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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): I cannot recommend the June issue of The Believer highly enough. I bought it for the Joyce Carol Oates interview. I stayed for Kent Russell’s profile of a Wisconsin Applebee’s enthusiast by day, snake-venom self-injecting mithridate by night who keeps his black mambas stacked in Rubbermaid containers on the floor of his unfinished shed/house in Fond Du Lac. The Victoria Chang poem will blow you outta your flip-flops, too, you beach readers, ye.
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): Richard Matheson, who passed away on the 23rd, was known for his many Twilight Zone episodes (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”), short stories, and novels. He is most recently famous for I Am Legend, which has been subject to several film adaptations. Before the terrible Will Smith vehicle of 2007, there was The Omega Man.* I recently rewatched it in Matheson’s honor.
The Omega Man features the always smug (and often shirtless) Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, the only unaffected survivor of a biological warfare-induced plague. Heston leads with his teeth and chuckles at his own one-liners while he scavenges LA for supplies and battles plague victims. Released in 1971, the movie is steeped in 70s style, from the sweet title sequence to the jazz-laced soundtrack to the frequent pans and zooms. The beautiful Rosalind Cash (who falls for Neville’s sweaty charm, obviously …) flaunts a glorious afro.
The Omega Man may not be loyal to the source material (the vampires of the original are replaced by an anti-science cult of albino mutants), but it is one of my favorite awesomely cheesy sci-fi movies. I keep it on deck for sick days and movie nights.
*Matheson’s book was originally filmed (rather faithfully) in 1964, as The Last Man On Earth. Vincent Price’s Neville spends quite a bit of time disposing of vampire corpses and gathering garlic, while dressed in a sports jacket.
Holly Laycock (Tin House Marketing Intern):
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Boy, is this story bleak.
No, I’m telling you it’s depressing.
Does that mean you didn’t like it?
No, I did. Very much, in fact.
Well, it gets to the truth of things I suppose.
Because of the good guys?
Yeah, it’s interesting to see what happens when the world the characters knew is eliminated and all they have to fall back on are outdated ideas of good and evil. Only they’re not so black and white in an apocalyptic world.
An end of the world scenario.
Actually, the whole story is a shade of grey. The man and the boy are perpetually bordering on death, be it from starvation, the cold, the bad guys, or the thoughts in their own heads.
The ash is grey, too.
Yes, and the ash is literally making everything grey.
And you like it?
Sure. It raises some really existential points, but ultimately, everyone just keeps walking along the road. It’s very poignant.
Are you hungry?
You ask a lot of questions.
Desiree Andrews (Assistant Editor, Tin House magazine): A friend gave me Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse for my birthday over a year ago. I had the intention of reading it right away. It lived on my nightstand then came around with me on vacation and to the coffee shop. Finally it drifted to the back of my bookshelf. For whatever reason, I always reached for another book. Something about this week—the gloomy start of a Portland summer or the lazy feeling that comes with moving into a new house—made me pick it up. I like it better than 90% of everything I’ve ever read. It’s just one of those things. It’s unnerving to think this book has been hanging around me for over a year filled with lines like “something black and heavy dropped / between them like a smell of velvet” and that I’ve let it sit unread. Sometimes I think books find you when you need them most but I can’t believe there was any reason to wait for this one. I if I’d picked it up a year ago, or ten years ago, it would have had equal resonance then as it does now and those years would’ve been a degree or two better because of it.
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): In preparation for a panel I will moderate at the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, I am reading Lan Samantha Chang’s first novel, Inheritance. While my reading could be considered “homework,” it’s homework that I don’t want to put down. The story of Junan and her younger sister, Yinan, opens in pre-revolution, 1930s China, as their mother, who has not borne her husband a son and worries he will take another wife, commits suicide. Chang’s quiet yet vivid prose beautifully depicts not only a time and setting I knew little about but also the characters and the conflicts and challenges they face, particularly the female characters, as their country changes.