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What We’re Reading
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I’m reading Airships by Barry Hannah. I read this collection in high school, again in college, and keep coming back to it every few years. I love “Testimony of Pilot, “(take a second and read An Amazing Sentence Shape by Kate Brittain), “Green Gets It,” and “Our Second Home.” But this week, for whatever reason, I’ve read “Love too Long” twice. It’s angry and sloppy and wild and raw and so, so good. It’s about a lot of things, but mainly a man who loved a woman too much. “Maybe I need to go to church, I said to myself. I can’t stand this alone. I wished I was Jesus. Somebody who never drank or wanted nooky. Or knew Jane.”
Heather Hartley (Paris Editor): The Duc de Saint-Simon, godson of Louis XIV, diplomat, writer and nobleman, was at the thriving, conniving heart of kingly intrigue, lust, love, war and and all things conspiratorial going down at the most powerful, sumptuous court of Europe, the incomparable Château de Versailles. Unlike most of the courtiers, Saint-Simon was a reverent, honest man who wrote with candor and clarity about the everyday affairs of the court. Intimate observer par excellence, not many of the Sun King’s secrets went unnoticed by his godson and were recorded with careful detail in his Memoirs of Louis De Rouvroy Duc De Saint. Of Louis XIV and his high court, he writes, “Others were not allowed to dream as he had lived,” while on a different note regarding newfangled instruments known as cutlery, Saint-Simon observes, “Seeing him eat olives with a fork!” Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way: Remembrance of Things Past is said to have been inspired by Saint-Simon’s writings, possibly encapsulated in the Duc’s observation, “The shortness of each day was his only sorrow.” A book to be savored over macarons and tea cakes in late afternoon gardens.
Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): This isn’t the first time that Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has made an appearance on Friday Reads, based on what I’ve seen my colleagues carting around lately, I suspect it won’t be the last. What’s blown me away about the book is the way Kushner manages to maintain such momentum even while she’s moving around in time. The narrative is discursive and often anecdotal, but never loses its drive. Even while she’s flashing back and stepping aside, she’s always moving us forward (appropriate for a book that takes speed as one it’s primary subjects). I’ve got forty pages to go, and I fear withdrawals—thankfully I’ve got an ARC of Elliott Holt’s You Are One of Them to calm my shakes.
Nanci McCloskey (Director of Publicity and Rights, Tin House Books): I just read Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I’ve read (and loved) Didion’s memoirs and essays, but I hadn’t read her novels. When I was browsing books in an LA bookstore, a perfect stranger said: You must read this. I just finished it, and I can’t stop talking about it. Sold. Play It As It Lays destroyed me (in the best way). It reminded me of reading Nathanael West for the first time. Didion works miracles in this book. The excruciatingly patient pacing. The elliptical storytelling. There’s nothing showy or pretentious; the book is profoundly moving.