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What We’re Reading
Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): It’s September, so literary agents are back from their Châteauneuf-du-Pape binges in St. Tropez, the kind of large living that 15% of a quiet, literary novel enables (I’m from Portland: is my New York Publishing Worldview accurate?). This means the manuscripts are piling up again, and my pleasure-reading time resembles the sleep schedule of a single mother whose newborn has an ear infection. My fall reading comes in fits and starts, and it’s nice to have something I can dip in and out of. I’m delighted, then, by the new volume of conversations between Henry Laglom and Orson Welles. Laglom recorded the pair’s weekly lunches at Ma Maison over the last three years of Welles’s life. Welles’s arrogance is something you’d expect from Citizen Kane himself, but it’s cut with the insecurity of a man that couldn’t find a studio to fund his movies for most of his career. Is he full of shit? Probably—when he’s not denigrating the entire Irish race (save John Ford) or spilling on Katherine Hepburn’s sexual proclivities, he’s making wild claims about Carole Lombard’s plane being shot down by Nazis—but, as in “F” for Fake, I can’t help but pick up some bigger truth about art and authenticity. A portrait of an artist as an old contrarian bullshitter (with a toy poodle in his lap), Peter Biskind’s My Lunches with Orson gets bonus points for some of the most delightful bitchiness and gossip I’ve ever encountered. It’s so much fun.
Desiree Andrews (Assistant Editor, Tin House magazine): I picked up a copy of Lazarus Is Dead by Richard Beard because I’m always drawn to the bold and well-designed covers of Eruopa Editions. Compelled by the subversion of a bible story I knew only marginally well (despite having gone to church every Sunday of my youth) and the expert way in which cultural references, speculation, and pure fiction were laced together to form a biography of Lazarus, I tore through the book in two days. There’re things about bible stories that I love—sex, violence, God is usually being kind of a dick, among them—and this book encapsulates all of that with a tone that takes it’s subject very seriously with all the respect a 2,000 year old religion deserves. I bought a copy for my mom (the woman who made me go to church every Sunday) and I know she’ll love it—she’s always been one for subversion.
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I just started reading Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages. I was in the mood for a funny book and Jakob Vala’s (Graphic Designer at Tin House) recommendation didn’t disappoint. I was a bit surprised when his first words were something along the lines of if you want something funny you’ve got to read Shirley Jackson’s…as I’d first encountered (and been terrified by) her short story “The Lottery” in middle school. And only a few chapters in, Jackson is haunting me in an entirely new way. Her depiction of a wonderfully wild family in rural Vermont is unforgettable. Their house is falling apart, the children are untamable, the neighborhood bully lurks around the corner. In many ways, as an expecting parent, Life Among the Savages feels like an all-knowing future life map, littered with road signs like BEWARE, U-TURN, AT YOUR OWN RISK—but it it’s also hopeful, wickedly funny, and undeniably full of love. It makes me think, no matter how wrongly, I’ll be content to watch the warning signs whiz by.