates coincides with what’s been a slow sales period, to say the least–although for better or worse a copy of LAMENT has sold in China. Inactive these months have not been, however, at Nostalgistudio.
Author-publisher Liz Mackie wrote about the failure to sell books in a new free essay, illustrated with Internet Archive-derived marbled endpapers from Victorian era books of natural history.
She adds, “The essay concerns islands, too, among its metaphors, which along with a mention of Walt Whitman (born here) sent me in search of Long Island in old photographs. Of course I went straight to the New York Public Library (via Internet Archive), and there found views I’ve begun to post in versions that recall the exceptional light on Long Island and how I remember it looking on my years and years of visits here, starting in childhood.”
Newly featured atop the site since the last update, Related media offers topical real-world links of relevance to Nostalgistudio titles. The first, in October, brought news of Transnistria, where so much of LAMENT takes place.
Liz Mackie concludes, “Having raised expectations over previous months for this Publisher’s Page with almost prodigal offerings of passionate book reviews, I regret any disappointment a long silence has caused. I also regret, very much, not writing about Bernandine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman as soon as I finished it this summer, because I loved it so much and was praising it to everyone; and now she’s won the Booker Prize! I’m happy for this marvelous writer. Missing a chance to look prescient always smarts, though. Evaristo’s prize-winner hits the US in December–I recommend Mr Loverman now.”
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It’s turned into the Summer of Essays at Nostalgistudio. After author-publisher Liz Mackie’s Fourth of July effort brought such a gratifying response on Facebook, and once the worst of the heatwave was over, she pulled out some notes from around Christmas about play-going and got to work on them. The idea behind such a project is that people admiring these free essays will share them widely and draw others to this Nostalgistudio site, where they will learn about the FOUR BOOKS for sale now.
For those left wondering, mother Myrna’s vocal problem of 3rd July turned out to be a one-off episode.
Full of theater and steeped in its influence, Nostalgistudio books could really be said to be written for people who love theater, dramatic arts, performance of all kinds. In truth, the (real-life) State Yiddish Theater in Birobidzhan becomes far more central to the characters in LAMENT than it ever was to the people they’re based on, at least so far as known. Elsewhere, The Lutheran, the short third part of FAMEPUNK, involves its titular hero with Long Island’s renowned (and made-up) Moscow Talent School in a rogue community theater production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.
As for essays, they’re appealing right now, to a wide public as well as to writers. And any re-reading of Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader First Series is bound to be influential (link to Project Gutenberg Australia, a good resource). There’s an aspect of recreation to them, too. Weekends and nights this high summer have seen the founder of Nostalgistudio alternating between sand and fan-cooled sofa, immersed in three of her favorite things–reflecting on play-going, writing words in a notebook, and complaining bitterly about her defenseless old mother–here at last combined. Comments are welcome (all those left on this site will receive thoughtful responses) and sharing already encouraged.
Thank you for reading. Enjoy the rest of your summer or winter as the case may be.
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A most exciting and fruitful of seasons at Nostalgistudio comes direct to readers with the release of new bounties.
First, an unusual first-person essay by author and publisher Liz Mackie, preoccupied with living space on a national holiday. If you like it, please share freely.
Next, FAMEPUNK. The long-awaited new Nostalgistudio digital editions are here:
These are fully revisited, freshly tuned versions of an historical fantasy saga in progress–one that tracks, among other things, the effects of the Cold War and aftermath on the lives of fictional tennis players.
- Part 3: The Lutheran is short and funny, a good introduction to the series, and offers a nice chance to relive the holiday fall of the Soviet empire for only $2.99.
- Part 2: Middlemarch is almost as long as its namesake, contains much more explicit sex, and centers on a wild and dangerous lesbian romance between two young champions. Here you’ll find an excerpt from the first edition.
- Part 1: US Open 1987 which remains the very best place to start contains some new introductory text discussed here.
Please visit the Buy Digital page on this site for links to your preferred e-reading platforms. Pre-order details for the new print editions will be released soon.
Earth Day Greetings from Nostalgistudio, where we do the best we can.
First, some Publisher’s Boasting. Two weeks ago for the first time with my Form 1040 I filed a schedule C, the one for Profit and Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). My wonderful accountant Janet at H.&R. Block was helpful and encouraging as ever. I ran at a loss this first year naturally, with set-up, registration, book production and promotion costs that gross receipts or sales couldn’t begin to cover. But those grosses’ running into the mid-two figures was a huge encouragement after a long string of pocket change years to report. As for Nostalgistudio’s future, I’m optimistic. I’m also raising e-book prices this week so hurry and save a dollar before Friday.
And now, a few more book recommendations:
Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf. Presently I’m reading all Virginia Woolf’s books in order of publication. Emptying my mother’s apartment last summer after she wound up in a nursing home, an excellent one, among the stuff I packed to come home to Brooklyn with me was a five-volume set of Virginia Woolf’s diaries, which I am also reading–I’ve finished two so far, taking me through 1924. My project is to read the books in tandem with the related diary years. Next come the two she published in 1925, The Common Reader First Series and Mrs Dalloway, both of which I’ve read before; but those were the earliest of her works I knew. This winter all for the first time, downloaded from Project Gutenberg onto my Kindle, I’ve read The Voyage Out, her first novel, Night and Day, her second, and Monday or Tuesday, the amazing collection I recommended here in January. Then the climax, published in 1922: Jacob’s Room. Where Virginia Woolf felt, rightly, that she broke out as a writer of novels working true to her own perceptions and standards. A hard won fight spanning a tragic war and many personal adversities (along with many time-consuming real estate transactions plus house hunting weekends, I’ve got to note a little sourly) left her with the victory of a perfect and wholly mature individual style. The result a masterpiece that left me awestruck.
