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Books

Cover for Strangers to Youth
Strangers to Youth
Two Novellas
Vestal McIntyre
A fourteen-year-old ballerina gets swept up in a whirl of cocktails and haute couture under the mercurial attention of her uncle’s lover. A sweet punk rocker introduces us to the world's first conceptual band and the epic love story that is its undoing.
Why We Love It
There's no greater pleasure for an editor than introducing readers to a writer they're overwhelmingly likely to love. Vestal McIntyre is such a writer.

In fact, it's hard to imagine who wouldn't fall in love McIntyre's writing. He is earnest but sophisticated. He is wildly smart but expansively awe-struck. He has the wisdom of a saint and the ear of a musician.

These are qualities that have already earned him a collection of awards and comparison to the likes of Alice Munro. And yet he's still enough of a cult favorite that you can feel proud of "discovering" him. Lucky for you, these two novellas make the perfect introduction.

In "Almost Tall" fourteen-year-old Dinah finds herself plucked from her provincial midwestern ballet class and dropped in her uncle’s glittering New York penthouse. In "The Missing Clip-On" we hear the über-hip story of the world's first conceptual band through the voice of a secretly sincere punk rock chick who never really gets the hang of forging a life out of a "scene."

In both, genuinely lovable characters struggle with poise and pain against a New York City that seems determined to turn innocence into cynicism and the young into strangers to youth.
Cover for Washington Square
Washington Square
Henry James
One of the most touching heroines in literature, plain, good-hearted Catherine Sloper, is torn between her domineering father and her selfish fiancé. With its simple, moving story told in clear, graceful prose, this novella is a favorite even among those generally less enthusiastic about James.
Why We Love It
The pleasures of Washington Square come on many levels. There's the gorgeous prose, the psychological subtlety, the dialogue that seems to bring the characters into the room with you. There's the fun of reading about a New York City where chickens still roamed the dirt roads of midtown. There's also, for those who can supply the visual details, the sumptuous sweep of both gowns and vistas. And then there's the remarkable feat of a character made utterly unpredictable by her thoroughgoing decency.

Catherine Sloper has much in common with Vestal McIntyre's ingénues - she is innocent, she is good-hearted, she is about to be eaten alive by New York City. Their supporting casts, too, could switch books without much more than a costume change. And yet both writers seem to capture their times completely. That the stories take place more than a century and a half apart only adds to the richness of the comparison.

It's impossible, reading these works side by side, not to wonder how so little could have changed in the preoccupations and pitfalls of the city-dwelling American. But there's also comfort in seeing how little human nature changes even while we entirely remake the world around us.