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What We’re Reading
Stephanie Herwig (Art Department, Intern): I am currently reading The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch. I saw Lidia read at PNCA a few months ago and knew I had to read this book. On stage, as well as in her writing, she is both unapologetically crass as well as poetic in a way that kind of stops time and soothes your soul. Her writing is jarring, violent, riveting and comforting all at the same time. She writes sentences that I found myself looking at several times thinking “this is something other than English; this is something more than English.” She writes about her horrifying childhood, her crazed adolescence, how she eventually saved herself by becoming a writer, and about the amazing people she’s had relationships with along the way (including Ken Kesey, who was one of her writing teachers). On top of that, she expertly writes about writing, and gave so many suggestions for who to read and how to read them that I hardly know where to start, I just know I want to start somewhere. Totally inspiring.
Jamie Carr (Tin House Books, Editorial Intern): Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation tells the story of a landscape unchanged by the politics surrounding it. Set on a property outside of Berlin, the narrative oscillates between it’s tenants and spans the last century. Some tenants, like The Gardener, reappear through the book while others exist only through their remains, ie: the towels left in the bathhouse, the porcelain unearthed from the backyard, the iron bird built by a tenant that inspires another, years later, to nickname the room it’s perched outside of The Little Bird Room. The prose is haunting. And the narrative often looks outside of itself, borrowing nursery rhymes, language from legal documents, myth, and more. Mostly, i’m reminded of the power of place. And left to consider, what remains when we’re gone. It’s translated from German by Susan Bernofsky.
Curtis Moore (Tin House Books, Editorial Intern): As I gathered together a literary CARE package for my grandfather (a WWII vet stationed in Japan during the occupation) I found myself caught up again in one of the more harrowing reads I’ve had in the past year—Japan at War: An Oral History. The book, recorded in 1988, details Japan’s involvement in the Pacific War through the memories of those Japanese who experienced it. By documenting the stories of people positioned throughout society—from officers to scientists, from school children to atomic bomb survivors—the book creates a close, visceral narrative of the multifaceted victimization total empire and total war can have on a people. It is also just as much a book about how we confront the past, and how time and society can reshape one’s recollections. The most potent passages in the book are delivered by people coming into close contact with events they had been encouraged to forget, and their moments of revelation as their distance from the past allows them to see their life in war with new eyes.
Holly Laycock (Tin House Marketing Intern): For the past few months, I have been creeping through In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Yes, months–and I’m still not finished. This fact has nothing to do with the writing, and everything to do with the subject matter. Actually, Capote’s ability to turn the gruesome story of the Clutter family massacre into a coherent and spine-tingling narrative impresses me to no end and makes me wonder why I waited so long to crack this gem of narrative journalism. And then I remember that despite Capote’s deft storytelling, this is not fiction. I was prompted at one point to look up images of the Clutter family and their killers, which, though fascinating, set my reading back even farther. At this point, it may be Halloween before I’ve managed to seal this case, but the story of the Clutter family will haunt me much longer.
Jeremy Scheuer(Tin House Magazine Intern): Last night I revisited David Bezmosgis’s Natasha: And Other Stories, which I first came across as a senior in college. I was writing a thesis and looking for a competent, edited-to-perfection, model short story. The title story Natasha blew my mind. Natasha, an emotionally numb, inscrutable fourteen year-old recently moves to Toronto from Russia with her mother. The teenage narrator, Mark Berman, is living in his parents’ basement getting high and watching television and reading Socrates. Mark’s uncle has married Natasha’s mother, and Mark inevitably develops a crush on his cousin-by-marriage. They mess around. He obsesses over her, and we watch the narrator grow and find himself in the shadow of Natasha’s precociousness. Without wasting a word, Bezmozgis packs a novel of a story into twenty pages. The voice and the character development are so carefully shaped, the dialogue so sharp that when I first read Natasha, it sliced my unadulterated eyes into pieces. Revisiting the story this week, I saw how well Bezmozgis understands and cares for his characters. He makes them work to understand themselves. The other stories in his collection are phenomenal, but Natasha is just so good it makes me envious.