BLACKBOOK EXCLUSIVE: Chuck Palahniuk at the BLACKBARN x One Grand Books Summer Reading Series at the BlackBarn Restaurant in Chelsea


Since the release of Fight Club in 1996, Chuck Palahniuk has been one of America’s most celebrated (and subversive) authors. Now back with his first book in four years, last night, Palahniuk sat down with BlackBook Editor-in-Chief and One Grand Books founder, Aaron Hicklin, inside the BLACKBARN Restaurant in Chelsea Market, to read from and answer questions about his latest, Adjustment Day, as part of One Grand’s Summer Reading series in partnership with BLACKBARN.

For Palahniuk, Adjustment Day is the exaggerated outcome of our already extreme current political climate — nations based on identity politics, and fueled by fake news, conspiracy theories, and heightened emotion. In the book, he quotes John Adams: “Remember, Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself” — that seems to be the Adjustment Day anthem. Inspired by Ira Levin (the author behind Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, among others) Palahniuk wanted to illustrate our collective fears in the current environment. “Fascism, racism, separatism” — the author wanted to explore the violent conclusion of our social conscious. But he also sees the novel as just another “girl-meets-boy love story.”



Publishers didn’t agree. Palahniuk said he was almost ready to self-release the book after his longtime publisher said it was too dangerous to issue. That’s nothing new to the author who reminisced last night about the challenges of getting picked up at the beginning of his career. Then, he was shopping around an early draft of what would become his 1999 book, Invisible Monsters, and could not find a taker. Finally, he approached Jerry Howard, a publisher at W.W. Norton (the company that ended up releasing Adjustment Day), but only after Palahniuk forced a sit-down between the two by playing David Bowie’s “Young Americans” on heavy repeat on the jukebox, driving the others authors vying to speak with Howard out of the bar.

Palahniuk also read “The Facts of Life,” from his 2015 short story collection, Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread. Although it is basically a porno with a lot of dark comedy (that includes a mid-sex spontaneous combustion), the story showcases what the author does best in novels like Adjustment Day and Fight Club. Palahniuk has an uncanny ability to not just document, but exploit human anxiety in a way that’s both completely unnerving, but also cathartic. He tackles sex (definitely in the case of “The Facts of Life”), love, compulsion and politics, all in a way that doesn’t just satirize our humanity, but holds up a mirror to it. With Adjustment Day, he examines the nature of equally extreme and opposing ideologies, warning of a disastrous future if things continue the way they have been. But like he writes in the book’s millennial “Declaration of Interdependence,” “A smile is your best bulletproof vest. The joy of fiction is that it only needs to smell true.”


View photos from our sit-down with the author below, and buy Adjustment Day here.



Photos by Daniel Jonhson


The Tom of Finland House is Now a (NSFW) Coffee Table Book

Photography: Martyn Thompson

Up in the hills of Los Angeles’ Echo Park stands a shrine to one of the most iconic homoerotic illustrators, Touko Laaksonen, AKA Tom of Finland. Tom House, as it’s known officially, is where Laaksonen lived and worked during the last decade of his life. The Craftsman home is now a multipurpose venue serving as the headquarters of the Tom of Finland Foundation, a shelter for runaway LGBTQ youth, a gallery for outsider art, and a shrine space immortalizing Laaksonen’s legacy and his authentic vision of cult homoerotic sexuality.


Michael Reynolds, a popular New York based Creative Director discovered Tom House in the late ’90s and was instantly captivated. Most recently, he’s partnered with acclaimed writer/editor, Mayer Rus, and celebrated photographer, Martyn Thompson, to collectively capture Tom House into a new Rizzoli-published coffee table art book.  Their idea was to give readers an immersive eye into the private interior world of all the dreams and desires that were—and still are—Tom of Finland.

“Tom House is like a living breathing commune and at the same time it’s this incredible repository of erotic art and gay culture,” Reynolds said. “It’s a gathering place, a safe place, a spiritual experience, an idea. It’s visually breathtaking. I had always thought it would make an amazing book.”


