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March Gems

Desiderata

Thomas Ross (Editorial Assistant): March saw the end of the first season of Nic Pizzolatto’s deliriously excellent HBO drama True Detective. I’ve been trying to fill that void in my Sunday evening with FOX’s new incarnation of Cosmos, which reaffirms my faith in Neil DeGrasse Tyson and even has me reevaluating the cultural value of Seth MacFarlane. The sprawling, beautiful first episode, in which Tyson mapped the history of the universe to a calendar year, pointing to the very last few seconds of the very last day as the birth of human life, gave me what I think are permanent goosebumps. If I someday have children, I know I’ll show them both Tyson’s Cosmos and Carl Sagan’s original series, if only so I don’t have to try to explain any of those heady concepts myself.

Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): March has been a particularly good reading month. With any luck, and bit of backroom dealing, Tin House’s list of forthcoming books will be a few titles longer this time next week. Beyond the submission pile, I had the pleasure of reading Kiese Laymon’s brilliant debut novel, Long Division, and Leslie Jamison’s ungodly good collection of essays The Empathy Exams: Essays. But the book I’ll carting with me this weekend to the Peppermill’s sad-sack sportsbook, where I’ll be throwing away my hard-earned money on longshot prop bets and Jalapeno Poppers, is Timothy Lane’s Rules for Becoming a Legend. When I max out Cheston’s credit card on that Baylor-Dayton-Tennessee parlay, at least I’ll have a good basketball novel to curl up with.

Cheston Knapp (Managing Editor, Tin House Magazine): While standing behind our booth at AWP in Seattle, I heard a lot of good-sounding pitches for fictional novels, but I also heard a lot about The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison, which I picked up and read in almost one sitting and finished well before Tony Perez, who is a desiderata-blocker of the first order and from way, way back. Perhaps the best recommendation I heard all conference, though, one that edged out an intriguing nonfictional novella, was for Annie Baker’s The Vermont Plays. Seriously. Trust me. Some of the best fiction I’ve read in years and years. Funny/sad/hurty/smart. So, so good. Also read a harrowing, queasy-making story by Adam Johnson that the rest of you will have to wait until June to read (in our Summer Reading issue) but which is going to nail you all to the floor and maybe even flick a few boogs at you.

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): My two happiest cultural indulgences this March were both delightfully food-related. The first is the perfectly-wrought, bittersweet little confection of a film, The Lunchbox. Set in Mumbai, The Lunchbox builds its epistolary romance of sorts around the city’s famous dabbawala services, substituting delivered lunchbox tiffins for enveloped love notes. Ila, an overlooked housewife, seeks to win back her neglectful husband’s attention by cooking daily lunches of ever-more-delicious food. When the meals start getting sent to a widowed businessman instead, Ila and the businessman begin a correspondence through the returning boxes, all at last licked completely clean. If you think you know where this is going, you’re right and you’re not; the relationship that unfolds is particular and tender and lands someplace beyond the trajectory I foresaw. The film’s completely wonderful all around–and as an added bonus, clearly mandates that you order liberally from the movie theatre concession stand before watching.

My second pick of the month is Bread and Butter, the new novel by our own Michelle Wildgen. I am neither chef nor true foodie, but I love any work done passionately and with precision and finesse; I loved Bread and Butter, then, in its meticulous portrait of life in a restaurant kitchen of the highest order, and in the grace in the execution of the book itself. And as with The Lunchbox, the real story here is not about the food, but about the relationships it mediates, the bonds its expresses and sometimes breaks. Wildgen’s depiction of the intertwined lives of Bread and Butter‘s three restaurateuring brothers is every bit as satisfying as the book’s decadent meals. I’d prattle on, but I don’t want to embarrass Michelle on her own turf.

Diane Chonette (Art Director): Although the bulk of our “TV time” for March was spent rabidly re-watching the first 3 seasons of Game of Thrones, there was the Guanajuato Mexico WRC rally to squeeze in, too. I can’t help but root for the underdogs in these races where literally anything can happen—including dodging surprised cows along the race route. So while the impervious French rally leader Sebastien Ogier took the crown, it was his countryman Thierry Neuville who won my applause by limping his overheating Hyundai back to the garage with the aid of an enormous bottle of Corona. Well played sir!

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