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What We’re Reading

Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I read Martha Baillie’s The Incident Report in two sittings. Told in one-to-three-page chapters, Baillie’s novel is the best kind of quick read: a quick shot to the heart. Miriam, the librarian-narrator, reports her interactions with the regular (and often slightly disturbed and nutty) library patrons alongside her own story of grief over her father’s death and her slow willingness to fall in love with a man she meets on a park bench. She also keeps finding notes tucked in various places throughout the library; the notes are written by someone who believes he is Rigoletto, from Verdi’s opera, and that Miriam is his daughter, whom he must protect. Despite its seemingly straightforward approach and distant narrator, The Incident Report is a nuanced chronicle of grief, love, and the tensions between our private and public selves.

 

Diane Chonette (Art Director of Tin House): A short while after my son was born last year I was listening to Radiolab on NPR. In the episode titled, “Voices in Your Head”, Jad Abumrad talked to psychologist and novelist, Charles Fernyhough, about the connection between thought and the voice in your head. Fernyhough talked about his book, A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist’s Chronicle of His Daughter’s Developing Mind, and I immediately knew I had to get it. It’s been a year since I purchased it, but I am finally digging in to his wonderfully intimate study of memory and cognitive development. In a way, it may be too soon for me to begin the analysis of what is known and remains unknown about the tiny but complex brains of our babies, but it is reminding me to pay attention to and cherish as many of the extraordinary moments of awakening as I can as my little one defines himself. He won’t remember these days but I will.

 

Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I am reading Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany edited by Jay Jennings. I’m partial to Portis, party because he’s from Arkansas, earning his journalism degree in my hometown of Fayetteville. The title of the collection comes from my favorite Portis novel, Dog of the South: “A lot of people leave Arkansas and most of them come back sooner or later. They can’t quite achieve escape velocity.”

Portis’ newspaper reporting and writing has been, so far, the biggest treat. He covers the death of Elvis Presley’s mother, a hospital’s antismoking program, and a Klan Rally in Birmingham in 1963. It’s reportage, but it’s also Portis with killer lines like when Elvis ruminates outside  his mother’s hospital room, “Leaning on a windowsill in the hallway yesterday, he reflected moodily on the family’s pre-Cadillac days: ‘I like to do what I can for my folks. We didn’t have nothin’ before, nothin’ but a hard way to go.’”

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