TOM HOUSE: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles (Rizzoli New York) is available now.

Early Unreleased Amy Winehouse Images to be Published in Crowdfunded Photography Book

Photo via Kickstarter

“The first time I met Amy Winehouse was the day I shot her album cover Frank,” explains photographer Charles Moriarty, reminiscing how the two captured her debut LP’s artwork on Princeton Street after picking up white wine together in London. After years of coping with the Black to Black singer’s death in 2011, 34-year-old Moriarty’s ready to share unreleased photos from that distant, special day.

With the help of a Kickstarter, Moriarty’s raised sufficient funds to publish Before FRANK, a photography book which will feature between 50 to 60 never-before-seen images from when he captured Winehouse, then 19, in London and New York. With one week remaining in its fundraising lifespan, Before FRANK has already exceeded its original $21,249 goal.

Before FRANK will include an exclusive forward from Oscar-winning AMY director Asif Kapadia, and will be designed by Dutch designer Sybren Kuiper, who famously designed Viviane Sassens’ Flamboya. 

“I think the majority of people globally are only familiar with her second album, and the person she was toward the end of her life,” Moriarty told the Daily News. “I want to change that. I’d like people to have a fuller picture, to see the girl I knew.”

11 Books You Should Read Right Now

Photo: Toby Hudson

The following selections come from tiny indie press and big publishers alike, and the prose styles range from functional to stylized to decidedly unorthodox. The protagonists are varied, too: a Chinese Muslim immigrant, trailer park teens, an abused Irish girl, a celebrated New York novelist, a serial killer. What these books have in common is they are not boring, and it’s likely at least one of them is the kind you would love, and gladly suggest to a friend.

Ugly Girls, by Lindsay Hunter

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like voice-y prose, compelling plots, and/or memorable characters

Lindsay Hunter, proven purveyor of entertaining short stories featuring un-prissy, gloriously undignified characters, delivered in a prose style that is verbal, slangy, and slyly poignant, has written her first novel, and it is, happily, quite absorbing. Two young trailer park girls and head-butting best friends, Perry and Baby Girl, sneak out of their trailers, steal cars for thrills, and fall victim to a mysterious stalker, who claims to be a high school boy named “Jamey.” Hunter’s work is all about voice, and the voice of this book really draws me in. Also, the characters are what they call memorable — you feel as if you get to know them reading this book. #FP

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like James Joyce and aren’t squeamish about violent sexual content

This book has been widely praised and laureled after the author, a Liverpool-born Irish woman, struggled for nine years to find a publisher. The word on Half-Formed Thing is that it reads a bit like Joyce, which is understandable, because the language of the book lives in a fragmentary conscious mind, that of an unnamed young woman whose father abandons her, mother berates her, who struggles to communicate with her brain-damaged brother, and who survives violent sexual abuse by strangers and family alike. You may find its prose hypnotic or you may find it repetitive and annoying. To me, the book is a unique marvel, and the protagonist and author are both, in a way, heroines, prevailers. #FP

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like absorbing classic storytelling involving friendships and romance

The third book of the Neapolitan series of novels by pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante is available, assuming you’ve already read and enjoyed the first two volumes. The series, and the mysterious Ferrante herself, are becoming an international sensation, with fans that include the great John Waters. The books are told by a narrator named Elena and mostly concern her tempestuous relationship with a childhood friend, Lila, and their changing fortunes as time passes and lovers come and go. Ferrante appears to be both a classic storyteller and a committed artist. #FP #T

Women in Clothes, Edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You want to read many different women’s perspectives on what they wear and how it shapes their lives

A survey about personal style passed around among friends of the editors has evolved into a book filled with stories and thoughts about dressing and style from a diverse group of writers, activists, and artists, including Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon, Kalpona Akter, Miranda July, and Roxane Gay. This book inverts the focus of the fashion/celebrity media, which relentlessly presents women’s outer appearances but typically not their personal histories or the thought processes behind their self-presentation. Includes interviews, essays, photos, and more. #FP #POC #LGBTQ

