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What We’re Reading
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): I just finished Tin House Books’s own Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor. I’m generally a slow reader, but I drunk this book down in one swift, gleeful gulp. The eponymous Mr. Booker, a dapper English film professor whose flirtatious coyness might actually be avoidance, had me thinking of the older man in An Education in the best possible way. But where that tale’s male lead is fundamentally a conman, Mr. Booker and his teenage mistress, Martha, are partners in crime, equally guilty of looking past the truth to keep a damned relationship afloat.
What drives the book forward, and what separates it from its teenage affair story competition, is Martha’s voice. She’s perceptive, candid, wry in a way only Australians can be, completely equipped to parry with Mr. Booker–and still just a kid. She and I both couldn’t turn away from what was happening, even when we both knew she was headed nowhere good.
Desiree Andrews (Assistant Editor, Tin House magazine): This isn’t a Friday Read—more of a lost and never found situation. When I was volunteering in Kolkata a few years ago, I ran across a copy of a book called The Affair. The book was dingy, yellow and clearly very old but it looked like it had never been opened. As I read it, the binding glue disintegrated and pages feel out in chunks.
The book was about a scientist who had once taught at a prestigious British university but had left for the private sector. He is called back into the cloistered world of academia when an old colleague whom everyone hates (partly because of his terrible personality and partly because of his affiliations with the communist party) is accused of falsifying test results in an experiment. Although the narrator also hates the accused, he goes back to act as his attorney in a case that pits the academic old guard against the younger, more progressive professors.
All of the characters in this book are British men over 45. There’s no sex, no crime (other than the crime of scapegoating an apparent asshole) and the whole thing takes place on a dreary university campus circa 1970. There is no reason why I should like this book yet I’ve been explicably obsessed with it since I left India. I wrote the author’s name down in a journal that was lost in transit. Armed with only the loose description I’ve shared here, the Internet has been no help. I think it just goes to show we only want what we can’t have and I want to read The Affair this Friday.
Heather Hartley (Paris Editor): I just picked up a second-hand copy of Marguerite Duras’ short novel Summer Rain and haven’t been able to put it down. Lyrical and intense, abstract in the best sense and with a peripatetic and at times surprising rhythm, it is the jagged and moving story of a large immigrant family living in the grey cement suburbs of Paris. With spare and crystalline writing, Duras brings forward and into focus the humanity of and intimacy within this rambling family of nine, while the bleakness of the city’s outskirts fades in the background. As Duras writes in Summer Rain, “Their voices reach out into the empty yard, plunge deep into the hills, go right through the heart.”
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I am halfway through the craziest book I have ever loved. At AWP, I picked up an ARC of The Carp Castle, which Overlook Press is publishing this coming September. It is the only unpublished novel by MacDonald Harris (the pseudonym for Donald Heiney), who lived from 1921 to 1993 and was the author of sixteen novels. Set in post–World War I Europe (at least, so far), The Carp Castle opens with a metaphysician chasing his soon-to-be lover through a German forest, each of them flinging off clothes throughout the chase. At the moment their relationship is consummated, the sky darkens, not because of a storm cloud, but because of a zeppelin, which, it turns out, is the vessel that will take them, the mystic/cult leader Moira, whom they follow, and other equally nutty (at least, so far) characters to a place that Moira calls “Gioconda” and the cover copy calls “a better future.” Best of all, the zeppelin is named The League of Nations. Stay tuned . . .