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What We’re Reading
Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor): It has been a long time since I have been so excited about a book of poems the way I am for Sarah Fox’s “The First Flag“. The poems are some of the most human-animal poems I have read, disarming and beautiful, scary because they are about us, honest and rough, intelligent and real. As I write this I am flying to Los Angeles…I am carrying The First Flag high in the air as an announcement of my arrival.
Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): I’m halfway through Dorothy B. Hughes’s last novel, The Expendable Man, and I kind of can’t believe it ever went out of print (as always: God Bless You, NYRB). I figured the story would be solid—this is the woman that wrote the source material for one of my all-time favorite films, Nicholas Ray’s In A Lonely Place—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by her writing on a sentence level: it’s spare and moves along at a nice clip, but never verges on pulp. It’s a strange little noir, partly because Hughes plays with the reader’s expectations by waiting sixty or so pages to reveal critical information about the character that drives much of plot. The book tackles a few of the big social issues of its day, but in a way that feels so organic to the characters and the story. I was going to say how impressive it is that 1963 murder mystery concerned with race, class, and women’s rights feels so relevant in 2013, but man . . . maybe that’s just depressing.
Nanci McCloskey (Director of Publicity and Rights, Tin House Books): I’ve been moving apartments so can’t seem to keep a book close at hand, therefore I’m reading three books at once in varying stages. I’m nearly finished with and loving The Flamethrower by Rachel Kushner, but it’s in a box I haven’t unpacked. A friend from the coffee shop loaned me This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes, which did save my life because all of my books were in boxes. And last, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, which deserves more sustained attention than I’ve been devoting to it.
Holly Laycock (Tin House Marketing Intern): At the behest of pretty much everyone at Tin House through one form of recommendation or another, I finally got around to reading The Call. And, like everyone before me who wrote about it for Friday Reads, I loved this book immensely. It was surprising to me that a book with such simple structure could support a story as emotionally intense as this–where a family accident hounds a rural veterinarian amidst medical calls and daily life. But Yannick’s writing doesn’t get mired in the tragedy, and actually shines most in the day to day musings of this small town vet as he drives to and from calls, as he describes what his wife cooks for dinner, what the house sounds like at night. A definite must-read!
Victoria Savanh (Tin House Books Intern): I revisited E.M. Forster’s Howards End and have come away with a new appreciation for it. I couldn’t put it down. Taking place in Pre-World War I England, the novel follows three families from different social backgrounds as their lives intertwine: the intellectual Schlegels, the capitalist Wilcoxes, and the struggling Basts. Forster’s social commentary is impressive, but it’s much more than a story about class. Forster also contemplates the psychological effects of rapid urbanization. Howards End, the name of a property, is stuck somewhere in the middle. It isn’t really the country or the town. But the most compelling aspect of this novel is the cast of characters, all filled with urgency, their personal struggles still resonating with relevance. Howards End is very much a product of its time, but filled with humor and insight that still feels fresh.