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What We’re Reading

Cheston Knapp (Managing editor of Tin House): For the past few years my wife and I have flown back east to spend Christmas with my parents, on their twenty-ish acre farm in rural Virginia. But this year we decided to stay put, have it at our house in Portland. We resolved to start traditions of our own. We got a tree and decorated it, made cookies and decorated them. We lit fires, lounged by them. We did this thing with the stockings and garland I won’t tell you about. And while we never fully shook the nagging guilt, we experienced a depth of comfort new to both of us. I got curious about this idea and in my reading came across this book called Home: A Short History of an Idea, by Witold Rybczynski, which explores the origins and development of the relation between homes and comfort. It’s full of delightful little historical anecdotes and architectural factoids and was just what I was looking for one overcast afternoon. I recommend reading it on the couch, in front of a fire, wrapped in a blanket.

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Lance Cleland (Workshop Director): I just finished Alejandro Zamba’s Bonsai, a terrifically moving novella about a young man’s first love, an event, in the narrator’s words, that is “a simple story that becomes complicated.” And while that description could describe almost any love affair, what sets this work apart is the virtuosity of Zambra’s prose. Every sentence dazzles, acrobatically describing both the emotional landscape of the affair, as well as the implications it had on the artistic life of the narrator. The mix of the personal with the metafictional forms a perfect symmetry, allowing Zambra to cover an exceptional amount of ground in just under ninety pages. I cannot wait to see what he does with a larger canvas, as his novel, Ways of Going Home, debuted in English last week.

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Rob Spillman (Editor of Tin House): Jess Walter‘s Beautiful Ruins. I feel like a dunce for not reading this earlier, when every single literary person I know and trust was pushing this on me. It really is wonderful. Literally.

The Poems of Francois Villon, a new translation by David Georgi. What fresh, vibrant translations these are! Of the ribald, wild 15th Century French criminal who escaped hanging at age 32 and disappeared from Paris forever. The original outlaw poet.

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Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I am only fifty pages into Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones but I already know that it will break my heart and  that I will love every moment of it.

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Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): With hopes of getting 2013 off to a good start, I’ve started rereading one of my all time faves—Charles Portis’ The Dog of the South. This book can make me laugh like no other. It opens with our main player, Ray Midge, coming home to find out his wife, Norma, has run away with Guy Dupree (best smarmy bad guy name of all time), taking his car, his credit cards, and his favorite gun. Ray gives chase in Guy’s old clunker (abandoned in Ray’s parking spot), following a breadcrumb trail of his own credit card transactions. It’s wildly funny and totally sad and I can’t wait to finish it and read it again next year.
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