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What We’re Reading
Kenzie Halbert (Editorial Intern, Tin House Books): My recent introduction to A.M. Homes has stuck with me as one of my favorite reads of the new year. May We Be Forgiven focuses on the complex paternal bond between the protagonist and his successful yet insane brother George. The first thirty pages of the book are so rife with action, that it was at times overwhelming. In the midst of chaos, Homes continued to draw me in through her language, and I couldn’t seem to look away. If I’m being honest, I was skeptical about how the rest of the book would keep my attention when it seemed like the remaining 400 pages would have to be solely devoted to cleaning up the catastrophic events of the first few chapters. To my pleasant surprise, the rest of the book is just as, if not more, engaging than the introduction as Homes examines familial bonds, mental illness, adolescence, and mid-life crises. It was a gift to be guided through the uniquely tumultuous journey of the protagonist by such a beautiful writer. Homes is committed to the honest portrayal of the darkest parts of her characters; she left me waiting for the protagonist predictable demise, but surprised me again with an ending so fitting that I was sad to see it come to an end.
Brandi Dawn Henderson (Editorial Intern, The Open Bar): At this year’s AWP, in panel after panel, I heard presenters mention Spork Press. So, when I came across a few friendly-faced guys behind their booth in the book expo, I stopped to take a look. All of their books are hand-crafted by these same nice folks out of their office in Tucson. To be honest, it was Saturday, the last day of the conference, and my brain was a little (a lot) glazed, so I put zero thought into the book I selected and bought from them. I was delighted, though, when I unpacked all my swag at home and began to flip through the thoughtfully-designed pages; I’d ended up with Colin Winnette’s Animal Collection, a totally quirky and wonderful book of fiction that runs a gamut of experiences all based (both literally and metaphorically) on the theme of animals. Even though I was exhausted after driving home from Seattle following an extraordinarily long few days, I made it through half the collection that first night. The next morning, I couldn’t wait to dive back in and finish. I went back to my favorite chapter, about baby cheetahs, and followed my fiancé around the house, reading it to him out loud. It’s the kind of collection that is surprising, curious, and smile-inducing. It is also weird and made me nod a lot in perplexed agreement. It’s the kind of collection that makes one, as I ended up doing, want to find out what else Colin Winnette has written, and to order it right away while still chuckling about the Naked Mole Rat’s troubles at Cheron’s Dine and Eat.
Victoria Savanh (Summer Writer’s Workshop Intern): Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. These stories take place in the same world as her brilliant novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, faerie-crossed England. Each tale is charismatic and whimsical, often paired with dark, menacing undertones, much like the world of Faerie. Clarke’s enchantingly crafted Austen-esque pastiche is also a pleasure in itself. Among a few of the delightful things to be found in this collection: appearances made by Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Mab, a Rumplestiltskin retelling, and a tribute to Neil Gaiman. Enjoy it as a companion to the novel or as an introduction to Clarke. And now (anxiously awaiting!) there’s the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell mini-series to look forward to.
Molly Dickinson (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): I was at Powell’s, preparing for an overnight flight to Hershey, Pennsylvania this week and couldn’t say no to Marcel Theroux’s Strange Bodies. Maybe it was the mutually simple and bold cover, maybe it was the fact that the book jacket called upon similarities to two other favorites of mine, Philip K Dick and Jorge Luis Borges, or maybe it was just the delightful taste of Marcel Theroux’s name on my tongue; regardless, it came home with me. My discovery of the words inside has been no less thrilling than my encounter with this book on Powell’s shelves. The narrator is humble yet assertive (impressive, considering he is an academic), and there are equal parts mystery, fantastical plot detail, and simply beautiful prose. Theroux writes, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality,” and so presents us with a world of magical realism, where dead men can appear at our doorstep and die again. I’m relishing every page of Theroux’s artful craft, and I’d highly suggest you do, too.