Preparation for the Next Life, by Atticus Lish

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like carefully stylized prose and reading about non-bourgeois people

Here is an acclaimed debut novel published by Tyrant Books, which is run by the great Giancarlo DiTrapano and has an impressive track record of publishing not-boring books about which people actually give a shit (the press’s roster includes Marie Calloway and Scott McClanahan). Adding to the pedigree, Atticus is the son of Gordon Lish, Captain Fiction, tyrant of prose style. But Atticus has earned this book’s rave reviews with his own distinctive voice and a compelling love story involving a Chinese Muslim illegal immigrant and an Iraq War veteran. For me, the main attraction is the confident, spellbinding prose. #POC #MP

Letters from a Seducer, by Hilda Hilst

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You are down with provocative, formally challenging literature

This book, one of several by the celebrated avant-garde Brazilian author to finally be translated into English, is from a controversial tetralogy written toward the end of her life that was widely condemned as “pornographic.” Its content and form are equally challenging: the book consists of three different sections, the first of which is a series of highly sexual letters from a wealthy, amoral, depraved man named Karl to his chaste sister, Cordelia. The second part concerns a poet named Stamatius, who finds Karl’s letters and relates to them in a surprising way, which you’ll have to read the book to find out about. #FP #POC #T

Rome, by Dorothea Lasky

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like unpretentious, personal, clever poems

Dorothea Lasky has been celebrated for a while now amongst online poets and small-press people, but more recently she has had poems in big-deal magazines and seems to be becoming ever more popular — you can check out “Porn” from this collection in the Paris Review as a good taste test for the book. Lasky often talks reflexively about the making of poems in the poems themselves, and in 2010 released a polemical chapbook called Poetry is Not a Project, which argues that writing poetry is an intuitive act moreso than part of an intellectual enterprise. I’m down with that idea, and I admire a great deal of these poems, which are approachable but also quite sly. #FP

300,000,000, by Blake Butler

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: A dark, violent, weirdly-written book about an insane serial killer sounds appealing to you

Blake Butler, as co-founder of the now-defunct website HTMLGiant, has done a lot to build community amongst online-fluent authors and poets, especially the experimental writers who don’t fit in the mainstream. Butler’s consistent advocacy for dark, strange, experimental art as a critic at HTMLGiant and more recently as a columnist for Vice also bleeds into his fiction, never more so than in his recently published magnum opus, 300,000,000, which was inspired by, amongst other things, Roberto Bolano’s 2666. Butler’s book involves a serial killer named Gretch Nathaniel Gravey, who is piling up his victim’s bodies in his home, called the Black House, and a detective, E.N. Flood, who is charged with decoding Gravey’s bizarre and chilling diary entries. The way the book alternates between the diary entries and Flood’s sane analysis makes for an engaging reading experience, as long as you’re down with ceaseless carnage and Butler’s unorthodox prose style. #MP

Even Though I Don’t Miss You, by Chelsea Martin

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like uncomfortably honest writing about contemporary relationships

This book, published by the indie press Short Flight/Long Drive Books, is a long confessional prose poem that probes the banality, bleakness, and affection of a contemporary relationship between educated, privileged, but somewhat aimless and broke young people. Some readers will identify in a very personal way with the protagonist’s confusion and constantly shifting emotions toward her boyfriend. And Martin’s deadpan sense of humor reminds me of Daria or Aubrey Plaza. #FP

10:04, by Ben Lerner

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like intelligent, ambitious, highly autobiographical fiction

Ben Lerner’s debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, turned an already admired poet into an extremely celebrated novelist, and his follow-up, 10:04, self-reflexively examines the life of an extremely celebrated novelist trying to live up to expectations with his second novel. The meta-ness of the novel’s characters and events is not a gimmick but rather the engine of its ambition to, as Lerner puts it, “work my way from irony to sincerity in the sinking city, a would-be Whitman of the vulnerable grid.” It is a novel of contemporary New York, specifically the contemporary New York big-publishing literary world, and though the book’s interest in and candor about the author’s real life experience is compelling, to me its chief virtue is its smooth, detached prose, which describes with wry precision but carries the reader urgently, uncannily along to a somewhat surprising finish. #MP

