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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
What We’re Reading
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): One of the books I picked up at AWP was Justin Torres’s debut, We the Animals, which I devoured on the plane ride home. Composed of sections that don’t so much tell stories as provide glimpses into the home life of a pack of mixed-race brothers, this short novel nonetheless comes together as an overall narrative and packs a heartbreaking wallop. Torres’s prose is stunning, and his characters and the events of their adolescent lives will haunt you for quite a while. I very much look forward to his next work.
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): At the urging of Nanci McCloskey, Tin House Director of Publicity, I am reading A.L. Kennedy’s Original Bliss. I’m in the homestretch, but it’s the kind of book I hate to finish. I read a few pages before going to sleep, and instead of going on, I reread and let the prose linger. It might not be the best book to read before bed—Kennedy gets me thinking instead of sleeping. The book is slight, just over 200 pages, but incredibly full. Helen Brindle—an abused housewife who recently lost her faith—makes for a grim subject, but Kennedy has a talent for handling the prickliest of scenarios with a brilliantly light touch.
Lance Cleland (Workshop Director): What to read on the plane…. is there a worse dilemma for a book lover (other than which first editions to sell to make rent)? Having long been bullied by our managing editor for not experiencing the pleasure that is Don DeLillo, I texted him prior to a recent departure and asked him to bring along the Don novel best suited for a cross country flight. End Zone is what landed in my lap.
I was shocked by how funny the book is. I never took the author to be a jokester, but the novel is filled with numerous laugh out loud moments, ranging from one line zingers to wonderfully constructed scenes that teeter between parody and true sentiment. By the time I got to the (famous?) scene of the players engaging in a wild game of pickup football in the snow, I was both laughing at the setup and fully invested in who would emerge victorious. Despite the ominous metaphor hanging in the background (football as nuclear warfare), this is a joyful novel, a perfect read for the plane, the beach, or in the stands.
Lauren Lederman (Editorial Intern, Tin House Books): I don’t reread books often, but recently I’ve been wanting more poetry in my life. I decided I’d revisit a collection I discovered a few years ago and fell in love with: One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds. Diving into this book again has reminded me how much I admire Olds’ ability to create incredibly vivid and intimate portraits of, among many things, a mother-daughter relationship. The collection tackles so many aspects of life and family and it amazes me how she never shies away from the tenderness and toughness and the dark humor of it all. It also makes me wonder why I haven’t reread this book sooner and reminds me that I need to get her newest book as soon as possible.
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): Last week I was very busy lying on the beach and inventing simple syrups for complicated cocktails. Despite these hardships, I was able to fit a bit of reading into my schedule.
A long flight allowed me to immerse myself in the brutal saga of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I read it slowly and let every achingly perfect line berate me for never practicing my own craft.
Also in my suitcase was Jodi Angel’s The History of Vegas. As a huge fan of You Only Get Letters from Jail, I was excited to dig into her first collection. Angel’s newer work is superior, but these earlier stories are equally compelling and tragic.
My most vacation-appropriate (though still quite dark) read was probably Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Russell can definitely write and these stories showcase her ability to seamlessly mix the fantastical with the everyday. My favorite piece, “Proving Up,” is atmospheric and unsettling, with a mysterious figure who would feel at home riding alongside McCarthy’s Judge.