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What We’re Reading

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette has made previous appearances on Friday Reads. Despite these endorsements, Semple’s credits (she’s a writer for Arrested Development!), and a talking-to from my mom, I was skeptical of the novel-via-collage approach; the story is told through an assemblage of emails and memos and FBI files, cut in with first-person narration from Bernadette’s fifteen-year-old daughter. I feared cheesiness. I feared cuteness. But the voice behind all these fragments is so charming that I need never have doubted. The book has a buoyancy not quite like anything else I’ve read. Its plot and characters are all larger than life, but it stays grounded in real human emotion, smart riffs on the cult of Microsoft, and ribs at Seattle. It’s hard to write a sophisticated story where even the bad guys are good people, especially one supposedly being relayed by a kid, but Semple manages it and then some.

 

Holly Laycock (Tin House Marketing Intern): I started Hunger a few days ago and am finding it hard to put down. The emotional spectrum of this novel is astonishing, considering how little actually happens in terms of plot. A young writer in Christiana (now Oslo, Norway) is hungry, he gets hungrier, he comes into a couple øre, eats, and the cycle starts over again. There’s not a whole lot to it. And yet, the narrator’s feverish state is so well depicted that as you’re reading, it feels as though your blood sugar is dropping along with his–a few buttons begin to signify hope, and a pawned waistcoat, shame.

When basic necessities like food and shelter are no longer available, you sweat the small stuff right along with him, and go a little mad to boot. (I will confess that at the same time I started Hunger, I also started a controlled fasting diet. This did not happen on purpose, believe it or not, but may have had something to do with the last observation…) There is a dalliance between the narrator and a woman he calls Ylayali that I am looking forward to seeing play out, and I’m curious as to whether this starving man will let himself peter out or keep kicking. Regardless, I’m hungry for more!

 

Devon Walker (Open Bar Intern): I admit with some degree of shame that (at the ripe age of twenty-five) I am reading Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations for the very first time. And where do I begin singing its praises? Two-hundred pages in and I’m absolutely hooked: Dicken’s ability to draw so vividly in a single sentence the entire aspect of a character and then in the next to repel you from or endear you to that character is astounding. Equally expert is his ability to locate the reader in a scene—to render a room, a scenario, a mood so immediate and so clear that you feel in an instant the room he is describing and the events contained within it are more real than the room in which you are sitting to read about them. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat, too, to the wonderful voice of Pip, our narrator, who, in all his tangle of innocence and experience, escorts the reader along each twist and turn of his unexpected tale with an inexhaustible supply of curiosity, wit, and good humor.

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