Can’t and Won’t, by Lydia Davis

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You enjoy creative, witty, non-boring short fiction

This is the book if you’ve already read her Collected Stories and you, understandably, want even more from Lydia Davis, one of the few contemporary writers who seems destined to be remembered many decades from now. Davis has been widely praised for revitalizing and reimagining the short story until it can’t properly be called a “story” anymore — some pieces are merely one enigmatic sentence. What is also refreshing and wonderful about Davis is that she is experimental but not pretentious, and not above writing about recognizably contemporary humans doing common things people do. But her imagination, her stimulating turns of phrase, and her great sense of humor make her work consistently sui generis. #FP


Info Key

FP = Female Protagonist(s) or Author
MP = Male Protagonist(s) or Author
LGBTQ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer Protagonist(s) or Author
POC = Person of Color Author or Person or People of Color as Protagonist(s)
T = Translated from a different language

Let Get Intimate… And Talk About Our Clothes. Curl Up with These Reads On Sunday

On Sunday night my best friend spent a solid five hours helping me organize my unruly wardrobe–“That’s the skirt I wore when we had just dessert at Spice Market.”  “Remember when I wore maxis for a month in senior year.” “That’s the dress I wore on the date for the third anniversary.” Almost every piece evoked a memory, a story, an embarrassment, a phase…it’s the case for many women (and men!), really, in fact, the inextricable relationship between our clothes and our lives served as inspiration for two semi-recent book releases I’m finally getting a chance to delve into.

One thing I find special, and enticing about both books is that they give legitimacy to clothes (forget, for a moment, words like fashion or style) and prove, in a way that is, to me, indisputable, that clothes are often imbued with meaning, be it sentimental or politician in a way that is often ignored.

Worn Stories, edited by Emily Spivack,and Women In Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanna Shapton (“& 639 others”) are both effective in showing the meaning of clothes to people famous and non-famous, industry-involved and otherwise.

Worn Stories, edited by Emily Spivack

Worn Stories is a series of vignettes–each juxtaposed with a photograph. Contributors include Simon Doonan reflecting on a pair of shorts inextricably tied, in his memory, to the AIDS epidemic in 80’s L.A., to Maira Kalman’s paragraph about a green cardigan her mother liked on her. Stories come, somewhat primarily, from artists (visual or digital, writers, designers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) but also from lawyers, professors, and more.

worn stories


Women In Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanna Shapton (“& 639 others”)

Women in Clothes clocks in at almost 500 pages, which almost seems short when I think about how perfect that three-word-title is for a subject so rife with emotion and memory for myself and so many of the women in my life. The book is text-heavy but includes an extensive photo series of Zosia Mamet imitating poses from fashion editorials in a black leotard. Tavi Gevinson writes an essay called “Color Taxonomy,” Lena Dunham is interviewed. One of my favorite pieces though is a paragraph of dialogue between two women in the changing room of a NYC gym in which one asks the other where she bought her bra.

Though the premises are similar each book brings a unique perspective, not to mention contributors, to the table. Highly recommended for anyone in clothes.

women in clothes


Dennis Cooper Interview in Fanzine: Four Must-Read Quotes

 Dennis Cooper  photographed for the NYT by Mikael Jansson in 2012 alongside Salmon Rushdie and Martin Amis.

Just the sight of one of his book’s covers sends shivers down our spine. Novelist Dennis Cooper’s writing pushes the boundaries of subversive prose and subjective reader experience into a realm no other contemporary writer touches—and this includes the very non-straightforward version of cultural collage-boarding that is his sometimes bizarre, always deeply informative blog. It’s a shame he isn’t interviewed in depth more often, but thankfully Fanzine recently posted a great Q&A, which is total required reading. These are our favorite quotes, but check out the rest of the piece on the Fanzine site.