What E.M. Forster thought of her novels was the only opinion Virginia Woolf took seriously when she first started publishing them. Learning this from her diaries inspired me to read E.M. Forster. I’d always avoided him out of a bad unreasoning prejudice and now that I’ve finally started reading his books in order of publication, each is for the first time. He was friendly with the Woolfs, who published some shorter works of his at their Hogarth Press. Forster wrote A Passage to India under Leonard’s encouragement, there’d been a gap of almost twenty years since his last novel. The rest pre-date Virginia’s early books by more than a decade. Reading them almost alongside one another, I’m struck by the multitude of echoes, her characters and plot-lines answering his. He was a model and she studied him, worked him over, moved on. She feels a little heartless by comparison. The Longest Journey, Forster’s favorite among all his books, is enormously lovable after a difficult start. I knew nothing about the story (it’s never been filmed) and would recommend all readers to follow my lead, if possible: skip even a single synopsis and just dive in, for the novel is full of plot twists and genuinely moving surprises.
A first-person narrative. Contemporary, new. A prize-winner. I don’t read many books like this but I was so intrigued by the sentences Dwight Garner quoted in his uncomprehending New York Times review that I ordered Milkman by Anna Burns for my Kindle and started it between E. M. Forster novels. I discovered Milkman to be such a good book and above all such a pleasure to read, I kept thinking it should be called Milkshake. Marvelous wit in every line, life bursting out of it, funny and wicked and truthful, with a brave and lovable heroine–all this and crystalline detail brought to an important historical novel about life in 1970s Belfast during Northern Ireland’s Troubles, written by a living witness. Feck Dwight Garner, read Milkman.
Gifted with a review copy of Sallie Tisdale’s Advice for Future Corpses * And Those Who Love Them: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, I put it right with to-be-reads, near the end of the shelf. Not in the least jumping in; but I never forgot it was there. It called to me, a person with elderly parents, one parent recently dead the other seemingly immortal. It might have been a wish to read best-case-scenarios that prompted me to pull this book out and start it. I discovered a wise, absolutely trustworthy authorial voice, right away this comes through. There could be no better guide through the many upsetting and often frightening facts and scenarios of which such a book is necessarily composed–and it is entirely fact-based. As well as being an accomplished writer, Sallie Tisdale is palliative care nurse and practicing Buddhist who recommends that we all make Living Wills and Death Plans. I finished the book a few weeks ago but so far I am still procrastinating.
Until next time, my thanks to all loyal, kind, and intrepid readers. Please comment if you can, all are invited to share thoughts. To inspire you, here’s my favorite stretch again of my after-work walk down towards the Battery.
Greetings from Nostalgistudio, where winter is a time for gathering creative forces–and for reading! A lot of both happening around here. Thanks, as always, to all stalwart and loyal readers. In the interests of collegiality, for those who like writing by women I offer some book recommendations gleaned from recent enjoyments:
Five Spice Street by Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping. Hilarity, surreality, and an irresistible femme fatale combine forces against propriety, in a feast packed with pure imagination from one of China’s most interesting writers.
Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf. From 1920, a collection of shorter pieces; significantly for Nostalgistudio, this was the first of her books that Virginia Woolf issued from Hogarth Press, which she ran privately with her husband Leonard. Beautiful from start to finish and available via public domain.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien. Released from the spell of a genocidal dictator in disguise, a privileged Irishwoman takes her place among contemporary London’s dispossessed and refugees. If you’ve never read Edna O’Brien, here’s some appreciation from Canada to prepare you.
Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Ursula Le Guin. A treasure trove of gorgeous thought and imagery from an overlooked (although she won the Nobel Prize!) and much traveled Chilean poet. Offered in the original Spanish with English versions beautifully rendered by the American genius who died last year.
Faith Fox by Jane Gardam. Always this novelist’s stories take strangely unexpected but quite perfect turns. This one had me in tears by the beautiful final pages. Discover Jane Gardam!
And here is a look at winter trees from my favorite after-work walk down the Hudson River to Battery Park. Stay warm out there.
Another personal note from Liz Mackie: Haven’t updated in a little while, but I’m delighted to say that the print edition of LAMENT is done, on sale at major on-line retailers, and selling. Here are my friend and muse and story-giver Larissa and me at a local cafe, showing it off:
A word of grateful acknowledgement for IngramSparks: a terrific company that puts out a fine product and follows through on distribution. Among my next steps, I’ve put together a press release and will be getting the word about LAMENT out to anyone I can think of. Two generous anonymous readers have left five-star reviews on Amazon.com. This is a big help! Any writer-publisher going it mostly alone like this is 100% dependent on readers to generate excitement about the work. So, if you’re excited, or even merely pleased, please speak up. All are welcome to share the press release as well; download from this site or contact me for copies.
Meanwhile watch these pages for more insight into the world of LAMENT as well as other upcoming Nostalgistudio titles…
And here’s a photo taken on the way between my office downtown and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, one of my favorite walks in Lower Manhattan, taken last month on Halloween.
A personal note from Liz Mackie: Here we were last Saturday on 8.18.18, me and my friends, celebrating seeing LAMENT in print at last! Larissa Mikhaylova on the left told me the story she’d heard from her massage patient Betya. On the right is our hostess, Lara’s daughter Marianna, who helped so much with translation and research. The book could not exist without them.
This has been a big endeavor, and it’s not over yet. Through my own clumsiness with files a couple of Yiddish phrases didn’t print right. Needing to fix that set me off on a full-scale read-through and proofing. Though I can always find things to fiddle at and polish, the book reads very well, I think. I’m looking forward to being able to offer the finished result on September 15, when print copies of LAMENT will go sale. More on this to come…