Letter from the Editor
If you’re anything like me, you prowl the table displays and bookshelves of your local bookseller each week with a list that’s been building in your head for years, even decades. The list is long and ambitious, growing more so. It’s an impossible task we’ve set upon, but as long as we’re still breathing, we’ve resolved to hold ourselves to it.
What are we looking for?
On my own list I have Anna Karenina, Dostoevsky’s entire oeuvre, all of Proust (who’s been on there since the days when I pronounced him Prowst), George Eliot (who’s been on since the days when I thought she was a man). There are more, of course; my list is so long it would take my lifetime and yours to tick off every title. And why would I want to? Like you, I live to read.
Armed with this massive to-do list, we set out on our search. Still, we browse, eaves drop on other customers, spy on what they have in their hands. We’re looking and listening because at any moment something might call out to us, a book so pressing that it just might bypass all of Proust, Anna Karenina, George Eliot, Dostoevsky’s entire oeuvre, and go straight to the top. Isn’t it true, we also read for the discovery.
Those of us at the Review find it particularly exciting when one of these books happens to be a debut, because for those of us who love to read, a debut book is an event. We come to expect certain things from the canon; we bring our own prejudices—I know I do. In fact, there are several authors on my list who I read with a red pen in my hand, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read them. With a debut book, there really are no preconceived notions. Our minds are empty, we’re ready for a new voice.
Over the past few months, our contributors have sifted through catalog after catalog, and searched high and low in their local bookshops for good books. No author was too big and no press was too small. Our guidelines were simple: debuts, works in translation published in the US for the first time, and books by relatively new writers, still early in their career.
Because of the sheer quantity of books being published, the good ones, the really good ones, aren’t always found in book reviews such as this one. So we need to stay out there and keep looking for ourselves, as we’ve always done, if we want to make another discovery. Tottenville Review is very much a collaborative, where each contributor went out and discovered something new and exciting. And we came up with our own list, works that provoked us to add to the dialogue, to talk into the atmosphere. And the three writers in our interview series—Rivka Galchen, Porochista Khakpour, and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh—all authors of recent debuts, reminded us in conversation why we love books, and why we need them.