On Teenagers as a subject for the art of his writing:

“I had this very strong sense that teenagers were disrespected and I still feel that way— that they’re disrespected as people. They’re eroticized or dismissed, and the way they’re treated by the law – sometimes they’re kids, sometimes they’re adults. The adult world are complete control freaks about teenagers: they don’t like them, they resent them and their freedoms and sexualities. So all of that has been really interesting to me.”

On the good and evil in humanity:

“I think people are mostly good. I’m a super optimist and idealist. If you’re an anarchist, you have to believe that people are essentially good and the corruptions and distortions all come from power structures and things that overly organize people into monsters, or greedy people, or racists – but that deep down they’re not bad. I’ve never really had that view challenged by anything.”


On identity politics:

I’m fine with being gay, but I’m not interested in it. I’ve never been interested in it. I don’t feel a sense of community, and I don’t think it means anything about me. If I meet someone, or I’m talking with someone, or I’m on Facebook with someone, or whatever, and that’s really important to them – the fact that they’re gay – then that’s important to them. The same with people who are really engaged with and invested in their gender, or race, or whatever. But it’s not immediately going, “Okay, this is a Hispanic woman who has this financial background and grew up in this city.” It’s about getting rid of all of that, and finding out what’s important to you and how you define yourself.

On language masking honesty:

“Language is a total compromise. You can’t be honest, you can’t completely say what you feel, because as soon as you talk you have to use language, which inherently censors emotion. And then you’re talking to someone, and you want them to be interested in what you’re saying, so you talk to them in a certain way that makes them interested and makes them like you. That’s what is so interesting about writing – trying to deal with that, trying to figure out how to use this really strict graph, when you don’t even know exactly what you’re feeling or thinking when you’re overwhelmed.”


TALE Podast: Behind the Storytelling with Kelli Dunham & Christine Gentry


The TALE is a NYC storytelling show.

Podcasts are like radio – except over the Internet and no one gets paid.

TALE Podcast is like VH1’s Behind The Music, but without guitars (or drums for that matter) – and very much so with storytelling. Basically, cohost Alex Schmidt and myself dig deeper into storytellers’ tales to find out more.

Storytelling shows are huge in New York City. To update, storytelling is the new Pilates, which is the new selfie, which is the new non-racist tweet. It’s just that popular.

TALE podcast brings you the best storytellers in NYC with cred built from places like NPR, Comedy Central, McSweeney’s, Vice, The Nation, and HBO.

This week’s stories and guest:
Kelli Dunham is everyone’s favorite ex-nun, genderqueer, nerd comic (she talks more about that combination), and the author of numerous books.

Christine Gentry’s work has been published in Word Riot, Flashquake, and Printer’s Devil Review magazines, and her oral stories have been featured on the Story Collider, RISK, and This American Life podcasts.

Alex and I find out more with what’s behind the stories.

Listen here:

Admiring the Best First Lines of Your Favorite Novels

“A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house,” reads the first line of Raymond Carver’s short story “Viewfinder.” Albeit a brief and succinct sentence, he evokes such strangely perverse yet mundane and potent imagery—allowing the sentence to truly come to life and remain fixated in my mind for years. But when it comes to great works of literature, there’s something about the hook of a first sentence that has the ability to thrill and capture, and regardless of the rest of the text, engrain itself into your brain’s catalogue of page-turning memories long after.

And for all of history’s most famed and acclaimed novels, there’s certainly a wealth of wonderful opening sentences, which American Book Review have pointed out with a look at their 100 best of. From F. Scott Fitzgerald and Kurt Vonnegut to Saul Bellow and Robert Coover, below you can a handful see their selections for greatest lines—and for the full list, head HERE.

The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. —Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. —Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. —Ha Jin, Waiting (1999)
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. —Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. —Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. —Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. —Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

Bonus: Check out, The Atlantic’s collection of 22 writers’ favorite first lines of books.